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June 10, 1997

Greg Norman


LES UNGER: Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the '97 U.S. Open. I believe this is No. 16 for Mr. Norman. We welcome him to that. I wonder if we can ask you to open it up by asking you to describe the course versus the course that it was when you played here before in the Kemper and you had a couple victories here, actually.

GREG NORMAN: I played here last Friday after the second round of the Kemper. I snuck on over here with Nicky Price and Scotty McCarron. I haven't played another round here since, but I can honestly say I think the changes here have been phenomenal. You can actually see where you're going on a couple of tee shots. I think the golf course is a much more of a playable golf course for that reason. They didn't touch the layout. I think the changes they made on a few of the greens are exceptional. So, all and all, I give this one 101 percent improvement on the old Congressional. So, you know, who did it, Rees?

LES UNGER: I think so.

GREG NORMAN: Rees Jones, he should be congratulated in doing it because he maintained the integrity of the golf course. He maintained the playability of the golf course, but also enhanced the golf course. It's very, very difficult to do when you're renovating a golf course of this stature of Congressional. And, from the type of playability and the scores, it will be a difference between when I played here in the Kemper and the U.S. Open, I think it will be a totally different golf course. This one is a beast. It's 7200 yards of pure no let up. I think the only hole out there we get any type of break on is the 8th hole, which is about 368 yards. Every other hole, you have to have your game with you. If you don't have your game with you, you have to have your patience with you. If you don't have your patience with you, it's going to be a long, hard week.

LES UNGER: How about the state of your game?

GREG NORMAN: The state of my game is very solid. I've had a couple of very good performances over the last couple weeks. Obviously, Memorial I wish there was a four-round tournament, not a three round, but I won a three-round tournament at Memorial. You win some. You lose some. But, my game was strong there. Last week, my game was strong all four days; I think the criteria you are really looking for coming into this tournament, the U.S. Open, is what I was looking at was making sure you drive the ball well. If you drive the ball well and you set yourself up for play, and it's not like at Congressional here, you can go off with 1-irons and 2-irons. You have to hit a driver because these par 4s are like 440, 460, 465, 468, 480, the 17th hole. So you've got to be hitting your driver because you need to get the ball down there where you're going in with a 5 or 6-iron or 4-iron. You don't want to be going into these greens with a 5-wood, 4-wood, 2-iron, 3-iron. So, the crucial part of this week is get the ball in play.

LES UNGER: We're going to go to questions.

Q. At The Memorial, you said that you didn't like the par 3 finish. Now, having played it, do you have any different feelings about it?

GREG NORMAN: Absolutely. I said I couldn't make a real comment on it because I hadn't played it. I think it's a great finishing hole. I really do. It's the first time I've ever played, other than we played the TPC. I think you guys might be able to help me here when we played the Tour championship in San Antonio. It was a par 3 finish there. I think this is a great finishing hole. I really do. It sets up well. The spectators can see the shot. And, like I said, I had to play it to feel it, and it's 190 yards to the middle of the green. There's some great pin positions. So, yeah, even though you've got the ball in the hand and you have the whole teeing ground to move laterally to find the best lie and the best approach and the angle, you still have to execute the shot. And, I think it's a very positive move on the USGA's behalf, because you've got to play the shot, irrespective of whether it's a par 5 or par 4, you've got to hit the right shot and you have to hit the green.

Q. Other than getting your driving game together, what's your routine for preparing for a major and has that changed over the years; if so, why?

GREG NORMAN: Well, the routine is pretty much the same. You like to focus in on your mental approach, make sure that's getting finally tuned. Second of all, your physical approach, you're driving the golf ball and your short game. When you marry those two and you get them right. Then, you know you have your game to the level you need to get it at. So, that's what I work on. And, I really haven't changed that approach over the 16 years.

