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May 14, 2008

Greg Norman


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: We'd like to thank Greg Norman for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the AT & T Classic, the 2009 International Presidents Cup captain and designer of the host event this week. Just talk about being back. You haven't been here since 2004. I know you haven't had a chance to play since you arrived, but just talk about being back here.
GREG NORMAN: Well, from my perspective it's always nice to come back and play a golf course that, A, you've designed, and B, it's stood the test of time with other players. I've watched it on television, I've seen this place grow from 11 years ago when we first came here, and with my son on the bag this week, I was telling him as we drove in, there was no houses here, there was no Sugarway Parkway; this used to be just a farm basically.
To see this whole area, Gwinnett County, evolve the way it has done, I like being involved with growth in a lot of ways, and Sugarloaf has been a part.
To come back, and I played nine holes afternoon late, after I opened the golf course over at the River Club a couple miles down the road, and it's just disappointing to see obviously your water restrictions have affected the golf course.
The golf course still to me -- well, I shouldn't say still, but to me today looks more intimidating because the growth of the trees have come in since I was last year, so some shot lines look different to me. But all in all, I'm looking forward to playing.

Q. Regarding the golf course, a lot of people say, well, it's a Greg Norman course so there's a lot of right to left, but there's really more to it than that. Talk about solving the secrets to the puzzle that this course presents.
GREG NORMAN: Well, first of all, the most unique part about this golf course is we originally built it just as a residential community. The layout is the layout basically. There's a couple minor changes, like 18 was designed to go straight down, and the 18th hole now, the green, used to be the 19th hole. The clubhouse was going to be readjusted in some fashion.
And the unique part about this is when Crescent decided -- the development company decided to get into bed and call it at TPC of Sugarloaf and then the tournament was going to be switched over here, what I was most proud about was the fact that we didn't have to make too many changes to the golf course. We didn't have to lengthen it. The playability of the golf course stood the test of time, whether it's going to be a residential community or a PGA TOUR event. That's what I'm the most proud about.
Obviously we had to make some changes, there needed to be easements and staging areas and parking and all that stuff, but all in all -- and obviously the 18th hole. We changed that to be more dramatic, big finishing hole for television. It turned out to be a very, very good change to say the least.
When you get the accolades and the response, some good and some bad obviously, from the players, that really tells you you've done a good job in laying the golf course out.
Now, the terrain really dictates a lot of it, and the land plan, the housing and the road system, the infrastructure that needs to go in dictates a lot. We were given corridors to work with here. We weren't involved with the land plan originally. We were given the corridors, and we just had to massage those corridors a little bit to make sure golf got the better of the corridor layout that we got.
We found some creeks in there that we didn't really anticipate, i.e., No. 4, wanted to expose that creek a little bit more. We shifted that hole a little bit more down the hill to allow the houses now to have a better view of that hole in particular. So there was minor adjustments as we went along.
But I don't design a golf course specifically for the way I like to play; I design a golf course the way it should fit on the topo of the property.

Q. Are you thinking of playing some events in 2009 maybe so you can get a feel for guys you might pick on The Presidents Cup team now that you've been named the captain for that?
GREG NORMAN: No, not really. My whole attitude about coming out here to play was because I am getting a bit excited about playing. I've been a bit absent for a while, about five years now. I haven't really focused a lot of attention on wanting to get out there and play, and now I feel I just want to get out there.
I'm really looking forward to July more than I am May, to tell you the truth. I'm looking forward to playing some of the senior major championships, next week obviously Senior PGA Championship. Very excited about that, and I figured if I can get into Atlanta, that would be good preparation for me. Tournament play, you need that under your belt, no matter what, and so leading into next week is good and then leading into the British Open. In June, I'm not going to be playing any golf in June.
But The Presidents Cup, in response to that, I read the magazines on a weekly basis now. Before I never read a golf magazine. I probably wouldn't have read a golf magazine for six or seven years. But now I do read them. I get them, I like to follow the progress on a global basis of players, not just the European Tour players but everybody who plays in Europe. There could be a contender for a captain's pick.
It's a little bit tougher for me than it is a U.S. captain because here you can really focus on one country. I've got to focus on a lot of countries, a lot of tours and see how they come out. That's what I'm doing now, studying that week in and week out, and this year doesn't have as much bearing obviously as next year, but it's training me to get to know the players and what their performance is. And going to China, for example, was good. I saw a couple players there that have the capability of doing it.
My next tough pick is to pick my co-captain, my assistant basically. That's my tough one, to make that decision.

