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August 23, 2001

Greg Norman


JAMES CRAMER: Why don't we go ahead and get underway. We have Greg Norman with us this afternoon. Two-time champion here at Firestone with a 5-under par 65 in the first round. Greg, why don't we begin by going over your round, if we could, and we'll open up for some questions.

GREG NORMAN: First hole is a driver, 9-iron to about three feet. Second hole is driver, 3-wood over the back of the green. Chipped down to about two feet. No. 6, I hit a 4-iron in the left bunker. Came out to about 15 feet, two putted. 7, I hit a 4-iron just short of the green and chipped in, 24 feet. 12th hole, I hit a 6-iron to about 12 feet. 14, I hit a driver, 9-iron to about 15 feet. 16, I hit a driver, 3-iron, 9-iron to about 15 feet. 17, I hit 3-wood, 9-iron to about 30 feet. 18, I hit driver in the left trees. Chipped it out, pitching wedge to about 12 feet and 2-putted.

JAMES CRAMER: All right. Questions for Greg.

Q. How about the 12th, I guess first shot and second shot on 13, in the rough and then off the tree?

GREG NORMAN: Yeah, drove it through the fairway and tried to hook it around the tree, actually. I didn't anticipate the ball would come out that easily. I thought I would be about 25 yards short of the green. It must have come out a little hot and got a good bounce off the tree. Wherever it went there would not be a problem as long as it didn't get behind the tree because I didn't have a lot of green to work with. I was hoping to get someone into the right bunker, to tell you the truth. When it hit the tree and came out in the fairway it was a fairly easy pitch and pitched it to about three feet, I guess.

Q. What do you have to do on this golf course?

GREG NORMAN: You have to drive well. You are not going to drive it on every fairway, but you have to drive the ball. It's one of the classic golf courses in the world. It's stood the test of time, even though guys have shot low scores around here. Over time, it equals itself out. Like I said, drive the ball on the fairway; and then you have a lot of medium iron shots, which is great, because the medium iron shot, you have a tendency of being able to shape the ball a little bit more. You can play games with the golf ball. And I've always enjoyed it. I've seen a lot of shots around here before I've even played the shot. So, I guess my comfort zone around here is pretty good.

Q. You've played this course in all kind of weather conditions over the years. Up until about a week ago, this had been a really, really dry summer here. How much did the rain change the normal complexion of the course?

GREG NORMAN: We played here yesterday and the greens were a lot quicker than what they were today. They were firmer, faster, and the golf course would have played a little more difficult. Once the rain came, it just obviously softened it out. It played just a fraction bit longer, but not to a degree where it becomes menacingly long. I don't think there's a shot, really, that you play out there because the greens being as soft as what they are out there -- it's kind of like what happened at the PGA last week, irrespective of how long the golf course; whether you're going in with 3-iron or 5-iron, you take dead aim at the flagstick and the ball lands at the top of the green, so you can fairly aggressive. I would prefer to see this golf course play very fast, but it's difficult this time of year in the United States to get that. Like the PGA Championship has always been plagued by wet conditions and last week was very unusual; it didn't rain after Monday. It's hard to really get golf courses dried out in the United States at this time of year.

Q. Given your moderate results since Bay Hill this year and not playing as much as you would have liked, does this surprise you at all, to put together this round and being in this position after one day?

GREG NORMAN: Not at all, Doug. I could feel this coming probably Monday of last week. I started feeling very comfortable with my game. I started getting a few things ironed out. And it doesn't take much in a player to -- once he starts feeling right, to get that feeling back again. I played very, very well last week. I putted terrible last week. I made a minor adjustments with my putting, walking down the 10th fairway today, I was questioning myself why I wasn't releasing the putter, and always been a stroker of the golf ball, not a hitter of the golf ball and last week I was hitting my putts and not releasing it. So, the whole fairway, I was -- even after my second shot, I focused on that and after that I started thinking about what have I got to do to release the putter and I started thinking about how I used to putt and I lifted my shoulders up a little more. Once I got my shoulders a little more elevated, all of the sudden the putter started to release. I missed one on 10. I hit a great -- I hit one on 11, I hit a great short putt. Missed two short putts and I said, "You know it doesn't matter, I've got it now. I feel great." On the 12th tee I saw my partner and I just knew I was going to make it -- once I started feeling the feeling, it only took one stroke on the 10th hole and that's what I've been looking for -- since Bay Hill. (Laughter.) But right now, it's as confident and good as I've felt in probably two or three years on the golf course. It just feels comfortable again. I mean, I know why, but I don't want to go into it, but I just feel comfortable again. I still hit the ball long enough and I still have a lot of mental aptitude, and so I still want to keep on going.

