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July 20, 2005

Greg Norman


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Greg, welcome to Royal Aberdeen and your first Senior appearance. Just a couple thoughts about coming to play in this event and your impressions of the golf course.

GREG NORMAN: Well, first of all I'm glad that I made the senior British Open my first senior Major. My career really was formulated over here in Europe back in the '77, '78, '79, '80. Until I went to the U. S. TOUR in '82, '83, in that time period. So since my back surgery when I was getting prepared for back surgery I told my doctor that I really wanted to focus on the Senior British Open as being the one that I wanted to come back to. And I've got a great affinity over here for golf in the British Isles. And like I said, I'm very very proud of the fact that the Senior British Open is my first senior debut.

As for the golf course, somebody asked me whether I played Royal Aberdeen before and I told them, no, I had not. But when I came here, I remembered the name as Balgownie, not as Royal Aberdeen. So once I got out there on the golf course yesterday, and I was convinced on the first tee by Ronnie that he had picked me up in the airport in 1977 and brought me here. And I was saying to him, "No, you did not. I've never been here." So once I got out on the golf course I did recognize it and knew some of the holes and I think it's a great golf course. Obviously it's the total opposite of what St. Andrews is, with eight fairways from Royal Aberdeen to one fairway at Saint Andrews. So they're that narrow. I think it's a classic little links golf course that's going to be an extremely good test of golf. Especially with the 20 mile an hour wind blowing today. If it blows like that the next four day, time will tell. But I think it's a great little golf course.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Can you talk a little bit about your game and your preparation after the surgery and everything.

GREG NORMAN: Well, my game, quite honestly, I'm very encouraged. Very, very happy with my position I am right now. My body's allowing me to do what my mind is asking it to do. Which it hasn't been that way now for about five, seven years. I feel a lot more freedom in my golf swing. I don't have back spasms in my back like I had on a continual, every round I played golf since about 1998 I had spasms in my back, so I could never really lineup and putt properly or even hit short pitch shots, there was times when I couldn't even put the club head of a pitching wedge on the ground and hit a shot because of the back pain. So now I feel very encouraged. My game is rusty, to say the least, because obviously I haven't had competitive practice, competitive play. That's going to come over a period of time. I know it's in there. Because my past experiences the few victories that I've had in my career will be in my system. So I'm looking forward to it. I don't have a lot of expectations, I'm quietly going on building confidence in my game, building confidence in the fact that confidence in my back redundancy of confidence is there. But it feels good and like I say, it's the first time in a long time that I can wake up in the morning and look forward to playing golf and not waking up in the morning, hating to go to the golf course.

SCOTT CROCKETT: We'll do questions here now.

Q. Do you feel you can win the competition given the conditions are right and if your back is feeling a hundred percent?

GREG NORMAN: Absolutely. Of course I can. I feel that way. I just got to keep my expectations down low. Because I haven't been there in such a long time. Really it's only my second tournament that I'm going to play in almost 12 months. I have played in February. I was in the Middle East in Dubai, pulled out before I even hit a tee shot and I played in Australia in a lot of pain there. So I really haven't played a lot of golf. So I've got to keep myself mentally low expectations. I wouldn't want to am I glad I'm here? Do I if I'm here do I feel like I can compete to win? Absolutely. But I'm trying to downplay things as much as I can to you got to take small steps. I've got my doctor arriving in tomorrow, he's never seen the golf tournament. He's very intrigued because he's an in your row spinal specialist about the degeneration of the back with the golf swing, so he's actually going to come over here and watch my motion to see what we can do and I do a lot of work in Pittsburgh at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, trying to analyze the golf swing and why golfers break down, whether shoulder, wrist, knee, elbows, back, hips, whatever it is. And he's going to come over.

