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November 9, 2006

Greg Norman


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Greg, thank you for spending some time us with. I think we've heard of several people saying, boy, coming out here this week, it looks like it's jumped in scale, just tremendous galleries already. Maybe just a couple thoughts about what we've seen so far this year, and then we'll open it up for questions.

GREG NORMAN: It just amazes me how the tournament just gets to the next level every year. What it is, I really don't know. I think I can only assume and surmise the fact that the popularity of the event is really starting to gravitate out to the local and regional area and people are hearing about it.

I mean, the crowd out there for a Pro Am today is as good as a crowd out there for a PGA TOUR event for a Pro Am. So it's a fabulous event.

But let's not forget Annika. I think she has just been a huge attraction for this event. She's done a tremendous job. She's the No. 1 player in the world this year. I don't know how many tournaments she's won, maybe nine tournaments or something like that. I'm guessing you guys know better than I would. Three tournaments? She's won overseas and all that stuff, so probably half a dozen tournaments. But her attraction here is just phenomenal, which I think elevates it that much more and at the same time the popularity of the event.

The players love it. Just speaking to the players now who haven't played in here before saying what a great event, I didn't realize it was that much fun and this relaxing and a great golf course at the same time.

I think everything just slowly generates its own momentum, and here we are. We talked about it the other day, whether we close the gates on the weekend because we're sold out without tickets. It's a great position to be in.

Q. You kind of helped set the teams, so now that the teams are set, who do you look at as maybe the favorite this week?

GREG NORMAN: Well, if I was a spectator coming out here, I'd come out and I'd watch the Annika/Freddie team. Faldo and myself actually got a little bit of something there to tell you the truth. But you'd also go and look at the team of 750 yards of drives between the two of them, and that's Daly and J.B.

You know, you've got to be looking at those guys and just going out there you'd have to go watch them, especially in a scramble format. You don't know where these golf balls are going to go. It's just going to be unbelievable and they're going to be playing off each other, and that's what it's all about. That's what this format is.

Then you look at all the other teams who can quietly methodically come along and beat you. I've always said tomorrow's round is the most crucial part of this tournament. If you get off with a mid to sub 60s score in the alternate shot then you're going to be right there at the end. If you get behind the eight ball it's impossible to pick up four or five shots on these guys because you know they're going to be shooting sub 60s or low 60s for the next couple rounds.

Q. As somebody who read your book, you kind of briefed over the 1996 Masters a little bit. Somebody wins, that's a defining moment in your career, how you reacted afterwards, wouldn't you say? This pairing today is all about that hug, isn't it?

GREG NORMAN: No, no, this pairing today has nothing to do about 1996. This pairing is all to do about 30 years. You've got to understand, Nick and I, and you may have seen The Golf Channel show, you may not have seen it, where we sat down and talked about it and had an open discussion about our respective careers. You've got to understand Nick and I went at each other religiously, whether it's a European Tour, U.S. PGA TOUR or the major championships.

You know, he got the better of me in major championships but I got the better of him in other tournaments, as well.

So we had this incredible competitive rivalry, and I loved it because he was an intense guy to play against. I said this on The Golf Channel show. He said he's a guy who would walk on the first tee, cut your heart out and hand it back to you at the end of the round. He was so intent on beating you.

Were we great friends during that time period? Absolutely not. We never went out to dinner, we never sat down and even had lunch in the locker room, but at the same time we respected each other because we knew if we beat each other we were going to be right there at the top of the heap. So we had this incredible respect and rivalry for each other.

When I was sitting back thinking about it, I said, you know, life is too short. I haven't really understood Nick as a person, as a friend, and he probably doesn't know me as a person and as a friend, either. I said, why not. Life is too short. I got a lot of that from Chris Evert and her relationship with Martina Navratilova. We talked about it at great length because they were intense rivals, and tennis is a little bit different than golf because you're playing mano a mano with each other, but they drifted apart and now they're back together as friends again.

I thought about that when I spoke to Chris Evert about it, and I thought, you know what, who was my greatest rival out there. It was Faldo. Why were we great rivals? We were great golfers. Being great golfers doesn't necessarily need to make you great friends.

Now life has changed. He's off in the business world, I'm off in the business world, and quite honestly we've got a lot to talk about. We've got a lot of time to catch up on.