Q. Yeah, Greg, there were a couple of incidents at the Kemper over the weekend, the incident at the first tee on Saturday. And, then as one of my colleagues put it, flipping the bird on the 16th on Sunday. Could you talk about those and also in retrospect, was there any -- in your mind, was there the possibility that maybe you overreacted to that?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think the overall reaction - obviously, made pretty good press this morning by a gentleman, one of your colleagues who liked to make reference to it. And, the unfortunate part about it, I didn't create the situation and the situation just kept lingering and lingering and lingering. Coming into the 17th hole last week, you've got to understand, there was a lot of emotion involved because unless you've been in that situation, you don't understand it, and there was a lot of emotion involved. I was still trying to give myself a chance of winning the golf tournament. When you hear a comment like that come from the gallery, it does have a tendency of raising your emotional level that much higher. I do regret doing what I did, but again, it's all emotion. And, I, you know, I know that I'm a role model. I know I have to have the responsibility, and that wasn't a good image to portray. But, again, you get back to the emotion of it all, and it's just sad that somebody's opinion like the opinion of the gentleman this morning, one of your colleagues, that he doesn't understand the circumstances. And I did not create that situation. That situation created itself beyond my control. So, I do regret it, yes. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth because we're still sitting here talking about it on Tuesday after the incident, four days after the incident. There's no need for that. We're at a different event. We're at the U.S. Open. I know certain people are looking for certain stories to write about it. I would rather see them write about positive things rather than harping on the negative. I realize my mistakes because of that emotional position.

Q. Tell us what you heard.

LES UNGER: The question is what did you hear.

GREG NORMAN: I heard the guy yell out from the gallery: "Chunk it in the water." That is not a good thing to hear when you're ready to play the game of golf and you want to birdie a hole and you want to give yourself a chance to win. You don't want to hear that. That's where the emotion comes in, and you hear a lot of that. Ever since that situation, it happened on the first tee, a lot of people took advantage of it. A lot of people were saying things on the way around. Unless you're actually there walking down the fairway and hearing the things on a constant level all the time, you don't understand. That's why my emotion level was getting so high. It was very hard for me to keep it level. And, mind you, I did not give him the bird either. I did not. I can honestly say -- I gestured to do it, but I did not give him the bird. So that is categorically untrue.

Q. What was the gesture?

GREG NORMAN: The gesture was --

LES UNGER: Turn off the cameras.

GREG NORMAN: You and I will go outside and I'll show you exactly what I did.

Q. Greg, it seems like over the course of your career, you've had a number of these incidents where you have some fans - do you fault yourself at all for allowing fans to ruffle you? Do you think maybe that's something you need to work on as far as just staying focused on what's going on between you and the ropes?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I stay focused on what goes on between the ropes. It's just one of those situations where one or two incidents over my entire career. I think everybody can probably say the exact same thing. It's very difficult to control it all. I do a great job at it. I would like you guys to come and experience some of the things you hear out there. I mean, you too would be whittled away a little bit too after certain -- I mean, one of these days I'll sit down with you guys and I'll say every day what somebody in the gallery. I would like to see what your reaction would be to it all. It's not a lot of fun, especially when you're out there trying to be the person you want to be, trying to be the golfer you want to be, and try to uphold an image and respect for the game of golf that you love to play. It's very, very difficult and. You, know, you don't want to have the minorities screw it up for the majority. You know that. But, again, it's whittled, whittled, slow water torture test, and it happens everywhere you play too. It doesn't just happen here.

Q. Just as a follow-up: I read something to the effect where, regarding the first tee incident, the announcement, you were so upset because he said you said whatever that happened that night is nobody's business. But, since it involved the President of the United States, isn't it everybody's business?

GREG NORMAN: No. It's everybody's business, but nobody needs to know the precise details. I understand the position that the President was in. And, I understand the moment, at that time and what was happening. So, I don't think those things should be public knowledge ever. The overall dynamics of the incident, yeah, of course, you know, we've all got to work together. You have to do your job and I have to do my job. Yes, it was the President of the United States. Yes, it was an important time because you could see him hobbling along for months on end. So, that, I understand, categorically. But, the other thing too is why do we have -- this is something that happened many months ago. That was the -- you know, you try and let all that stuff die away and take its own slow death.

Q. Yes. I was wondering if you could address your mental game and how you do maintain that focus after such an incident and then not let it carry over to the next event.