Q. You mentioned the Senior PGA next week. How does Oak Hills set up for your game, and what do you think of that course specifically as far as you competing there for the Senior PGA?
GREG NORMAN: I think it's one of the great ones. Obviously it's host to many major championships, so it speaks for itself, really. It's stood the test of time. I haven't played in a long time. The PGA was the last one, and I can't remember when that was. So I like it.
I don't know about being in upstate New York in May; it could be snowing next week, who knows, so a little early, but we'll just see how the golf course is ready just coming out. They've had a pretty heavy winter, so it'll be interesting to see how the golf course sets up. It'll be totally different than when we played it in August, that's for sure.

Q. Speaking about getting energized about playing again, you played particularly well in Shanghai and your short game worked really well. Was it Shanghai that got you energized, or were you energized and played well? Chicken or egg there, which came first?
GREG NORMAN: No, I was energized before Shanghai. I've just been out practicing. I've spent a lot of time with Gregory, my son. He's enjoying his amateur golf. He's playing a lot of amateur events in south Florida, and I spend a lot of time with him on the driving range. I'm playing more golf now than I am actually practicing golf, and by going out and playing with him, not letting him beat me -- he's got to beat me, not letting him beat me, it keeps my juices going a little bit. He's getting better and better and better, and he's getting closer and closer to beating me. I think that's good for both of us in a lot of ways.
Quite honestly, I enjoy being on the driving range with him, teaching him for four hours and me hitting balls for four hours, because he gets such a positive feedback from it. When you go to the short game and teach him the short game, you're actually teaching yourself, because what you're doing is bringing up the old habits that I used to look for when I used to practice, and by telling myself mentally, even though I'm physically not doing it, when I go to practice, I say, well, you told Gregory to do this; why don't you do that, rotate your hips a little bit, and then all of a sudden it starts to fall into place a little bit easier.
So he's been a very good stimulus, and the other good stimulus is Chrissy. She says to me, you love to play, why don't you go play. She's an athlete, she understands what it's all about, and she's been very encouraging for me, and she sees me practice, she loves to watch me practice just as much as I love to watch her play tennis. She's out there doing the same with me. It's kind of like a bit of a push from Gregory's perspective and from Chrissy's perspective.

Q. Is there any personal reward for winning a tournament on a course you've designed, or conversely, disappointment when you don't win on a course you've designed?
GREG NORMAN: No, not really. We go out there with the attitude you want to win the golf tournament anyway, irrespective, whether you're involved with it or not. The interesting part with knowing a golf course as intimately as I do this one, you actually -- if you miss a putt, you figure out, okay, you stupid idiot, you designed the green to roll off this way half a degree or half a percent or a one percent grade over here, you know the water goes that way, why didn't you factor that in. And that can be an advantage, because I know the 9th green, for example, I know when we redid the 9th green, because it was very, very difficult because of the speed-wise coming out of that left bunker, it's a little bit different twist to it now. I know what that twist is, I know why that break goes that way even though from a player's perspective it's kind of like the opposite. The back left corner actually goes from right to left instead of left to right because the slope is left to right, so those are little things I know will factor into the game, and if I miss out on them, that means I'm not really focused properly, to tell you the truth.