I called him. First of all, I called him and I said are you interested in playing, and he said yes. Then I called him up and said would you like to play with me. You could hear this pregnant pause at the end of the line. I think he was pleasantly surprised.

Sometimes you've got to reach out and sometimes you I'm glad I did it. I'm looking forward to it, whether we play well or don't play well, I really don't care.

I said to Nick, if you and I can't have a good time and help each other out after being competitive against each other for 30 years, then there's something seriously wrong with it. So let's go tee it up tomorrow and see what happens.

Q. Since the 1996 hug, did your relationship change?

GREG NORMAN: No, not really. It was pretty much the same. We probably asked each other a few business questions relative to design work or relative to other things or whatever it was prior to that, but like I said, 1996 didn't have any bearing on this decision at all. I mean, that is the case. I think, like I said, it's that whole history of 30 years going against each other.

You know, we talk about it. We talk about 1996 and on The Golf Channel show, the first time we both talked about how we respectively felt on that round of golf that day. It's interesting to hear how he felt, and obviously it was interesting for him to feel how I was feeling that day.

Q. He didn't have a whole lot to say about that day because he said it was different having you next to him. Have you guys ever prior to just very recently gone over your thoughts towards each other and that day? Is this really a relatively new friendship?

GREG NORMAN: Yeah, I would say so. I was the one who triggered it, which I'm very happy about. I'm proud of that fact because we were friends but we were never friends where you could sit down and walk up to him and say, hey, partner, how you doing, what's going on, heard you're doing this, this and this. That's what a friend does thinking about how your life is doing or are you okay.

Whether we go back and sit down and talk about 1996, I doubt it very much. There's no reason to. He won, I didn't, and we all know the story, and that's it. What's for us to rehash about? I might give him a little bit of shit about something in the round there, which you would never say just post the event, but no, we won't rehash it, I'm pretty sure we won't.

Q. You mentioned what a draw Annika is, and I was talking to her earlier. I was wondering do you think there will be a time when it's not such a big deal if you see women occasionally playing with men? It seems like every time it happens it's a big deal and people talk about it. And if you don't think there will be a time when it's not, is it okay that we do or is it understandable that we do or is there something wrong with that?

GREG NORMAN: I see in the near future how far out, I can't give you an answer, but I foresee the girls going out there and actually qualifying and getting on the PGA TOUR. And I'm all for that. I hope they go and try to prequalify for the U.S. Open, prequalify for the British Open, prequalify or qualify for the PGA TOUR and come out and play with us week in and week out, and you'll see the caliber of women players now who have that capability, have the length and have the strength and have the stamina to come out here and play with us week in and week out.

They're golfers. Take away the sex; they're just as good as we are. They've proven their rights to play on any golf course anywhere in the world.

I would like to see them come out. I think what's happening with the Annikas of the world and the Michelle Wies of the world; when they go out there they're stimulating some young girl who's five years old, six years old, eight years old, saying, I want to be that first person who qualifies on the U.S. PGA TOUR or the European Tour or whatever. I want to go out there and do it. They'll start training their bodies, getting bigger, getting stronger, and boom, they'll come out and play.

I think that will be fabulous for the game of golf. I really do will believe that. I'll be the first to tell you this. I wasn't a big proponent of the special exemptions going out there because you're taking away a spot from a guy who's an accredited PGA TOUR player. I always thought that if they went and qualified, come on, come and play with us week in and week out and we welcome you with open arms.

Q. What do you like about that concept of mixed gender fields?

GREG NORMAN: Take the gender away. I think they're great golfers, simple as that. Don't look at it as male female, look at it as great golfers who have done their respective jobs on their respective tours to get themselves out there playing the game of golf.

I think if we take that thought process away, then it's going to be a lot easier transition for all of us to make it. Like I said, look at Michelle Wie. I haven't played with Annika so I don't know how far she hits the ball. I'm sure she gets it out there quite a long ways. I haven't played with Michelle Wie but I've heard stories about her hitting the ball 300 yards. If you can hit the ball 300 yards, you can go play anywhere in the world, and I'm sure Michelle Wie is going to set the standard for a lot of younger players right behind her.

Q. How is your golf now? How do you feel?

GREG NORMAN: I feel very good actually. I don't have any I have just the minor aches and pains, but nothing that really would say I can't play today. I've been fortunate. I've worked very hard on getting my body back into shape since the surgeries at the start of the year, and I'm not carrying any excess baggage, and so I feel like I can get out there.