So, yeah, really to answer your question, I think I have the capabilities of doing it, if I get a chance to do it, I'm going to be excited about it. If it doesn't happen, I'm not going to be disappointed, because I think over the next five or six weeks my schedule, I'm going to slowly, slowly build confidence. Hey, would I love to come out and start the SENIOR Tour like I did with my Regular TOUR, win the third tournament that I ever played in? Absolutely. I would love to win the first tournament I ever played in. But if it doesn't happen I'm going to be back to the Senior British Open many more years. So I'm not worried about it.

Q. We saw you in Dubai at that stage you were about to go for surgery. Are you ahead of schedule or about on it?

GREG NORMAN: When I was in Dubai I wasn't scheduled for surgery. What happened in Dubai was with that situation where I went in total spasm on Thursday morning and I knew I couldn't go. That's when I made the decision to go straight back to start seeing a series of doctors. I flew back that afternoon and went to four different specialists all over the country. From Boston to New York to Pittsburgh to L.A. And I finally decided, once I got the confidence in the right choice of doctors, then I went in immediately, I never even left Pittsburgh, once I went to Pittsburgh and saw Doctor Maroon I never went home I was straight in the operating room the next morning.

Q. In your Regular TOUR career you enjoyed the most success in the British than the other Majors. Can you put your finger on why that might have been and what were your strong points playing links golf that will give you particular encouragement coming back to play the Senior British Open?

GREG NORMAN: I think I enjoyed the adverse weather conditions. It's the type of golf courses that we played over here and in Australia, a lot of similarities to it. The ball releases, a lot of go to it. I got a pretty good mental visualization of how the ball reacts. I don't think I'm a one dimensional golfer, which has been a big asset playing the links golf courses or British Open golf courses. And the other Major championships I think a little dose of a few other shots being thrown at me kind of like took away tournaments that I had no control over. So I think that I've, on balance, I think it's been fairly even. I feel like all the Major championships I've played in about a 50 percent ratio have been pretty comparable. Fortunately I just came out with two British Opens.

Q. Have you been an adaptable player on links golf? Because people believe that you have to have a low ball flight to succeed there, where the Masters, for example, you got to hit it high. So are you always comfortable that you could do both and under different kind of chip and run shots as well as regular shots?

GREG NORMAN: Absolutely. I've been a big believer in that. That's a part of golf I think we're slowly losing because of technology now days with the golf ball. If you can picture your ball flight, no matter what the wind condition is, that's what the sign of a good golfer is. Whether you want to hit it high or low. You actually got to picture it and go ahead and do it. I don't think there's been a great player in the world whose never been able to do that. You can think of Watson down to Nicklaus, Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tiger Woods, he's hitting power low cuts and so his game is changing and every great player has got to be able to do that. Because you're going to get on golf courses like this.

American golf is fairly redundant golf. The golf courses are set up fairly similar week in, week out. It's great to come to a golf course like St. Andrews and you see a golf ball roll 150 yards. And it could roll into a bunker that you never seen before. As a matter of fact I walked buy two bunkers at Saint Andrews that I never even had seen before. And I've been going there for 15 years. And I think that's fabulous. And I wish we see that in Australia. We see that a little bit in South Africa. We play down there. But I would love to see that opportunity to get take tone America in some way, shape or form. And get a golf course first of all you got to have a weather conditions, obviously the soil texture and the topography to do it, but it would be great to have that type of tournament style in America.

Q. So are you going to design a proper British links in Florida?

GREG NORMAN: Florida wouldn't work, they have too much rain. And the sub surface there is not firm enough like they get here.

