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May 25, 2000

Greg Norman


NELSON LUIS: Greg, nice round for you today. Why don't you talk a little bit about your thoughts on the course?

GREG NORMAN: Well, thoughts of the golf course, my thoughts, the fact that we started teeing off today we knew the wind was going to pick up. And this golf course, this wind in this golf course doesn't make it easy because there's nothing really straight downwind or straight into the wind. And I knew the conditions were going to get difficult out there. The greens started to release midway through the first nine holes. And obviously drying out a little bit quicker, we knew we were in for a hard right coming in. And I think the golf course played very fair, but very difficult. 1st hole, hit a 3-wood 7-iron short of the green, chipped it and 2-putted from about 12 feet. 3rd hole, 3-wood, pitching wedge to about 9 feet. 7, hit driver, 3-iron lay-up, sand wedge to about six feet. 8th hole, 6-iron to about 20 feet, 24 feet and 3-putted. Then we go to 11, driver, 3-iron, pitching wedge to about 10 feet. And then 15, I hit driver 3-wood short, right of the green. Pitched it to about 12 feet out of the rough. And then 18, I hit 3-wood through the fairway in the heavy rough. 7-iron in the front bunker and that was it.

Q. I know you had that bogey on 18, but still, were you pleased with your game and were you pleased with your position right now?

GREG NORMAN: Very much. I was happy with the way I played today. I hit a lot of solid shots, and given the conditions of the wind, and the swirling wind, you had to hit the ball solid. Fortunately, the fairways were soft enough where you had a little bit of give in them. You could fly the ball all the way to your target area; the ball wasn't going to run very far. But the difficult part about Muirfield when you get a lot of heavy breeze like this, -- and it's never really into the wind or downwind on any particular hole; it actually pushes you across the doglegs. And a lot of these doglegs, like 18, for example, it's actually reverse canvas; and you hit it through it and it's very easy, if you get the ball up airborne too much, it's going to go further than what you anticipated. Like I said, I felt like I played fairly solid, and after a little rough start -- but after outside of that it was pretty good.

Q. Any trouble clubbing with the wind?

GREG NORMAN: Only a couple of them. Like 12 and 16, I was shocked to see my iron on 16, but just a matter of making sure you hit -- all the semi-downwind holes left-to-right downwind like 17, 16. You just had to make sure you hit the ball on the line where you want to hit it, just trust it. 12 was the toughest one today because the flag was on the very front. And it's that weird yardage; it's right in between everybody, into the breeze. If it's not into the breeze, it's swirling. So I would he imagine there's going to be a few heartaches there today.

Q. With the changes to the par 5s, the new greens, the thick rough, does that make this course harder than it's ever been or is most of it the wind today?

GREG NORMAN: Most of it is the wind today. If we didn't have any wind today, we would have been able to get at this golf course. The par 5s are still reachable. 15 and 5 are still reachable for me. But just given the wind conditions -- there were some very, very difficult pin positions for the first day, actually. They were very tough to get at, obviously with the wind blowing, but they were difficult pin positions anyway. So I would imagine no wind, somebody would have gotten around here in 66.

Q. Aside from swimming with the sharks, what else have you done for the last four weeks, and how much golf has been involved with that and how fresh are you coming into this stretch?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I'm very fresh. Haven't played much golf. Practiced the last ten days at home. I've been around the world in about eight days, just prior to the last week of being home and that was it. Didn't take my clubs overseas. I had other business to do and I got home about eight days ago, nine days ago.

Q. Around the world?

GREG NORMAN: Around the world. I went east all the way.

Q. How did you putt today and are these greens still putting true? All the guys have been raving about them.

GREG NORMAN: The greens are perfect, absolutely perfect. If you hit them on the line, they are going to go in. I putted fairly decent today. It was a good, solid performance for me considering the way I have putted over the past couple months. I liked it. I felt comfortable over the putter. I felt comfortable with where I was reading my putts, and I know this golf course, too, which is nice. I know where the breaks -- even though the greens are new, the surface is pretty much the same break. So I get a fairly good feel of it, even when I'm walking up the fairway knowing where the ball is. I know pretty much how the putt is going to perform.

Q. What were some of the stops on your world tour there, and was it golf-course related or other things?

GREG NORMAN: Other things, and mostly golf-course related. I started in New York. Went to Shanon, Ireland, Dubai, Middle East, Perth, Australia, Melbourne, Sydney, Honolulu, Palm Beach.

Q. In a hot air balloon?

GREG NORMAN: I was trying to set that record. (Laughs.)