I've practiced a little bit but not the constant practice that I'd like to do. So when I do get out there and hit balls on a regular basis, I hit the ball very well and without pain. I enjoy it.

Q. How about playing next year? Any ideas on if you'll play less, if you'll play more?

GREG NORMAN: I don't see me playing any Senior Tour events except maybe the major championships like the Senior British Open, I'll go over there for that because of the British Open. But outside of that, I don't see myself playing anything, no.

Q. I was going to ask just about I think people are pretty familiar with the playing and the business components to your life, but I'm just wondering age 50 is obviously a big transitional number for a lot of people. The last year for you, I don't know if it's been a more difficult year. I know you've obviously spoken publicly that the divorce between yourself and Laura is a private matter. But has the last year been different for you? Is 50 a significant period for you in any way personally away from the business and golf?

GREG NORMAN: The age 50 hasn't had any bearing on me. Obviously my personal side of things, I want to keep it that way, no question about it. It's not easy. I've seen other friends of mine go through it and it's not easy on them, either. You feel for the person and you want to give them the support as much as you can and you also want to give them the respect as much as you can and say, okay, the situation is between two individuals, just leave it go and hope it gets through and those two individuals move on with life in a healthy and prosperous manner and stay friends. That's what you hope for, and that's what I'm hoping for.

From a business perspective, I can tell you sitting right here now, my life has never been better. I really am happy with my situation in life. I love where I'm going. I know where I'm going. When you have that mindset going forward, it feels pretty darn good to tell you the truth. I look forward to it, and I want to make sure that I enjoy myself a little bit more than what I have done in the past. Simple as that.

Q. You talk about in the book the importance of branding and marketing. By not playing, is that a marketing move in a way? Because if you played poorly would that hurt you business wise?

GREG NORMAN: No, that transition happened years ago. I think now that there's no question about it, back in the late '80s, early '90s, obviously when you're on the TV all the time, yeah, sure, that has an impact on your brand, no question. But as I slowly stopped playing golf and I more transitioned into the running and managing of my businesses, people started to respect that and understand that.

You have to get your business to a certain level where it makes that transitional leap on its own. We don't feel like look, if I went out there and played in a PGA TOUR event this Sunday, for example, or Saturday, if I'm in the last group wearing a certain shirt and you go out there you'll see a sales spike, there's no question about it. So television does do that. But you see that spread out across the whole year, no, you don't see that. If you run a business properly, you're going to get those 13, 14 consecutive quarters of double digit growth if you manage the process properly.

If you have a business that just hangs on the sleeve of one person, about what he does there in the image of marketing, then you're putting all your eggs in one basket, and you don't want to do that. It's more of a balanced approach with his.

There's no question, with my acquisition of Greg Norman Collection and through the acquisition of MacGregor Golf, I have got a very good handle on understanding what marketing and branding is all about. Now we understand how to do that.

Now we start looking at, okay, who would you put in there to do that, just what you're saying, to put that image out there on a weekly basis to actually elevate that. It's not me. I mean, I can do more good behind the scenes and do more good at sales meetings and do more good at AGMs and do more good in board meetings than being out there on the golf course right now. We passed that threshold quite a few years ago.

Q. Why is it that golf has changed as the question was asked previously? People are so enthralled with your personal life.

GREG NORMAN: Well, we're public figures. It's like anything, you pick up the paper and you see Britney Spears is separating from her husband. Because you're a public figure, you're not really a target, but people are interested.

It's kind of complimentary in a way. It's very frustrating, I can tell you that, but it's kind of complimentary in a way because you really don't want to be under the microscope, especially about certain things, your private life, but it's great to know that people care about you. Whether they're doing it in a little bit of a slightish manner, who are you dating, what's going on, blah blah blah, they want to know. Inquiring minds want to know.

If you've managed the process properly and everybody settles down and takes their time, it'll all come out. It'll all be there eventually and there won't be people want the scoop. People want to know.

Q. Does it bother you, especially like the Australian media is even worse.

GREG NORMAN: Well, I'll find out next week.

Q. Reports of you being at a banquet with somebody, you arrive separately but you were obviously together. Does that bother you, though?

GREG NORMAN: No, that doesn't bother me. We've been friends for a long time, simple as that. I've been to her banquets before. She's been here to this event before. We've been friends. As long as you're friends and supporting each other's respective charities and causes, why not? I give to her charity. I help support her people can speculate as much as they want. Friends are always going to help friends. I do it for other male friends. It doesn't mean I'm going out with them or dating them. It's just one of those things.