Q. Do you hope to make as big an impact on the Senior Tour as you did on the main Tour?

GREG NORMAN: You ask that question, I'm not planning on playing a lot of Senior Tour golf. I'm not going to play a regular Senior Tour event in the United States. This year I may pick up one some time early part of next year. But to me I pretty much like the four round championships. I've got a lot of other things that I'm enjoying doing in my life right now. I never been more settled and more at peace in my mind with where I am myself as well as the business as well as in golf. So I'm not going to over burden myself and get out there and play 24 tournaments a year or worry about being away on the weekends again. I've been doing that for 30 years of my life. So the events I'll be very choosy about. I'll pick and play the ones I want to play. And it will totally depend on the type of golf courses too. It's tough on me, it's tough when I come over here because I know the Turnberry's in the world and the Muirfield's of the world, and the Royal Aberdeen's of the world, I know those golf courses. So back in the states, in the senior tournaments, I don't know any of those golf courses. Even the NCR, the U. S. Senior Open, I never played there. So I'm going into, if I choose to do that, I'm going into golf courses that I may not like. So the events and the courses that I do like then I might go play. But I haven't recognized one yet, so.

Q. Are you looking at maybe a handful of events each year?

GREG NORMAN: On the Senior Tour? Yeah. Well, I guess you can factor in all the Majors which are right here. If I qualify for them, I'm going to go play those. What's that four? Maybe five? What is it? TPC, British, US, PGA, and Tradition. Yeah, I'll probably play the five. Yeah.

Q. Obviously you've probably seen a field, a strong field, who do you think could be your toughest competitors this week?

GREG NORMAN: I think there's 143 other guys. To me, I don't care whether, everybody says what's it like coming out to play your first senior event. You know what, you're playing a regular or senior event, you got to go play the guys who are comparable to your standards when you were playing regular tournament events back 25 years ago. So when I look at those guys, I'm pretty sure they're the guys that are going to be going in the heat of battle, if we ever get there. I guess they're the same guys. Because they have it in their system too. So there's probably 25, 30 guys in this field here that I've butted heads with over the past 30 years with on the golf course and I look forward to butting heads with them again. Your attitude is this is just another golf tournament. This is not a senior event. This is not just a regular event. It's another golf tournament that you have to go play. And if your conditioning is right this and you're mentally and physically capable, then hopefully I'll be there at the end.

Q. Is the 50s or your 30s is your mindset easier now would you say than it was in say your 30s?

GREG NORMAN: In what way?

Q. Well, are you, in just the playing of the game, do things bother you or do you just enjoy it for what it is.

GREG NORMAN: I would say my nature has not changed, probably never will change. My intensity on the golf course and my application towards the game, my dedication towards the game will always be the same. I don't think it's going to wax or Wayne. I think it's just, yeah, it's like riding a bike. You don't just change your style of riding a bike after 25 or 30 years after doing it. And none of the other players, I see Tom Watson go out there and play, it's still the same mannerisms, execution, attitude of what Tom Watson has done when I first met him 20 odd years ago.

So I've pretty much, pretty sure I'm exactly the same way and will continue to be the same way. I take a lot of pride in what I do. I wouldn't have had back surgery if I didn't take pride in it, because I wouldn't have come out here to compete. I still believe I can compete. I still believe I can win. And I couldn't win with my body the way it is. So I took a very calculated gamble, really, because back surgery is not the things can go wrong. So I took a good assessment on the situation and decided, hey, if I want to get out there and play, I want to be the best I can. Now I could have easily walked away from the game at Dubai. I thought about it. I talked to my wife about it. I talked to my kids about it. I said, you know what? If I don't play golf, my back doesn't hurt. Certain things I do it does give me a twinge. But I said I could hang them up and not hit another shot and I'm going to be happy. So the thought process was there. But it's because of the love of the game and the things that I do enjoy on the golf course, competing within myself. And it's not really competing against the other guys, it's competing within yourself. Getting the best out of yourself is the reason why I went through this.

Q. So you got a secret tip for all these would be winners and players at Royal Aberdeen?

GREG NORMAN: Secret tip to them? Just play one shot less than what I shoot for the week. That's it.

Q. Is there any concerns at all that, going back to even if you're not going to play a huge amount, that playing reasonably regularly you might actually do your back even after surgery, some harm?

