February 23, 1999
LEE PATTERSON: Sir, thank you for joining us.
GREG NORMAN: Welcome. Sorry I am late.
LEE PATTERSON: That is all right. Maybe just a couple impressions about getting started here this week and then we will entertain questions.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I am glad I could make the field. For one, after last year, I didn't know whether I would be playing too many of these events coming up this year because of the way they do it on the ranking system. I didn't know how quickly I would fall off the list because of going 7 months without playing. But I am glad I am here. Obviously, it is going to be -- I think Match Play is the purest form of competitive golf. I have always been a strong believer in that. I have been a huge fan of the World Match Play Championships for many, many years. I have always enjoyed the head-to-head competition. I think that is why the International players enjoy the formation of The Presidents Cup because we got down to that. And all and all, I think it is going to be probably one of the best events for a player for the season.
Q. How is the shoulder?
GREG NORMAN: Shoulder is great. I have been doing a lot of practice. I have practice every day, not a great time period of practice, but I practice every day, and unfortunately, I have to get to work on that. That is why I am running a little bit late here this morning. They have to loosen it up because it stays so tight; that is what makes the extra 35, 40 minutes every day. I have got to do that before I play. All and all, it is 100 percent.
Q. Is that something that is going to be the case for -- that you are going to have to be stretched out on that shoulder?
GREG NORMAN: It is so tight; the surgery was so successful getting it nice and tight again to free it up. If I start playing golf for a couple of days, it just gets a little bit tighter. That is why I like to hit balls almost on a daily basis: Whether it is 40 balls; whether it is 100 balls, as long as I keep the swing going. And just loosening it up, because I can't do it myself in the room, you need a therapist, and Pete can't be with me this week; so I use the boys in the fitness trailer here just to free it up and get the motion going.
Q. In Australia, you said at the first tournament you played you had a little difficulty getting motivated and found yourself kind of flat. You won the next tournament. Do you feel now that you are back in the state where just teeing it up in the tournament is going to get you into it?
GREG NORMAN: I think so. I have played enough, practiced enough for the whole two months of the year now. I know I had a bit of a setback in the first tournament down there, but that wasn't something that overly concerned me. But no, I fell very ready to go. Match Play is going to be totally different feeling going in than playing a 72-hole stroke-play event because in Match Play anything can happen. You can go out there, shoot 74 and win; so that it may be -- you forget your score. Just play for the victory on the day. So, no, I am ready to play. The Australian Masters was an excellent stepping stone for me. I played some pretty solid golf. I played pretty solid mental golf to come go down the last two days. That was an important event.
Q. Just talk about your expectations and the fact that whoever wins this thing is going to have to play seven rounds in five days. From a shoulder standpoint, is that a --
GREG NORMAN: That is not a problem, because I look back at The Presidents Cup where I played five rounds in three days. So that is not physical -- conditioning-wise from a shoulder's standpoint and strength standpoint, I don't have any reservations about that at all. I think I am as fit and as strong as anybody out there right now.
Q. Expectations for the week? How close do you feel being near the top of your game?
GREG NORMAN: Well, how close am I? I can only go by what happened in the Australia Masters two weeks ago, going on the way I feel hitting the ball back the Medalist Golf Club. I feel pretty good, the game feels solid. See what the condition of the golf course is out here. I think the extra seven weeks later in the season -- I think it was seven weeks later in the season for this golf course. I think it is going to be a much better from a player's perspective.