Q. So does love mean nothing to you?

GREG NORMAN: Does love mean nothing? Love means a lot.

Q. I was going to ask you about Nick (laughter).

GREG NORMAN: Where is the love, right (laughter)?

Q. 15, 20 years ago when you guys were intense rivals, you said on The Golf Channel that you never envisioned him becoming a television broadcaster. Were you even aware that the degree were other players aware of the degree of charisma that he's shown? He never showed it on the course, but

GREG NORMAN: Never on the golf course, but in his private life for example, if we had been to an exhibition match or a tournament where we get paid appearance money, we'd have to go to a banquet or something and we'd get up there and do a Q & A. He's a very funny guy behind the scenes. He doesn't show it on the golf course, but he's got this very dry sense of humor that you actually chuckle about it.

We kind of knew it, but I didn't speak to him on a regular basis to really see it all the time. At these banquets I'd see him and people would be laughing at him. So he had this ability to do that.

I think Nick has really done a great job on the commentating because of his partners. They've been able to draw him out a little bit, and he's worked very well I think with Paul Azinger, phenomenally well. When you think about it, that these two guys are probably like chalk and cheese in a lot of ways, but they've both thrived off each other and they both got a lot of mileage out of it.

Now look at it, they're both Ryder Cup captains, and that's great for the PGA, great for the Ryder Cup, and it'll be interesting how this behind the scenes away from the media transition of the two captains working at it, then boom, about six months before the Ryder Cup, how you guys doing. That's going to be the interesting part because Nick is going to be up there and doing the media work.

Has Paul signed an agreement to continue on commentating?

Anyway, I think that's been great for Nick, great for Nick to do that. It's really shown, look, he doesn't fabricate it on TV. That's him. What everybody is seeing, that's Nick Faldo. That's the inner self. He just had to be a certain way to achieve the levels he needed to achieve in golf, on the golf course. So that's being that steely minded guy and the tough competitor.

Q. Do you think he'll do fine without Paul?

GREG NORMAN: He'll do fine, yeah.

Q. When I was speaking with Annika, women playing in men's events is one thing, but she mentioned how she would like to see events that are made for both sexes like coed events or something of that nature. Is that something you think would be helpful or beneficial to have events that are made for men and women to play together?

GREG NORMAN: Absolutely. We used to play the Chrysler together somewhere on the West Coast here, Innisbrook. I used to play in it. I used to play back in the '80s. That was a lot of fun. That was about this time of year if my memory is right. We all looked forward to it.

What I would like to see, really like to see, and I don't know how you could ever do it, but some smart guy will be able to figure it out, but do what they do in tennis with the majors, not at the major championships, but kind of try to amalgamate the two together, whether it's 80 women, 80 men, and say this is going to be an elite tournament and play for two weeks in the major championships in the tennis, the males and females are playing. They're not playing against each other but the two events are going on. Great for spectators.

You think about that; that could be done. I'm surprised some major corporation hasn't done that across the board because you could put together an event like that very easily.

Q. You looked forward to it and it was a lot of fun. What was it that made you look forward to it and enjoy it so much?

GREG NORMAN: Because you see these gals, you know them. I remember playing with Sally Little and Nancy Lopez, and Nancy Lopez and I were great friends. Same with Sally Little. Quite honestly, we were great friends but we never saw each other during the year because we were all off on different parts of the globe.

We came there and we connected and we got caught up to speed with each other, and it was just a really good week, like this week with your playing partner. It was just a great, relaxing week. You get to appreciate the way they play golf and they got to appreciate the way you play golf, too. I really enjoyed that event.

Q. Looking back do you think somebody like Jan Stephenson or Lopez Jan has always said she could have played with the men given the chance, or Nancy, do you think somebody could have played, or has the game changed and these players are so much better?

GREG NORMAN: Tough answer for me to make. I mean, I don't know. I never played with Pat Bradley. I played with Jan one time. Nancy I played with. I think different eras, different times.

Technology has probably helped the girls just as much as it's helped the guys. Could they have gone then and played? Sure, they could have. But nobody really pushed the issue, either.

Q. Is the paparazzi here this week?

GREG NORMAN: Well, you're here (laughter).

End of FastScripts.

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