GREG NORMAN: Well, it carried over for me last week. It carried over for me a few holes regrettably. My caddie did a wonderful job trying to get me to forget about it and trying to understand the emotion of what happened there because he just knows. So, it became a situation where Tony was doing a great job with me so it took longer than what I'm used to because there was a lot of emotion involved with it. And, once I got over that hurdle, I was fine. I was absolutely fine, even though I could hear the barrage of certain people in the gallery just throwing things at you all the way around. I can deal with that. I can put that out of my mind once it's out of my mind. So, here we are sitting here Tuesday morning at the U.S. Open and the topic of conversation is something that happened at my house back at the start of the year and something that happened in September. I mean, like I said then, I didn't want the story to get a life of its own. Here it is, it's still got a life of its own. It's still going on, but it doesn't need to go on.

Q. Your mental game now?

GREG NORMAN: My mental game is very good, very sharp. I'm looking forward to getting out there and hitting some balls. I'm looking forward to spending some time with David Leadbetter, catching up with a couple of my buddies, Steve Elkington, I'm going to play a round with him tomorrow. Those are the things I look forward to.

Q. Getting back to the golf course now, could you comment on 6 and 10, the two par 4s this week?

GREG NORMAN: Six is going to be probably the toughest hole out there. When I played on Friday, I hit it in the rough. I hit an 8-iron and a 9-iron on the green. Nicky Price hit a beautiful drive down the middle of the fairway and hit an all-out 1-iron. His calculation, the way he hit both shots, he played like 500 yards to him. He hit a good driver, a good 1-iron. The greens got up by water, front and back and on the right-hand side. It's not an overly generous green to be firing at with a 1-iron, 4-wood, 5-wood, 2-iron, that type of thing. So, that's just -- you just play it as a par 5. I'm in half a mind-set if I've got somewhere around 220 the front, lay it up, pitch it on. Five will be your worse score, you'll probably make four more times than you make five.

Q. Are those holes fair?

GREG NORMAN: Well, is the U.S. Open fair? They want to test every aspect of your game. They want to test the mental part of your game. Now, is a par 4 necessary to reach it in 2? Maybe not. I've read stories about Ben Hogan laying it up on par 3s to have the position to chip it on and to make no worse than 3. Is that part of the game? Absolutely, it's part of the game, and it's just tough. This golf course will be unrelenting for the whole week.

Q. In your experience, is it the case that behavior amongst the galleries is actually deteriorating, as the appeal of the sport seems to wading at the moment?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think in all sports, you see the -- that's a very good question because I talked about this with George Michael last night on his show. And, I think you'll find now because in every sport different than what it was 20 years ago when I first came, people seem like they know you more. The media coverage in every sport is more intense, and so when you have more of an intense media coverage with not only print but television and video and people get to feel like they know you, and when they feel like they know you, they feel like they can come up to you and say whatever they want to say like you do to your buddy. Like, Hey, I think you did something wrong, and I say, Hey, I don't think that's right. He would do the same with me. But people have the sense like, Okay, Greg, put your arm around you. Here you go. We're friends, because of what the media does. I think that's great. It's something all the athletes of the world have to learn to deal with. There has been that change. I've seen that change in my generation, in my lifetime of playing the game. I think that's wonderful for all of us. We all have a better opportunity to exploding and doing our jobs to the level we all want to do. I think it's great, but you have to make that mental transition. For me, it's been a gradual change. Somebody like Tiger, now he's come straight into it. That's the difference between a young kid coming on the scene now and somebody like myself who's been out here 20 years. If you ask Jack the same question, he's seen even more of a transitional change.

Q. Greg, talking about Tiger Woods, this atmosphere today compared with a year ago seems a lot more relaxed. Do you think he's taken quite a lot of pressure off you and how would you advise him to handle it?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I said this back in November last year when Tiger went down to Australia. I think the majority of the guys in here have heard this. I think it's great. I love it. I really do. I know my responsibilities to the game and the responsibilities to myself, but it's always nice to have somebody else out there just to take a little bit off your shoulders. I'll be -- I've been doing it for 20 years. I've enjoyed doing it. I don't want to stop doing it. It's nice to have somebody else doing it, doing it to more of a level than what I'm doing it. Believe me, I'm not one bit jealous of Tiger Woods. I'm not envious of Tiger Woods. I welcome him out here. I think he's a great addition to the game of golf. My point of view, it's wonderful to have young kids come along with that charisma, that belief, that approach he's got. It's great to see that. It really is. So, from my point of view, he can have as much as he wants.