Q. Along that line, players have said that the course is playing much faster than it does in January and that birdies will have to win holes more than pars here. Do you that is the case? How do you approach Match Play where you have got to be thinking birdie more than just --
GREG NORMAN: I think in Match Play the philosophy is totally different than a 72 hole stroke-play. Normally in a stroke-play, you just go play the golf course; shoot the best possible score, given the conditions and the way you're feeling. In Match Play, sometimes it doesn't really mean that. You have got to play the golf course but you are also playing your opponent. You have got to see what he is doing and how he is feeling. You have got to see whether momentum is his way or not his way. Unfortunately, in 18 holes, that can change very quickly and you can be in or out of it very, very quickly over. Over 36-hole time span -- I guess final 36 holes -- over 36 holes find it different. You can go through your mood swings pull out of it and come back into it again. So there is the extra component of you have got to keep an eye on what your opposition is doing, as well as getting to know the golf course. If the golf course is playing a little bit faster, I see that opening up a whole different aspect of players because this golf course really suits the long hitter. I think if we look through the history of winners here, you have got the long hitters in the wet conditions of January and there is more release on it, now you got more of an opportunity for players to make birdies because they are not going in there with 5-, 4-irons into par 4s, going in there with 6- or 7-irons. That opens up the field, I would say. I think that just makes it more intriguing for this event.
Q. How much of a sense of vindication do you have that this tournament (inaudible) you are the first guy who came up with the idea -- back and forth -- (inaudible)
GREG NORMAN: I mean, I like to think that I feel good within that for a reason. Because I think the overall idea wasn't such a bad idea. And it is good for the game of golf because the game of golf -- and I see quotes, I hear comments all the time that it is a global game. They are pretty much all the ingredients that I felt that was necessary for this type of number of world championships. So I feel good about it because I can see a lot of the ideas that I had and the dreams that I had starting to take place. I still saw more events -- I saw eight events, not disrupting the U.S. Tour. I still wanted to play eight World Tour events and 15 PGA TOUR events; so you always kept your card and kept playing and supporting the PGA TOUR. But at the end of the day, I think it is good for the game of golf. It is necessary for the game of golf because there is enough great players now in a global basis that we do really need to see the players playing against each other on a more of a consistent basis.
Q. Because of your shoulder, your position in the rankings from last year (inaudible) does it really matter to you how you come seeded in a tournament?
GREG NORMAN: No. In a situation like this -- somebody asked me a question the other day, why does one play 64. I said, I guess that is just the way they do the seedings in golf. I don't know. You guys probably have a better answer for that than what I do. But I think when you look at the caliber of players from one to 64, I don't think you can just say, well, one is supposed to beat 64. It is a little bit different in golf than it is in tennis. When you see your seeding in tennis, you can almost guarantee the top 4 in the world or two of the top 3 in the world getting through to the final -- in the final 4. Golf is a little different because it takes place over that 18th hole -- and I haven't seen the matches -- I have seen two, you know, Nick and Tiger and Mike O'Meara and Michael Bradley. I think that is going to be a very interesting match because we have got players playing that international players know are very, very good players, who very few people know about. Like Michael Bradley is good as any young player out of Australia than I have ever seen. He is good as shooting a 63 or 64 as anybody. So you see those matches where you think well Mark O'Meara should be a shoe-in, but he knows Michael Bradley and he knows that he doesn't have that type of easy match that people would think it is. So those are the intriguing things I see; therefore, what I am saying, the rankings really don't make that much difference when you are talking about a Match Play Championship or head-to-head.
Q. I don't know if we are going to see any sort of partisanship this week where fans are rooting for one country over another. Having played internationally, I wonder if you could comment: Are there any changes that you noticed in terms of the etiquette of golf fans over the years, and what would you think is the proper etiquette for golf fans at an international tournament?