Q. Why don't you want to go into it?

GREG NORMAN: It would take a long time. (Laughs).

Q. Did Tony help spot that?

GREG NORMAN: No, I did it all myself. I asked Tony going -- when I holed the putt on 17, I said, "I guess you noticed I fixed my putting." Yeah, he said, "I saw what you did. I saw what you did on the 10th hole." I said, "Why didn't you tell me that three years ago?" (Laughter.) It's amazing what one minor adjustment does to a person's confidence and feeling. I don't care if I -- I don't care what happens, really, because right now, I feel good. I know I'm going to go out there tomorrow and know I feel comfortable and know I feel like I'm going to play a good round of golf tomorrow. So that's a great feeling to have.

Q. Given how little you've played this summer, how could you feel something coming on last Monday? Have you been practicing a lot during your time off?

GREG NORMAN: I've always been a practicer. I've always worked out. I've always practiced at home, just because I don't play golf, tournament golf doesn't mean to say I am not practicing. I still play a lot. Yeah, there's times when I take it off, but I bet I haven't gone, oh, six, seven days without hitting a golf ball this year. I just enjoy practicing. Even if I go to the back of my house and hit 150 balls in the river at the end of the day after doing other work, I still do it. Now, I enjoy it even more, because I feel that I'm getting rewarded for what I'm doing, because I'm working on some very, very positive things.

Q. You're talking about how you are feeling good, how you are feeling confident, is that the way you felt in '97 when you won here? Is that a similar feeling?

GREG NORMAN: Well, you know, when you get to 46, you get Alzheimer's a little bit. So, I forget what '97 is all about. (Laughter.) No, '97 -- I thought'97 was a great tournament, because the tournament was very, very tight, like they normally are here. Very seldom do you get a run away like Jose Maria. I think Tiger probably ran away a little bit last year, too. Very seldom a runaway here. It's always a very, very tight golf tournament. If a player gets on his game and shoots a 61, bye-bye, and that happens. I believe Tiger did that last year if my memory is right. So it's very difficult to get up that amount of ground on those players when they do that on this type of golf course. So, '97 was a great tournament, because there was so much ebbing and flowing, I believe. There was about four of us who had a chance to win it and about three of us in a playoff, if my memory is right. How do I feel compared to that? Probably the same. I really couldn't answer that 100%.

Q. What would winning a World Golf Championship mean, knowing how you champion the cause of top players playing together more?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think it is a totally different idea and format of what I had envisioned, anyway. To me, I still look at this as the World Series of Golf. The format has been pretty much the same over the years. You've had to earn your way into this event, whether it's a tournament win, or certain tournament victory around the world, and now it's the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. So, I've always felt very, very highly about it. I can remember at the very early part of my career that I wanted to win the right tournament to get into this golf tournament. You know, when I played international golf there was only a select number of tournaments that we had to win. Australian Open and Australian PGA were one of them. I always targeted my schedule to make sure I could try to win and get in this event early in my career.

Q. This golf course is only about 80 yards shorter than last week. Is it a tougher golf course than Atlanta?

GREG NORMAN: Atlanta had a lot more elevation changes. The longer holes seemed like they played uphill in Atlanta. I like this golf course better than that one all around, 18 holes. I love the back nine at Atlanta Athletic Club. I thought it was a great back nine of golf. I personally thought the par 3s were a little weak because they were very redundant, except the seventh hole. Here you have a great balance of par 3s. They vary in length and they vary in directional change and vary in club selection and the type of shot you've got to hit from elevated to one downhill, one uphill. To me, this is a better balanced golf course.

Q. We talked in here yesterday about the fact that Duval came in and didn't play a practice round, Mickelson didn't play a practice round. Is this golf course maybe being as straightforward as it is and playing as soft as it is, can you get away with that in here like this when you're a player like that?