GREG NORMAN: Good question. I've asked my doctor that. I spoke to him last night and he said, "Greg, you know, you're not going to hurt it now." Basically I'm not going to hit another four and a half million golf balls in my life time. And that was the reason why it broke down the way it broke down. So over the next if I play golf and still want to play a condensed schedule, I think I can play for another couple years. So believe me, I'm not going to stand out on that driving range and hit balls for 10 hours a day, seven days a week, 53 weeks a year any more. That's done. So my practice routine now is I hit balls for about an hour and a half, two hours. I might go play nine holes, 18 holes or whatever it is. And then I'm done. I'm done in about five hours. Before you were done in 12 hours. So it's a totally different approach and style to it. Now, I've been working with David Leadbetter a little bit for the last two weeks, just basically getting my swing back to where I feel like it hasn't been. Obviously I'm going to work a little bit more on those things. But it's not going to be that 800 to a thousand balls a day.

Q. There's lots of names with you in the field. What's your overall opinion of the standards of the Senior Tour?

GREG NORMAN: I haven't really watched a lot of it, to tell you the truth. But I think the you only have to look at the generation of players that enter the senior ranks, I can tell you that there is a bit of a void or a hiatus if you're an active golfer and you hit the 45 mark or 44 mark or 46 mark, there is a dead point in your career. And that dead point is between 45, 46 and 50. And that's reality. You can't compete with these young kids who hit the ball 340 yards, especially on golf courses in the United States, which are all carry. You got to carry it 310 over bunkers or carry the ball 300 over the water. You can't do that. Even though you think you can, you actually cannot do it. So you go through this bit of a lull period in your career and it's actually for me I was okay. Because I had a lot of business to do. So I wasn't really mulling over it. But I actually can see it. I can sense it and I can see it. And it's great that when the guys do hit 50 that wave of golfers that have always been successful in the generations in the past or decades in the past will be successful again. The name players, the charismatic players, the guys who have performed well, winning on the Regular TOUR or on a global basis are doing the same thing out there on the Senior Tour events. So I think that's just the nature of the beast. Because you carry that all the way with you. I just think that and I know it will probably never happen I just think there should be something thought about for those players who do go through that lull period about that four or five year period. Because some of those guys carried the torch for a long period of time for the game of golf on their respective tours. Whether it was 25 years or 20 years and for them to sit in a bit of wallowing around, wondering what to do, how long is it going to take for four years to pass by. I think a little bit of respect and thought should go into those guys because, you know, everybody looks at golf and golf as a pass through entity, we're there, we did our 20, 25 year stint and then, okay, see you later.

Well, you got to think a little bit long and hard about that. Because the guys who really supported the respective tours whether it's U.S, Australia, European, Asian, South African Tour, those guys need to be supported themselves. And there's been times when we have gone out there and performed and we only get paid for our performance. We got paid well and the guys get paid well now days. But I think that the powers to be should put their heads together because forgetting about iconic players who carried the flag for the game of golf around the world I think is the wrong thing and that's what I've seen, I've experienced it, and I think that's got to be something if I was in a position, I would want to try and help those guys.

Q. What would you do? Would you lower the age of eligibility?

GREG NORMAN: I don't think you could do that. Because of what's gone by. On the Senior Tour. How old is it now 20 years?

Q. 25?

GREG NORMAN: 25 years. That would be a bit of an injustice on the guys. There could be a different setup. It could be a 45 to 50. You don't have to have 30 events. You might have to have eight events or 10 or something like that. Just to help these guys kick along to keep their game going because what you need to do in all seriousness is you got to be able to give the players whether they are iconic players or regular players, you got to give they went ability to feel confident. Because once they start losing their confidence a little bit, you know, it's kind of like can trickle into your life in general. That's what I think, I mean this is a pretty powerful statement that I'm making here because I think it has a dramatic affect on a lot of players and I think it's important that the U.S. PGA TOUR should take a look at that. Because these guys made the game of golf over there. A lot of these guys did. And they need to have I can name a couple players, I won't now, but I can name a couple players right on the edge of that have right now, what are they going to do for the next three to four years? And it's a huge cash drain on the system three to four years when you got no income coming in. And even if you had eight or so tournaments, 10 tournaments, that can have a little witness bit of cash flow. Not having a negative cash flow. And that way they keep their confidence, keep the game going and then they can hit 50 being rejuvenated saying okay I had this transition in my life and here I go.