GREG NORMAN: I think I have seen a very well balanced approach with spectators and fans. I think you get into certain areas where the hype of the event -- like the Ryder Cup, I am going back to the war and the shores (sic) - I think that was the right terminology - where that was really picked up and taken up beyond what we all would like to see in and the expectations, you are always going to see one or two individuals within the spectators, within thousands of them who are going to listen to their opinion whether you like it or not. You are going to get that. I think you get that anywhere in life in general anyway, just driving down the street in your car, someone is going to tell you is you are an asshole, whether you like it or not. So you are going to get that. So I think right across the board, I think the game of golf has really helped the spectators because we all -- we are all playing more on a global basis or even basis. I like what I saw at Presidents Cup in Australia, I think that was a great barometer for Australians and for the International team because we experience something a little bit different at Lake Manassas two years earlier when the Americans came down to the Australian Shores and when South Africans and respective international team members played, the support was very, very balanced. To me that was a great barometer to the message that is getting across by you guys. That is the only way spectators can really see and understand it is what they read and what they hear on television. And if that message keeps getting replayed across to the people, no mater where you play in the world, you are going to get that very well-balanced. I don't mind people supporting me and I don't mind people being against me because that is fair in sport. You don't want everybody to be on one side. Having it balanced -- I think in Australia it was like 30 percent, 30 percent, 30 percent. 30 of the them wanted the Americans; 30 of them wanted the Internationals; 30 really didn't care. They just wanted to see great golf. I think that was a great balance to have at all great golf tournaments.
Q. When you proposed your World Tour a few years ago, did you have Match Play as one of the formats in your mind or just bringing the 40 together?
GREG NORMAN: Just bringing the top 40 together. We hadn't really thought about a Match Play event.
Q. Do you think this event would be happening this soon now without your proposal?
GREG NORMAN: It is hard to say. It really hard to say. Probably not. I think you needed to put a cat amongst pigeons to flush out what needed to be flushed out.
Q. When the Mercedes was played here this was not your best venue to play golf at. Why do you think that was and does that concern you for this week?
GREG NORMAN: Laura asked me that very question this morning. She said, "You know you have never really" -- I said to her, "But we have been coming here a long time." She said, "Well, you have never really liked coming here." I said, "Well, I love the golf course." I think it is one of Dick Wilson's better efforts. I really love the layout. I said, Where I had problems here is because of the soft ground, I walk on -- and the cold weather -- I am not a real great cold weather person. I am not a real great early-season player. I like to warm up. I like to go to Australia first, play in hot weather, then come back over here. I always started in La Costa basically coming off of the Australian swing which is the middle of December, wanting to get home and do nothing; so I get home, do nothing, then I arrive out here having to practice in cold, wet weather which I am not very happy doing. So my mood coming in here, I knew was never really sharp. I came close here I think once of winning this golf tournament, the Tournament of Champions; so, I was never really physically or mentally ready to play. Different story now. I have played a couple of tournaments. I have played in the heat. I have practiced a little bit. I feel strong. So, let's just see how it pans out.
Q. Have you decided on your schedule for the next, I don't know, couple of months yet?
GREG NORMAN: I have decided up until The Masters and after that I am I haven't decided whether I go to Hilton Head or not.
Q. What are you going to play the next couple of weeks?
GREG NORMAN: I am going to play Doral next week. TPC, Bell South, Masters, and maybe, maybe not Hilton Head.
Q. You talked a moment about the O'Meara match. Can you talk about Woods versus Faldo?
GREG NORMAN: Well, you know, in a match like that, I know Tiger is playing well, obviously, in the last how many weeks? He played three weeks somebody said? Three weeks -- this is his fifth tournament?
LEE PATTERSON: Yes.
GREG NORMAN: Okay. So maybe in a situation like that, Tiger is obviously playing a lot. He is young enough; so obviously the time period of the amount of tournaments he has played is not going to be a factor. Somebody like Nick, knowing Nick's mentality, and how strong his head is, he has found ways to win golf tournaments. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if he can find a way to win this. Everybody, again, it's the expectation that you are the underdog and you are supposed to lose. If that is the case, sometimes the underdog finds that little extra inside him. We don't know where it comes from. Sometimes we have seen it many times in sport. The underdogs is always the favorite, and sometimes the underdog just gets that little pick-up and that's the way it goes. I would expect that match to be a very intriguing match, to say the least. Just the end result, it is hard to call, but I won't go say categorically Tiger is a shoe-in winner because Nick, being a great competitor for 20-odd years of his life, and that competitive juice is still flowing in there, I know that.