GREG NORMAN: Absolutely.

Q. Only played one practice round?

GREG NORMAN: Tony said to me, when he got here, he knew my tee time was 2:20 and he didn't call me because he knew I would come in on Thursday, too, knowing I had a late tee time. When you've played around here enough, there's not really much to get to know. All you've got to know is get to know the speed of the greens. I played here yesterday and the greens were different yesterday. So, what I played yesterday was really null and void. So, yeah, it would not be hard to do that. These players are good enough. They know this golf course. It has not changed over the years. Maybe a little bit of yardage change here and there. It's a type of golf course and the type of players that you can do that.

Q. Have you been doing any, like, soul searching or thinking about your future in the last few months and do you feel like you are turning back the clock now?

GREG NORMAN: No not at all. I don't need to -- I like my future. You know, if you ever sat down and try to second guess your past then you would be in big trouble. That means you haven't done a good job with it. I can turn around and look over my shoulder and say I've done a great job in the past, no matter what the circumstances, whether it is on the golf course or off the golf course. My past has been a phenomenal past. I know my future is going to be a very good future, too. So, I don't sit here and say, "God, I wish I had done this three years ago." Because three years ago if I did it, I probably would not have been able to do it. So, you can never sit there and speculate, second guess, because I think that's the kiss of death, because I've always been a believer of moving forward; it's done. But at the same time, I've always felt that when you feel a little bit down, take a look in the rear-view mirror and take a look at what's happened back there, and, man, I tell you what, there's a lot of great things and positive, things in my life that I would never change for anybody, anybody in the world. So, I'm happy.

Q. You mentioned the key changes you made on 10 today with your putting stroke. Just a general better stronger feeling for your game, was that abetted at all by the affinity you clearly have for this track? Wouldn't that effect have been the same on a track where you maybe have not been quite as successful?

GREG NORMAN: Absolutely. It doesn't matter the golf course you are playing. You've fixed up a technique in your golf game. I could go play a public links course right now and still feel great about it. It's just the fact that I see and feel comfortable again with a golf club in my hand or a golf club in my hand. It doesn't matter where you play.

Q. With full benefit of hindsight, how long did it take for your body, your game to come back into sync after that surgery?

GREG NORMAN: Eight weeks. My body was back in shape in eight weeks. I wish I had -- when I had shoulder surgery, I wish I had done work on my right shoulder the same as I did on my left because I know now, I have to -- it's amazing. Like any injury or scar tissue heals stronger and better. If you break a bone it heals stronger and better than what it was before. So when you have surgery, sometimes it is better to get balanced out. I've spoken to the doctor quite a few times saying, boy, I wish you had done my right shoulder at the same time you did my left. Now, when I work out now, my right shoulder gets a little bit more creaky and crackly than my left and my left is stronger than my right. Like I said, eight weeks after my hip surgery, I was strong and ready to go. I was running up mountains and stuff like that, doing mountain bike riding in September, October, and I had the surgery done in July. So I was right back in the saddle of it, fitness-wise.

Q. At this point now, what gives you more satisfaction: The success of some of your business pursuits or success having a round like today?

GREG NORMAN: Well, they are two different things. You know, I've established business in such a fashion where I didn't want to be relying on the game of golf for the rest of my life, to play the game. I've seen that happen with too many other players where they had to be dependent on going out. I made a conscious effort close to ten years ago, I didn't want to be in that position. So what happens in business and what happens now -- I get a great sense of satisfaction out of a round today because that's my body; that's my life; that's my career. I love to play golf. That's why you get more frustrated and irritated within yourself when you don't hit the ball solid. Now, when you do to a business deal and you screw up or you do a bad deal or the things don't work, nobody knows about it, it's a done deal or you tear up the papers or you put it in the no-go file and you move on. It's really difficult to -- you can't really compare the two. I truly love to -- I get just as much satisfaction out of today as I did back when I was 25, 30, playing the game. But the other side of the coin, I've established myself in such a world, in the business world, where if I ever did decide to stop, good-bye. It's not going to be a hard good-bye.

