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January 31, 2007

Greg Norman


RODDY WILLIAMS: Greg, thanks for joining us. I think it's been a couple of years since we last had you in the media centre at a European Tour event. Tell us how you're playing, how you're feeling and how you're looking forward to this event really.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I don't know how I'm playing to tell you the truth. I haven't played much golf. Last tournament I believe was Australian Open back end of November or early December. I haven't touched a golf club since then.
Obviously coming over here, I love coming back here. I've got a lot of business to do right now, the press conference we did earlier in the year with the Wind Golf Course. My positioning, I've been coming over here quite a lot and my B2B within the business world is absolutely fabulous here. Kind of like two good reasons to come here: One to play golf and one to polish off some business.
RODDY WILLIAMS: You have a design with Pete Dye and Sergio, and it's Sergio's first outing in the design world. How is that going?
GREG NORMAN: Well, it's very early on stages. Obviously we made the press announcement and kept it fairly much a pretty good secret I would say, especially with Sergio and Pete Dye. I think people had an idea that I had been involved somewhere along the line.
But I think it's great. As long as Sergio maintains his focus on what his main goal in life is, and that's to win golf tournaments, he's still young. He's got plenty of time in his career to branch out and be a golf course designer. But to be standing side-by-side with somebody like Pete Dye, who really to me is one of the last great golf course designers and understand his philosophy, and I enjoy doing it, too, as well. So you know, he's going to get some very, very good insight from us and we look forward to his input of what he thinks a golf course should play like and feel like.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Specifically we have this tournament as well, this tournament has now been going since 1989, one of the first desert courses; how do you feel about being here this week?
GREG NORMAN: I believe I came here in 1989 or 1990, I was one of the first players to come here and support this tournament.
To see the growth of this tournament to where it is today and where it came from is phenomenal. I think it's just mirror image of what's going on with the high-rise buildings around here and Dubai. I think it's great that the media are here to really expand on what's happening to the rest of the world because a lot of people really don't pay much attention to how big Dubai really is, and the other GCC countries around here, because it's been a tremendous growth here. I think it's great for the whole world in general because you're seeing things happening here that maybe you don't see anywhere else in the world except Shanghai.

Q. Being a designer, what are your thoughts about Emirates Golf Club, and if you have to pick one hole that you really like here, which would that be?
GREG NORMAN: Well, first of all, I think they have done a very good job of making some minor changes to this golf course. You know, they have lengthened quite a few holes out here since I was here last, and I think they have been good changes.
The golf course, if you drive the ball long around here, it's a huge advantage because you can hit it past the corners of the doglegs, mostly on the par 5s. That's where the long hitters probably tend, maybe half-a-shot or three-quarter shot advantage per round, at least that, which adds up to quite a few over the period of a tournament.
My favourite hole out here, it's tough to say. I think the first good hole is a pretty good opener to tell you the truth. You have to drive the ball extremely well. It's a narrow green and you want to get off to a good start and it makes you think straight off the bat. The par 5s make you think. Sometimes you can play them aggressively or you can play them conservatively and still have a good shot of birdie or eagle. There's a pretty good balance out here.

Q. As we all know, Tiger is defending champion this week, as a former world No. 1 yourself, how do you look upon Tiger's recent run of form?
GREG NORMAN: Well, he's No. 1 in the world. You don't get to be No. 1 without doing something spectacular like that.
And I think every young player should really take a bit of a long, hard study of Tiger and the way he goes about it. Just like anybody else, like I did with the generations prior to me, like what Jack Nicklaus did or even going down to what Ben Hogan did or Byron Nelson did; study what made them so good.
I think Tiger stands out probably more than any other player because his mental strength is stronger than his physical strength of actually playing the game of golf. To be able to consistently do what he does and playing 20 tournaments a year, he grooms himself extremely well away from the tournament so when he comes to the tournament, he's ready to play.
If I was a young player now and I was 18, 19, 21, 23, I'd be trying to take little bits and pieces and trying to put that into my game or my lifestyle or whatever I felt was applicable to improve my game or my life in general, because he's got a very, very good handle on it.

Q. You mentioned your business interests earlier and you're known as much for your businesses as you are for your golf achievements, you've now got clothing, equipment, grass; what's next for you?
GREG NORMAN: Well, who knows what's next. I have a couple of ideas in my mind and things in the pipeline. The great thing about my business, it's private. I like it that way because you can actually advance yourself forward and doing the things that I choose to do.
All my platform has been based on golf, though, and you're seeing that right through from what you just mentioned from the Greg Norman Collection to all of the things that have happened off the golf course to products like wine and beef and are all related to my lifestyle and what's happening in the game of golf.
My golf course design, of all I enjoy doing that one most, because it's very hands-on; you can fly in, fly out; and you can do three or four different projects over three or four days and go home and be home on the weekend.
As for playing the game of golf, I don't have the motivation that I used to. I don't have the motivation to go out there and practise ten hours a day and you need to do that. Like Ernie Els, who walks off the 18th green, goes off to the driving range after the Pro-Am late in the evening and hits balls. That's what you need to do. I have no interest in doing that. (Laughing).
I'm very fortunate that I can take myself to another place. Business has allowed me to do that, but I have structured it the right way for the way I want to attack life in that regard, as well.