Q. There's been some conversation lately about Olympics golf getting together. What are your thoughts on that, and how do you think that would help grow the game internationally?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I can go back to -- what is it now, Atlanta, just before Atlanta, 14, 12 years ago? There was two players very, very instrumental in voicing golf in the Olympics. There was Seve Ballesteros and myself. We have been for nearly 15, 16 years now been strong proponents of why isn't golf in the Olympics. I know Seve approached Samaranch at the time; Samaranch was from Spain; he was the head of the Olympic committee. He approached him, I followed up, we were pushing hard, Billy Payne was involved now, and now obviously because of Augusta National, so it's been around a long time.
I remember then we were getting a lot of push back from the PGA TOUR at that time. We were getting pushed back a little bit from the USGA because the interesting -- if my memory is right, the interesting feedback we got from the IOC was the fact that there wasn't one governing body in golf. You had the R & A, you had the USGA, you had the PGA TOUR, and there wasn't one organization that they could go to to say, okay, who's going to be on the Olympic team.
So it was going to be a bit of a consensus amongst a lot of organizations, and even including the European Tour in a lot of ways, even the PGA TOUR and the Australian Golf Union and all that. You can see how that trickles down into a massive process like who's going to be the king of the hill here.
So we talked about that a lot, about who would take the lead on that, is it going to be the USGA, is it going to be the PGA TOUR. And at the end of the day, I think it became more of a fiscal problem, the economics of the deal, because the Olympics only have a certain number of athletes. The cost of getting each one of those athletes to and from the Olympics and housing them is a factor. They factor in -- obviously they have a budget they've got to run by, and if you bring golf in, how do you bring in women, men, amateurs, professionals? They've done it with the NBA, but all of a sudden it was just all professionals, and the amateurs weren't getting a shot at it.
We talked about that. I was very much a proponent, and so was Seve, of making sure the amateurs were included, as well as professionals. If I was an amateur, I would love to play against Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods representing the United States, whether you're male or female. So there was that discussion take place.
So what was put on the table, I kind of get a little bit miffed even though I know BMX is a very, very popular sport, that BMX is in the Olympics and golf is not. I know outside of skateboarding and wakeboarding and all those other things, BMX is a popular sport, but is it on a global basis like golf is? Again, you can argue that.
So we just keep knocking on the door. I noticed the PGA TOUR, Tim Finchem, made a comment on it the other day, whatever it takes to get it done, we've got to keep trying to do it because golf has a stature on a global basis and it should be represented in the Olympics, and hopefully somewhere down the line it will take place.
Going back, just to finally answer the question, is that we have been a strong proponent, players have been a strong proponent, and I think the players should be consulted on this all the way through because I think we have valuable input, not just the administration's input but valuable input on how this things should be executed, especially somebody like Seve or myself who were right in the beginning of it back 16, 15 years ago.

Q. Just to follow up, the scheduling of when the summer Olympics are, how hard would that be to get golf in there with all of the schedules of all the players around the PGA Championship and now the FedExCup here and everything leading up to that, just to get everybody to -- whether it's the professionals or the amateurs? That's a big season time for golf outside of the Olympics.
GREG NORMAN: Well, you think about it, they're going to have plenty of lead time. To get golf into the Olympics it has to be an exhibition sport before it officially becomes an Olympic sport. So that's going to be before the next Olympics if they go in. So basically they've got six years to figure out the scheduling. If you can't figure out the scheduling with the PGA network deal and the USGA, PGA TOUR, the PGA of America with the PGA Championship in August, a lot of flexibility on where the location. Beijing wanted to have 8/8/08 that's because that's their lucky number, they're Chinese, so -- Australia was different because we're in the southern hemisphere so the timing was different. So there's plenty of lead time. Six years I would imagine, or even four years, if golf was accepted in the Olympics in 2012, you know, I think we could figure it out between now and then, setting aside two weeks or ten days or whatever it is.
And from a player's perspective, I think the players would go irrespective, as long as it's not opposite a major. I think they'd go anyway.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Greg, for joining us.

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