Q. Distractions aside, Greg, the last couple weeks seems like the confidence level is getting higher and higher. Is it exactly where you want it to be as we come into this Open week?


LES UNGER: That's a good answer.

GREG NORMAN: That's the surest answer I've ever given you in my life.

Q. Greg, Butch Harmon has said he doesn't think Tiger has to hit a driver all the time. Yesterday a few practice holes, I saw he was hitting irons off the tee. Do you think that he is capable of doing that as opposed to some other guys, and if so, will that give him an advantage because he doesn't have to hit a driver?

GREG NORMAN: I don't know whether it would be an advantage, to answer the last part of your question first. And knowing Tiger's length like I know it, his 2-iron probably is going to get out there where most people's 3-wood is. Where he's that much longer, I remember playing with John Daly when he first came out, he would hit a 7-iron when I would hit a 5-iron. So that's where the difference would be for Tiger. Like anything, if you're hitting a 2-iron 240, you still have to hit it in play, whether it's a 2-iron or a driver, it's still a shot that you have to get it in play. So obviously Tiger is going to play the game the way he thinks it mentally fits him. Does he want to have a 5-iron in the green or a 7-iron in the green. That has to be his choice when he gets to the tee.

Q. Greg, you were talking about possibly laying up on 6 if necessary. Looking back at your game, say, 10 years ago, are you a better course manager now in a situation like this?

GREG NORMAN: I would have to say yes because I don't have the length I had 10 years ago. I mean, I've lost about 10 yards. So that 10 yards is a big difference over the overall scheme of things. So I would say 10 years ago, I would never have said I would lay up on a par 4. Even if I had a 3-wood in my hand, I would still go for it. I would say there's the difference, that I've already accepted the fact that I might be laying up on a par 4, even when I'm in the fairway and even though I know I can reach the green with a iron. Those are the type of things I will be thinking about, so, yes, I think I am different.

Q. International players have had a lot of success at The Masters, The British, and even some at the PGA, but here only won once in the last 15 years. Is there any reason why?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I remember when American players hadn't one a major for awhile, and then everybody said is there a reason why. There's no reason why. I think just the players play. And there's no reason why an international player can't win here. There's no reason why an American player can't dominate at The Masters. There's no reason why certain players win at certain golf courses. It's just the players. The players are so good no matter where they're from, South Africa, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, no matter where they're from, Europe, when that player because you have such a diverse cross-section of athletes who play the game, when they come through, you get a lot of guys to pick from. There's a lot of top players, not just from America but from a global basis. Why they haven't won here, I can't answer that, at a U.S. Open. Could very easily happen this week, and so therefore, we'll be talking about that, so that thing will be over and done with.

Q. Greg, you said your confidence is where you want it to be, but you haven't one a Tour event since Doral in '96. Is that something that's been bothering you? You've come close a number of times.

GREG NORMAN: No, not really. I've won. Whether you win the PGA Tour, whether you win overseas, it's still difficult to win no matter where you play. It's exactly the same feeling. I don't care whether you stack it up with all the top players in the world or you stack it up with one of the ten of the top players in the world, it's still difficult to win. The players, when they have a chance to win, they're going to play. To me, a win is a win no matter where you play. Yes, you'd like to win everywhere you play. In only six events I think I've played this year, I'm looking forward to it. It will happen. It's not a major concern of mine. It didn't undermine my confidence one bit.

Q. Yes, at the Memorial you were pretty adamant that you did not like a par 3 finishing hole, as I understand your comments. Now, today, you're saying that you think it's a good idea. What's changed your opinion in one practice round?