Q. You designed one course, one of the first courses in India, how did that come about; it was so far back, No. 1, and have you ever been approached by Ernie Els because the number of golf courses coming up in India is tremendous.
GREG NORMAN: Just like what happened, I've got to go back now maybe 15 years, possibly, 15, 18 years. We have been approached by numerous projects if we're interested in going to India, and the answer is yes. We have looked at them, and we are in the negotiation stage right now.
Like any designer you want to be at the tip of the sphere where the growth of the game of golf is, and not only just golf but growth in general. Normally golf course design is a very good barometer to what's happening to the economy no matter what continent you're on, because when people go and build a golf course, they are either doing a residential golf course community or a resort development. And any time you have a resort or residential community, people have done their due diligence and understood there are opportunities. And there is probably a seven- to ten-year growth cycle there, and especially with resorts. We are seeing that happen with India right now. We're seeing that happen with the Eastern Mediterranean and we have seen that happen here with the GCC; Turkey is opening up; Jordan. We've got a job in Jordan, places like that where people, when you start seeing the opportunities like that and you're actually executing contracts and you know what's happening in the world.
And there is a lot of opportunities out there outside of the United States. The United States is fairly stagnant right now. I think the net on golf courses in the United States last year was less than double digits. Golf courses were bought, converted into residential communities. So really the net gain was only ten or 11 or nine or something like that compared to like in the 90s it was 400 or 300 in a year. So you can see how it's really slowed down in the United States.
South Africa has picked up, tremendous opportunities down there. I probably mentioned Brazil or South America, Central America. It's happening all over the world except America. But America will come back for sure. So India is a prime example. China is another example. Russia is another example. There are opportunities there.
And going back in the 60s, 70s and 80s was classified as an elitist sport. It's not that way anymore. People are seeing the viability. Just look at here in Dubai. Golf has been the barometer and been in sync with what's happened here with this growth.
If you're lucky enough to be involved and caught up in the vortex of it, great. So hopefully I am going to be in India on a regular basis. You guys play pretty good cricket, too.

Q. I'm intrigued that you've really got two courses, probably two and a third courses to design. So how do you approach something like that when you have to have a difference between all of those courses, or do they need to be different?
GREG NORMAN: No, you try and make them as individualistic as you possibly can. Most of the time, your direction is given to you by the developer. And I've done it successfully in other places around the world, we've done 36-hole golf courses and they will say, we want one total opposite from the other, and we can do it. That's not the hard part about doing it.
Coming here and working in the desert, I love building golf courses in sand, there's no question about it, because you can pretty much form it the way you want to form it. And most of the time, it's there for you, anyway, because the undulations and the flow of the topography is most natural because the wind is forming the sand and vice versa. So to me, we're very, very fortunate to have that opportunity.
But you've got to go in there with the mind-set, too, of, okay, it's a residential community, and also we've been given the instructions that potentially there could be a tournament there.
So with that in mind, you've really got to have your smarts about you in how you build a golf course, especially the wind. If there is hope that a golf tournament will be played there, and obviously Pete Dye has done a lot of golf courses and Sergio has played a lot of tournament golf and I've played tournament golf as well as built tournament courses, we'll be able to collaborate and build a golf course that will be very, very good for tournament golf.

Q. Two questions, really. One is, how good you are feeling physically, because you went through a lot of injuries in the last three or four years, and secondly, I had the good fortune of playing one of your courses, Doonbeg, it's spectacular. According to you, which of your designs really stand out in your own mind and you think that's subpoenaing exceptional?
GREG NORMAN: Well, thank you about Doonbeg. I enjoyed building that golf course.
As for my body, you know, since my back surgery, I've been pretty good. I've had one knee surgery since then because I had surgery and it had to be redone because it didn't do as well as what it should have done. Outside of that, I feel great. Hitting golf balls is not good for me; as I said it beats me up pretty good.
As for my favourite golf course I've ever built, Doonbeg might be up there in the top three. I built one in the Colorado mountains which was a tough golf course to build because it was 9,000 feet and a lot of rock base and we had to do a lot of blasting. And I built a golf course in Melbourne, Cape Schanck, same dunes, undulating, magnificent as well.
So, you know, I think they are all great. I just love each and every project that I do.