Q. What was the best stop on there for you?

GREG NORMAN: I'm doing a great golf course in Shanon, Ireland. I suppose that one to me -- I've been very, very fortunate to get that piece of property. I don't think I'll ever get another piece of property as good as this, to make -- to build a pure links golf course, where you're allowed to have crossover shots and fly-over greens and blind par 3s, those type of things we never get a chance to do over here. And it's right between Ballybunion and Lahinche. So it's a magic piece of property. I've spent a lot of time over there and enjoyed it. It's become a pet project of mine, just because of the uniqueness of where it is.

Q. How long is that?

GREG NORMAN: We should do a soft opening by July of next year, with a bit of luck.

Q. What's the name of it?

GREG NORMAN: Doonbeg. I don't think they have got a name, just Doonbeg right now. That's the best way to pinpoint it.

Q. Do you know how to spell that?

GREG NORMAN: D-o-o-n-b-e-g.

Q. Joonbug, we've got it.

GREG NORMAN: Joonbug. (Laughs).

Q. What are you going to be doing the next couple weeks, and I wonder if you can talk a little bit about Pebble and how often you've played it?

GREG NORMAN: Not very often. Unfortunately, I haven't played a lot at Pebble Beach because I'm normally in Australia, playing our swing down there. I've always been a big fan of Pebble Beach. I liked it. I pretty much love 14 holes out there, and the other four maybe five holes, I can understand why they built them, but they are not great golf holes. But I love Pebble Beach. I love the setting of it. I love the ambiance of it. I haven't seen it in many a year, to be honest with you. I've heard different reports about how the rough is not very deep this year, but it's three or four weeks before the Open, and it's amazing what fertilizer does. I think the other thing I've heard, too is around the greens, it's not as tricked up; a lot of chipping areas and approaching areas. Prior to that, I'm going to play Westchester, because I love that golf course. Kind of like a fitter's golf course. You've got to shape your ball, and very narrow fairways which will probably blend into Pebble Beach. But next week, I'm just taking a week off and doing a few other things.

Q. You didn't play the '92 open; right?

GREG NORMAN: That's correct. I did not.

Q. Did you have to qualify and didn't?

GREG NORMAN: I didn't qualify, yeah. I had to qualify and I did not qualify.

Q. Have you spent any time with Gary Nicklaus? You live in the same neighborhood, do you play with him at all?

GREG NORMAN: We don't play much, but we talk a lot. If we're in the same -- going the same direction I'll give him a lift on the plane. But we speak quite a bit on the phone.

Q. How do you feel, do you think it would be to have a father like that and try and make your own way in the game?

GREG NORMAN: I think it's going to be very difficult. I think the big success for Gary was actually getting out here and performing the way he did at Sugarloaf at BellSouth. Gary has got talent, just as much as anybody else out here on this tour. He's a great kid, a great player, a good golf swing. He just needed to believe in himself. He needed to do something for Gary Nicklaus, not be in the shadow of Jack Nicklaus. And irrespective, just to get in the playoff, I think did a world of good for him. Made him feel like he belongs out here; has the ability to win out here. I know he's had a few rocky tournaments since then, but we all go through that patch. But he deserves to be out here for Gary Nicklaus. And he has the credentials and the credibility to do that, and I would not be at all surprised to see him win sooner than later.

Q. When you come off a long layoff, is it harder to hit a quality -- a large quantity of good shots, or is it harder to score well, and does it seem like effortless golf is hard to achieve when you play a lot of competitive golf?

GREG NORMAN: I think if you play a lot of competitive golf, the shots, the feel shots are the ones that are going to be there. You can play the game of golf a little bit more aggressively because your short game is a little bit more in touch. Because down at south Florida where I practice, we don't have grass like this. So it's very difficult if you miss the green to know what to chip because I don't practice chipping this way. So it's just if you play a lot of golf you get to experience these conditions, probably four out of six weeks if you're playing four out of six weeks. So those are the type of things that makes your competitive juices and the game a little bit easier to play if you play a lot. If you take a layoff and you hit a lot of balls coming into the tournament, and you feel good about playing the game of golf, it doesn't matter whether you played competitive golf or not. You should be able to step up on your first tee, see solid shots, visualize, do all the things we're supposed to do. We should able to do that. But it's more the feel, the scoring, learning to score, conditions like this. Fortunately for me in Florida, it's always breezy. So I can practice hitting a lot of solid 7-irons at 100-and-whatever distance you want to hit it. So those -- that's not a problem for me, but if I came up here and it was dead, calm conditions and the greens were soft and everybody was just playing darts -- I probably would have shot 72 or a 70 again or a 69, somebody else would have shot 66. So that's the difference, where I feel, right now.