Q. Obviously, you have always been known as one of the game's most aggressive players. Because of that, does this format suit you maybe than any other?
GREG NORMAN: No, I don't think -- Match Play you have got to have controlled aggression. There has got to be times when you need to think about -- and this golf course, really, doesn't blend that because there is not a lot of potential water problems, with par 5s carry-over water hazards where you have got to gamble on the 240-yard shot, where maybe your opponent is laid up in a perfect position; so the odds of getting it up-and-down on a par 5 are maybe pretty good. Here, it's not so much par as you have got to get it up in two, because -- no trouble around there. So if you drive the ball well, you are going to be going at them. It is more or less a controlled aggression. You have got to know when to do that. That goes back to the extra component in Match Play. You have got to watch what your opposition is doing as well as playing the golf course.
Q. There was a suggestion in a British magazine that this may be the best tournament that has ever been created since 1934. Do you agree with that?
GREG NORMAN: It will go close. I am glad we have gone back to a Match Play event. I think like I said, it is the purest form of competitive golf as far as I am concerned. Having the best -- I guess all 64 turned up? Is that --
LEE PATTERSON: That is right.
GREG NORMAN: -- to have that. Ozaki is not here. Okay. So you have got the best 65 or 64. How many other events have we had where we have had the best 64 in the world actually going head-to-head? I think, yes, I mean, I go close to agreeing with that statement 100%.
Q. What might be the level of satisfaction should you win at the end of the week of having gone through, you know, six matches having to beat that caliber of player five days in a row, six matches?
GREG NORMAN: I think the difference is this has been one time you are not -- let's just say you go through and four of the top six get beaten and you go all the way through. You really haven't played the four of the top six because they have been eliminated by something else. Then somebody else goes on to eliminate them. Then you eliminate the eliminator. So I think you need to see, like in tennis, you go out of a whole year and Pete Sampras will play certain individuals a certain number of times. Actually you see his win/loss record against the caliber of players. I think that -- this will happen over a period of time with this type of event. But you have to start the game somehow by kicking the ball off, and this event is the right way of doing it.
Q. Did you win a lot of junior tournaments in Match Play tournaments?
GREG NORMAN: I played very little amateur golf. I played a lot of inner-club golf. But when I played state golf or amateur, we played Match Play, but nothing like the Australian Match Play or the U.S. Amateur Championships, something like that. All the Amateur Championships, I didn't play in a whole lot of those.
Q. They haven't announced yet where this tournament is going to be held in Australia in 2001. Do you have any ideas of some courses that would be suitable for example outside of Royal Melbourne would Kingston Heath be suitable?
GREG NORMAN: I don't know where it is going to go. I won't have a clue on that. I have got some great ideas -- not great ideas but. I know some great courses that can hold it. See, with Match Play you can go to a golf course most of the times you wouldn't think of having a 72 stroke-play event because of the severity of the golf course. When you got two guys going head-to-head, it is not worrying about whether winning the score at end of four days is 12-over par. You just want to see great head-to-head match. So there is probably a few golf courses down there that could easily get into that category. Kingston Heath is one, you know, it is a small, tight, fast running golf course that could easily handle that, but Kingston Heath has handled the Australia Open before; so it's got the credibility of being of the host major championships. But we have a host of great golf courses down there that could easily carry this one.
Q. This is not to knock La Costa, but what you said earlier that there are a not a lot of risky holes. Would you prefer this tournament, because of the format, played on a course where there is more of a risk reward factor?
GREG NORMAN: Not at all. Just different golf courses have that way. You can say the same thing about my favorite golf course in the world, Royal Melbourne. It doesn't have any water on it. It has a little lake somewhere on the left side of a par 3, but it doesn't have one bit of water. So, different golf courses require a different philosophy on how you play. And when you approach a Match Play event like this Dick Wilson's golf course, makes you play controlled aggression on some golf courses, may not be necessary here because we are all aiming at the par 5s. I think if the ball is releasing like you are saying it is, pretty much everybody is going to get to these par 5s in two.