Q. I got about four questions now, Greg, after that. First is, doesn't the Nationwide Tour kind of serve that purpose to some extent?

GREG NORMAN: On the Nationwide Tour? For the Senior Tour events?

Q. Well, no, for the guys, there's a lot of guys out there, Larry Mize I think was playing, there's a lot of guys playing there using that as a vehicle as you're suggesting to be able to keep their game going.

GREG NORMAN: Well, yeah, that's can their choice. But a Nationwide event, you're going up against 22, 23, 24, 25 years old guys. Still playing 7300 yard golf courses. I know Larry and he doesn't hit the ball 330. And I'm sure he's in a couple of groups with guys out there on the Nationwide Tour, having to play against those guys. So I'm just saying that you got to give an apples to apples cart for these guys to feel that they're in their motion all the way through. Not just a pass through entity. And if they go out there and play the Nationwide Tour and they feel like they're getting the competitive skills on whatever happens out there. The Regular TOUR or the Nationwide Tour or some other event, series of events that give them confidence, it's just more of a boost for them. You J just got to, to me I think you just got to look at group of guys that really have done a lot of work for 20, 25 years. Playing in a lot of pro ams, supporting the game of golf. Sitting in front of the media, promoting everything on the global basis. I think that's important. I've been fortunate. I had other things to do. So I didn't fall into that. But I did think about it when I sat back there when I was 48, 49, what would I be doing now if I didn't have all these other things to do? I got a back condition, I got this, I got that. Can I make it another two years. My life style is such or you got this cash flow going out how do I balance that out? Hopefully you got enough endorsements and enough investments to keep going. But you push it out over three or four year period of time. I don't know what people cost to live on, but it's a lot of money.

Q. Could I ask you, obviously coming back and playing in the British last week how did you feel going into that and how much more encouraged were you with your performance coming into this week from that?

GREG NORMAN: British Open I came out, I felt very very encouraged, like I said at the start of this. I went in there not knowing what to expect. My final lesson with David, I flew up from Orlando on Thursday before I left to come over here, and it was a good lesson, but I knew I had a lot of work to do. And of course David was pointing out to me the way I used to play, they way I used to setup to the golf ball, it was more my setup. I knew it was going to take me time. What when I walked off the green on Sunday, I felt I hit the ball better and better as each day went by at St. Andrews. And that was encouraging for me. The first time in my life, in my five or seven years, the last five or seven years, that I actually could wind up on a golf ball and really hit a drive hard. And I did that. I hit a lot of drives a long distance for a guy who just had back surgery. So that to me was extremely encouraging for me. To hit a couple of punch shots long bump and run three irons that where you have to really stay down on top of the ball and squeeze it out. Which I could never do before and take a divot with a 3 iron. And every time I did it I went, oh, yeah. Even if I didn't hit it the way I wanted to, I felt really great. Unless you've been there, and you haven't been there, it's great to feel a little bit of good flicker of flame inside you. So like I said, I walked out there have with a lot of encouragement. I'm bringing it in here. I played well yesterday and I enjoyed hitting the golf ball. I'm not going to play all the shots great all the time, I'm probably going to make a few mistakes. Put it in position where I got to work to get out of it. But now it's more my patience, just relax and hope to take the good with the bad and before I was just getting so frustrated because it was all bad. I couldn't turn it around.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Greg, thank you very much and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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