Q. Is there any benefit from not playing often in that whenever you show up at a tournament, you're not burnt out?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I've been -- I hear comments about that, when players take six weeks off and they are going to come back and they are not really ready. I've done it always. Jack Nicklaus has done it always. Tiger does it his way. You know what, I think, the athlete is the athlete. He knows exactly what he needs to do. I remember taking some weeks off and coming right back out and winning the first week I came back. I think once it's in your system, and if everything else is right within your system, your technique is right and your comfort level is right within your head, there's no reason why you can't walk on to the first tee even after a year and get things going. You could probably play 8 to 10 tournaments a year, and if your game was right every time and you were the right type of player, you would be in contention every time. I truly believe that. Because once it's there, it's there. I mean, it's an amazing change or sequence. It's hard to -- it's like anything in life; the more you try to get it, the further away it becomes. And if you just let it happen, you look back and say, "My God, that seemed so easy." No matter who has been playing the game of golf and they play well, you look back and you go, "My God, that was so easy to do that. Why can't I do that again." But when you try to do that again, that barrier seems like it is harder and harder to get over. And that's the great thing about sport, I suppose. It's really, when you do it right, it's easy. When you don't do it right, it's the hardest thing in the world.

Q. What prompted the particular adjustment today? I know you're not happy with your putting, but do you try different things on different holes as the round goes on or is it like a light came on?

GREG NORMAN: No, it wasn't. It was just I hit a putt on the ninth hole and the ball just didn't have any tract to it. It just was rolling, got to the hole and looked like a wet towel getting up there, it didn't have any momentum. It looked awful. I said to myself, "My God why don't I have any release on my putter?" And I asked myself that question and asked that question walking to the tee. It was -- I guess a light came on. How it came on, I don't know. Maybe I asked myself the right question, why can't I release the putter. To release the putter, you've got to give yourself room. Same in the golf swing. You have to give yourself room to swing the golf club. You know, I think I've been around enough I would learn to notice a posture change or feel a posture change, and I just deduced that my body was slumped over too much. I had to stand up to it a little bit more and that was it.

Q. Any time in the last three or four years did you think you wouldn't -- you would never win again, and with where you are in your life, with business and purses playing --

GREG NORMAN: No, the only reason why I'm out here playing, Bob, is I still believe I can. Even in the down times, like the middle of this year, or the last couple of year, I've never lost sight of that. I've never lost sight of the feeling or the belief that I can do that. If I ever did, if I truly felt -- and I said to Tony when we -- at one of the events, I said, "Tony, you know we're going to win again. You know I still believe I can do it." HHe said, "Yeah, I know." Now, if I didn't feel that, I not be out here. I can categorically tell you that. I don't think it's necessary to prolong a situation, because I've said this many times. I've said I've got so many other things I love to do outside of golf; it would not be hard for me to go do those. But as long as I still feel like I can win, I'm going to stay here and still play. Now, I may never win again, but if I still do believe I can win, that's fine. You know , I'm the only one who knows that. I'm the only one who can tell myself in realistic terms, look at yourself in the mirror, saying, "yeah you still have it" or "no you don't have it." And if you say no, you don't have it, there's not much point in being out there.

Q. So it's not accurate to refer to you as semi-retired then?

GREG NORMAN: I don't know if anybody -- I know I haven't referred to myself as being semi-retired. I don't think you can ever retire from this game of golf. I read about Fred Couples saying he's ready to retire. I said to him on the driving range: "You can't retire. How can you retire from the game of golf?" You can retire from hockey, you can retire from NBA, you can retire from being a quarterback on a football team, you can retire from being a professional tennis player because you can't compete again. But in golf, you can still compete. You can go out and compete against your friends at the local golf club. To me, retirement is never picking up a golf club again. That would be a very, very difficult call for any golfer of any make or desires to say: "I retire from the game of golf." Now, do you retire from professional golf would be a different way of saying it, and that's where -- you have to be -- when I read those, like I said to Freddie, "You can't retire. I mean, how can you retire? You still love to play the game. The game still loves you and you still love the game." Now if Freddie is ready to retire, he might only play eight tournaments a year; he might enjoy doing that. I would not even call that semi-retirement because he's still got to practice and he's still got to play. It's an interesting phraseology to try explaining, I suppose.

End of FastScripts....

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