Q. Do you see these three world championship events evolving towards the (inaudible) one every year in countries like Australia and South Africa?
GREG NORMAN: I don't know what their long-term objective is with the WGC. Are they going to expand on the numbers? I don't know. So I really can't make a comment on that. I think we need to have more of them, but it is going to be difficult to have more of them and without getting away and really creating another World Tour right now it seems like a delicate balance. One thing I get a little confused at is the end of the year we have THE TOUR Championship then we have Valderama. Right in the middle of there you have two of the biggest tournaments of the year, and the other thing I am a little bit at sorts about is its official money. If you are -- if you are No. 66 how do you feel right now? I mean, not a chance to have winning a million bucks. I think it is incentive to go out there and perform and get in this event next year, so from that point of view I have a little bit of -- I question that. I question the end of the year two back-to-back events. I thought THE TOUR Championship was going to be the finale for us and now it is obviously not. So they are the only thing from the future point of view, I don't know what they are going to do.
Q. What would it matter if it didn't count for official money, it would be more of exhibition of the world's best? Doesn't it have to account for something?
GREG NORMAN: Winning counts for everything in these events, I think. I think the fact that we are playing each other three times a year -- there is one that is not - there is Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup is one event where it is just the players from that event. So, again, I think that is more -- you go analyze that, it is kind of like thanks for playing in the Ryder Cup guys and thanks for playing in The Presidents Cup, guys. I don't know. But the incentive is there to win anyway whether it is on your career money list or not.
Q. Would you rather extend it out to 128 and have one more round or is that too many people?
GREG NORMAN: No, I think you have got -- when you are playing in a Match Play event like this, you have got to kind of find a number where it is easy to get it over and done with. Where this tournament -- we used to play it over six months, if my memory is right. So it is nice to have -- I was a strong advocate of playing this event in one week, because you want to see the result. You want to see how it pans out in a one-week period, not who won this over in Europe and who won down in somewhere else and who won this in America. Then all of a sudden, boom, you get them together. It didn't seem like, from a player's perspective, like a nice even field. I am just happy for Andersen because I think they are going to get a lot more benefit out of this being in one week and same with the players.
Q. They tried this in Tucson and in North Carolina in the '70s on the Tour. (inaudible) players won't be considered being headlined. Do you have a dark horse (inaudible)
GREG NORMAN: That is the risk of having a Match Play event. But if you look at the World Match Play Championship, over the years you have always had a pretty strong-named player winning that event. But that is Match Play. That is the nature of the competition. It is tough on television, this event. I mean, what happens if you come Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon and somebody blitzes 9 and 8. There is a lot of field for everybody to cover up. You have just got to accept that it is Match Play and it could turn out to be that way. The odds of that happening are probably slim, but there is a chance of that happening.
Q. For a guy who has come so far in golf, you expressed some sympathy for players that have more difficulty. You have expressed some sympathy for players (inaudible). You have kept that. You maintained that, though, haven't you?
GREG NORMAN: Well, you should always -- I learned a great lesson from a gentleman, Lord Forte. He is a hotelian. He always said to me: Greg, he said never forget the people underneath you. He said when I go into a hotel, he said, I never go up to the head office to meet the manager. I go downstairs to see the janitor and I work my way all the way up. He said they are the people -- and the head of McDonalds, he used to be a guy that worked down in those ranks. So you have always got to include everybody in your decision. You have always got to be respective of everybody because we all started from somewhere, and I started at those levels as well. So you always want to feel like there has got to be a reason for the future to help. If my son wanted to go play the game of golf, I want to make sure that there is a good benchmark for him to go out there. If my son's son was the same, I want that same benchmark to be out there. So I am against -- I am very much that way as an individual, the way I structure my life in business. I would like to see that the same way, that same type of structure in the job that I love, that is playing golf.
LEE PATTERSON: Thank you. We appreciate it.
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