GREG NORMAN: Well, Jerry, because at The Memorial, I said I hadn't played the hole. And at The Memorial, I also said it was like 180 yards. That was the information I had, to the middle of the green. So that means it's like 165 to the front. I was totally misinformed about that hole because I had never played the hole. So maybe that will teach me never to open my mouth again until I play the hole. But that's why it changed, because when I went to the golf course and I played the golf course and I looked at the hole and saw the playability of the hole, it actually fits. Now, I don't necessarily agree that every golf course and every tournament should finish with a par 3. I don't agree with that. I think this hole fits the situation beautifully. If I had my choice, I think the 17th hole is a great finishing hole, the one we normally finish on the Kemper. What they did was, they played the true Congressional layout. What is it, the North Course, is it?

Q. Blue.

GREG NORMAN: The Blue Course. I hadn't played the 17th hole either -- the 16th hole, excuse me. I hadn't played that hole either, so that was my first look at that. So, in all honesty, I made a statement on something I didn't know. I was just going on my gut feelings that a par 3 wouldn't be a good finishing hole, not knowing what the hole was like. Once you play the hole and you see it, I changed my mind.

Q. Greg, we've talked a lot about driving the golf ball. Driving to the golf course today, we understand you might have had some transportation problems. Was there a difficulty on the way here this morning?

GREG NORMAN: Absolutely, I got a flat tire.

Q. Better today than Thursday I would think.

GREG NORMAN: You got that right. I had to go confiscate somebody else's car. That's how I got in here.

Q. Greg, before The Masters, you had spoken with Tony Robbins and just visited with him. Have you kept up that relationship and are you working, you know, working with him at all?

GREG NORMAN: No, I haven't worked with him since that Monday at The Masters. I've spoken to Tony once. He called me about 10 days ago, but it was just a brief discussion to see how -- it wasn't any in-depth working at all.

Q. Talking of transport, I believe you're buying a new aircraft. Is that an indication that you still see the golf you intend to play in the future, you're still very much a world player, and that's how you'll make up your schedule in the years to come?

GREG NORMAN: I've always been a world player. I'll always be a world player. I like to think of the fact that my business is on a global basis. When I go somewhere to do business, I can go there and play at the same time or vice versa. Go there to play and do some business. I foresee that until the day I die, that I'll be traveling the world and playing the game of golf and doing things and supporting the people that supported me all through the years. I think that's part of my obligation.

Q. Greg, I understand that you visited your friend the President yesterday. Any reactions or comments about the trip there, the visit?

GREG NORMAN: No, I just thought it was great. My children are U.S. citizens. I thought it would be wonderful for them to go to the White House because they've never been to the White House. So we went along there, and they had a look around. And, you know, it was one of those days that I thought was a very special day for my family. And it was good to see the President was up and around. He's starting to chip and pitch the ball, and he's walking without any problems. He's lost 30 pounds. He feels great. He thanks me for it, the fact that he's lost 30 pounds. A couple of his staff came up to me and said, "That's the best thing that ever happened to him. Don't worry about it because it slowed him down for a couple months." He was very upbeat and excited about getting back and playing again.

LES UNGER: What does he have to do to his game to go up a level? You've played with him.

GREG NORMAN: Right now, I think just get time on the golf course, get back there and play a few more holes. Obviously during his presidency now, he's going to have a tough time doing that. But once he finishes, that's when his game will really improve because he'll have time to spend on his game.

Q. Have you played with any other Presidents, and if so, what's different about that experience, playing with a President, and if you have any anecdotes of something that's taken place with Clinton on the course that someone may not know about.

GREG NORMAN: I'm not going to tell you that. Well, he's a human being. Whether you're the President of the United States or a friend next door, they love to play the game of golf, so you get out there and you make sure they enjoy it. They want to know as much about the game as what they can learn, and he truly loves the game. I know President Bush, and he loves to play the game. My former Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawk, he loves to play the game. Those guys enjoy getting out there and immerse themselves in the sport. It's like me enjoying some other part of my life that I really enjoy like scuba diving or deep sea fishing where you actually get out there and you immerse yourself in it to such an extent you forget about everything else. That's the way the President is with his golf. All he wants to do is think about golf when he's on the golf course, so it's his way of getting away from everything.

End of FastScripts......

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