Q. The wine has been doing very well. How involved are you in that?

GREG NORMAN: Well, if I told you how involved in it, I don't know whether you'd believe me. But I do all the taste testing. (Laughter.) -- When I was down in Australia. I enjoy doing the taste testing. When I was down in Australia, we sampled our new chiraz which we just launched. And early on, I did all the flavor testing for our -- between American oak or French oak in the casts we use. And I decided to put a blend of 70/20/10 of what I liked in the blend of the three different wines we had chosen. So I mixed all three and fortunately for me, it was a good guess and it was -- I was in total sync with Chris Hatcher, who is our wine specialist in the winery. So I actually guessed right. And it wasn't anything like I'm a genius at this thing. I just like drinking it.

Q. Jack said the other day that he thought the rough was too penal, and eventually he was probably going to burn it out and put in a thinner fescue to give you more of a chance to advance it out of the rough. Do you agree that that needs to change here?

GREG NORMAN: The thing that I -- I'm not a real big fan of deep, heavy rough where you just penalize the guy for rolling it off the fairway by five feet. I think that rough -- to me, what I think a difficult rough to play out of is the whispery fescue we play out of at the British Open in Scotland. You don't know whether you're going to get a hot flyer or the ball is going to come out dead. Here, you know you're just going to crank on an 8-iron or 7-iron as hard as you can and know you're going to advance it 150, 160, 170 yards. There's no real skill to that. Just the brute strength gets the ball -- gets the shot done. I'm not a big believer of having the transition go from fairway to intermediate rough to heavy rough, and that all takes place in a very, very short dance, maybe the width of a triplex area. I think it should be more gradual. In other words, what I'm saying is in golf is I like to see gradual penalties. I don't like to see penalties hit you straightaway off the tee. If you hit a bad shot, yeah, get a bad penalty, but if you hit a good shot and the ball just misses it, don't get that real severe penalty, which is -- which is tough in this game.

Q. With the course design and the wine and the many interests, what are you at now golf-wise? Can you address that? You're 45, what do you think your goals still are?

GREG NORMAN: Well, my goals are still to win out here. Just because I've got a lot of other things going on doesn't mean to say that it's absorbing all my time. It's absorbing some of my time. Over the years, I've done a very good job of balancing out between my business and my golf. I do miss playing the game of golf, I'll be honest with you. It's been hard to get back into the saddle, more from the year I had off -- or close to the year I had off, because of the surgery. That's been hard to get back into the saddle from that regard. And having said that, having all that time off from the game of golf, it gave me a lot of time to really get involved with business and each of my core businesses. So I got to enjoy that. So I really enjoy doing two things. I enjoy the business side and I enjoy playing the golf. Now when I start playing more golf and practicing or playing or playing with my son back in Florida, I get more enjoyment of that now. So it's just a real delicate balance. You've got to put good people around you that you can leave, like now, for three of the next four weeks and trust that, you know, the fact that things are going to be running and operating pretty good by the time we get back. So my golf is still at a priority above most other aspects outside of the family.

Q. You going to get out to look at Pebble Beach before Westchester?

GREG NORMAN: No. I'll just play -- I'll get out there Sunday night and just play the three rounds. I mean, I've played enough rounds around there to know -- I haven't seen the new hole. I haven't seen the 5th hole, but I believe that's a great change.

Q. What's your opinion on what seems to be a USGA philosophy of taking par 5s and converting them to par 4s for the Open?

GREG NORMAN: I believe their philosophy is 280 is a good score. 280 to them is par. And so I think when they eliminate those par 5s, making it a par 70, four rounds at 280, the numbers over the years, they seem to like seeing shot for a U.S. Open. Pinehurst was right on the Open, wasn't it? I'd rather see a golf course designed with a -- played where the par 4s are designed to be that way, instead of making them into par 5s and par 4s because you're changing the characteristics, the turning point of the hole and the bunker locations that sometimes the greens on par 5s are designed to be hit at with a pitching wedge or sand wedge, not with a 2-iron.

Q. It used to be at Pebble, your birdies come in the first five or six holes, 7 you buckle down, and then you've got the closing. And now you go to No. 2 and it's going to be about 485 or so, 480.

GREG NORMAN: That's a par 4?

Q. A tree came down on the left -- how much would that alter I guess a rhythm that you might know at Pebble.

GREG NORMAN: I think if you walked off 2 with a 4, you would say, well, I'm where I'm supposed to be anyway. You walk off 2 with a 5, you say, I'm probably where 60 percent of the guys are going to be -- 485 yards, did you say? Wow. Okay (Laughs).

Q. Downhill.

GREG NORMAN: Well, I've never played there in June, I don't think , so it will be interesting to see.

End of FastScripts….

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