Q. Why would you say that there would be such a demand of golf courses around the world, because of the Tiger Woods phenomenon?
GREG NORMAN: No, I don't think -- Tiger might have some effect to it, but golf is growing in certain parts of the world.
I can remember when I first came over to the United States, the growth of the game of golf in the late 70s, early 80s was triggered by the boom in corporate dollars being invested in professional golf. I mean, I was fortunate to be on the tip of the sphere of that change in sponsorship dollars. That change in sponsorship dollars created more media exposure, and more media exposure opened up golf a lot more to what it is to where we are today. I mean, golf, you can view it on TV 51 weeks a year, 24 hours a day; maybe 52 weeks, 24 hours a day. So you are getting this broad effect on a global basis. It's not one individual; I think it's just the combination of everything.
Getting back from the pure business aspect, a golf course actually adds value to a development. Signature designers actually add value to a development. We've seen that. We've seen that and it's been proven; development-in, development-out, if you can get a marquee designer coming in and building a golf course in a residential community is an up-tip this point in your margins on that development.
When you look at that and see what is happening on rest of the world, there's a lot of loose cash. There's a lot of cash in the world and people are traveling more. 2006, there was the highest tourism year of all-time on a global basis. So more people traveled. So they are looking for the other destination to go to. They are looking forward to building maybe a second home or a third home in another part of the world. Dubai is an example. So you really follow what's happening with what people are doing with their own currency and where they are going. When you think of countries like Turkey where the government just improved over the next few years construction of 80 golf courses, in Turkey. So you think about that, they have studied what's happened with the game of golf on a global basis; so therefore, they see value in the game of golf, in building golf courses for resort communities, for residential communities.
So there's a lot smarter heads out there than we are in this room here, and they all see that the game of golf or a golf course or golf in general is good for an economic boom.

Q. How many do you have built in South Africa?
GREG NORMAN: In South Africa I have three. Joburg, George, and looking right outside of Cape Town.

Q. Coming back to the question about India and China, China has seen a huge proliferation of courses in the last 15 years, the maintenance of the courses leaves a lot to be desired. But is it any good if you keep building courses that the quality of players is just for tourism, and new tourism is a bit suspect at times. Now, how good is that to build courses; is it for promotion or is it only for tourism and not being able to produce any players?
GREG NORMAN: Not being able to produce any players?

Q. Are they just having tourists coming and playing?
GREG NORMAN: I think you've got to give it a period of time. There's always going to be a generation to a generation and a half before it evolves. Because you'll have young players now who are probably in their 20s, 25, and a generation will go by before their children get into the game of golf. The first generation never really makes them, but the first generation stimulates the growth, and now look what's happened with Korea.
You only have to go back to about 1976 to 19-mid-80s, Sven Tumba (ph) is from Sweden, a famous hockey player. He brought the game of golf to Sweden. Now, Sweden was not golf-orientated or centric in those days, but he built a golf course in Malmö and he built a golf course there, brought golf to Sweden. And look how many Swedish players there are playing on The European Tour and the U.S. Tour right now; 30, 35? All because of one man, and that one man had the guts and the foresight to be able to go there and do that. But it's taken a generation to get these young children, I should say young kids out there to play the game of golf.
But it took their parents to go along and join that golf club and now their children are the ones who are really bringing golf back to Sweden and promoting the game of golf out there at the professional level.
So you've got to give it time. And China, my gosh, with the population they have in China, can you imagine if you just add half a one per cent of those people that went out there and started playing the game of golf. You'll have a massive boom of Chinese golfers out there in the next 20, 25 years. So it just takes time for it all to happen.
As for the agronomy of the golf course, that's the responsibility of the developer. That's the responsibility of the designer maintaining the standard and the quality of the contract, the quality of the golf course is reflected in the agreement and the contract. I've done it. I've seen my golf courses slip, too. But you know what, you've got to go in there and you've got to drive that hard hammer right into them and say, you've got to fix this golf course up. This is not to what our agreement says.
So it's on the developer and the designer to maintain the standard of the golf course all the way through. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes developments go bankrupt. You know, that's unfortunate.
But at the same time, the agronomy side of things -- you're getting me on a subject now that's a very sensitive subject of me because I think the superintendents of the world are the unsung heroes of the game of golf, as simple as that, because they control billions of dollars of the game of golf and they get up at four o'clock in the morning. Here at the Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic, they will be up at 4.30 in the morning tomorrow for preparing the golf course for how many players in the field, 154 players, for us to play here for four days. Nobody sees them or thanks them or anything like that. So they are the ones out there busting it for all of us to be here to do our jobs.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Thank you Greg, very much.

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