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May 21, 2008
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK
KELLY ELBIN: World Golf Hall of Fame member and two time British Open champion, Greg Norman joining us at the 69th Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. This is Greg's first appearance in the Senior PGA Championship. Greg, welcome back to Oak Hill and I know you played in the pro-am yesterday, some thoughts on the golf course.
GREG NORMAN: I think somebody forgot to tell everybody this is the Senior PGA Championship not the regular PGA Championship. This golf course is set up just like any other Major would be. I think they have done a great job with it. The rough is tough. Talking about when we played here in 1983 I believe was the last time we played here.
KELLY ELBIN: 2003.
GREG NORMAN: Well that was?
KELLY ELBIN: The PGA Championship.
GREG NORMAN: The PGA Championship. How the rough, '82, 2003, how the rough then is comparable to what we have here today. So it's going to be a tough week, especially with the cold conditions, the ball's not flying anywhere, the new golf balls don't perform as well as the old golf balls in the cold conditions. They like anything over 80 degrees, just like our bodies do, so it's going to be a tough week for everybody.
KELLY ELBIN: Like to open it up for questions.
Q. Saying that, did you have to make any adjustments with equipment in what you were going to do this week, not only because of the length of the rough and everything there, but the fact that it's going to be cold?
GREG NORMAN: No, I didn't change my equipment at all. You make adjustments to the shot. You know the ball's not going to travel, maybe five or ten percent less than some of the shots. Around 180, you probably need a 6-iron, probably backing off to a 5-iron at this time. So, and then obviously if you're into the wind it's big time affect.
So, yeah, you do make the adjustments in that regard, but not equipment-wise. I'll be warming up the shaft under my armpit for the shot every time I hit. But that's about the only way can warm it up.
Q. Do you really do that?
GREG NORMAN: I did that my whole career, I played in England and cold weather I always put the shaft and warmed the shaft up as much as I can to get a little bit of warmth and you don't get the heat all the way through the metal, right through the shaft, but you get warmth and a little bit more flexibility back into it. Definitely with graphite shafts it works a little bit better, I've noticed. But you got to do it a lot, your arm pit gets hot. So.
Which could be a good thing, I guess.
KELLY ELBIN: Learning more about anatomy every minute. Questions?
Q. You certainly look spry coming up, you avoided the stairs when you jumped up. How do you feel and is that an indication of how ready you are to take on this challenge?
GREG NORMAN: No, I play tennis and I should be able to jump up onto a stage. No, I feel fit. I'm, knock on wood, no problems. Little stiffness, but I think that's normal at our age playing in cold weather. But, no aches or pains. Don't have to visit the physio trailer or anything like that and that can't be an excuse if I don't play well.
So I've always enjoyed working out, I continually work out. Outside my workout routine I play tennis two or three times a week now which keeps me fit. So I feel very good.
Q. As you're in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country here I wonder if you had a chance to sample the wine and would you consider perhaps opening up a winery here?
GREG NORMAN: No, I haven't had a chance to sample any. As a matter of fact, I was at a restaurant last night and the lady at the restaurant told me that I should try and get out there and asked me the same question you asked. Have you been to any of the wineries. I said no, I have not. I won't have time this trip. But she encouraged me to go do that, to try to sample the wines. Hopefully I will get a chance to do that.
As far as expanding up in this neck of the woods, no, we're looking at other countries right now to do that. But we have got our hands full with our Australian and California production. We're looking a little bit right now looking at South Africa and South America, Argentina area. So there's a lot of good opportunities on the global basis out there.
Q. Just wondering, if you could talk a little bit about where this drive for business came from? You're involved with so many different things and you seem to go at it the way you went at it on the golf course. Where does this come from this drive?
GREG NORMAN: I don't know whether I go at it the way I go at it on the golf course. I'm a lot more conservative in business than I was on the golf course. Sometimes I wish that some of my traits in business did reflect on the golf course.
But that having been said, everything I do in business is kind of like my life style anyway. Golf course design, which to me is an economic indicator on a global front the way golf is going. And I have a lot of golf courses under contract right now on a global basis, on all five continents, so we know where the economy and the money's been put into the game of golf. Whether it's in residential development or whether it's in a high end resort or whether it's a boutique hotel or a private golf course. All the way from Russia to Vietnam down into South America, South Africa.
So we kind of know what's happening. And with that, and with my vertical business structure, I really have the ability to take other things in there like a wine idea or a real estate development business, or the beef business or GPSI systems. So I have enough add-ons that when you go to do it, to do a development that sometimes people like the all encompassing deal with somebody that can come in and say, help me with all of this or give me bits and pieces of this or they can take none of it and just do the golf course design job.
So everything I've put in place in my business is my life style, is the things, are the things that I do. And they are the things that I give people out there the choices to make on their own regard. I don't expect them to do it, I just give them the opportunity to do it.
And that allows my company to grow and as my company has grown, obviously there are other off shoots that come from the work. And so again it just stays right in line with my life style.
And there's a lot of B to B that happens out there. A lot of companies are good at one thing but not others. And they look for the people that have the expertise and experience. And fortunately for me I've been in it long enough where my experience allows me the validity to produce and show what we have produced in the past with other developments.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit, I know that Tony was going to be on your bag in Shanghai and that changed abruptly when Adam decided to play Colonial. Can you talk about having Tony on the bag and what that's like, if it brings back memories, maybe?
GREG NORMAN: It really is great. I haven't had a consistent caddie since I've kind of like scaled back my schedule. I had my son out there on a regular basis as much as I can for him to get the experience of what it's like to be out there and see the players and that and it's good for him to be able to judge himself against the other players as he gets better and better.
But to have Tony out there is it makes you realize how much a team really exists when you're at the top of the game.
Yeah, we're the ones pulling the trigger and hitting the shots, but when you have somebody like Tony, who is so entrenched in everything I did, not only on the golf course, but off the golf course. He's a great friend, he's going to be a groomsman in my wedding. Those are the types of things that you, that really people don't ever get to see because they see the relationship that happens on the course only. So when he got back on the bag right now, like going out to dinner last night, you know, you just get filled in with what's happening with the PGA TOUR and what's happening with players and like all of a sudden you feel reconnected in a lot of ways. And he's been a great friend of mine for a long period of time. I wish he was in Shanghai, but I'm really glad he stayed in Dallas.
Q. Having been away for, from the game competitively for a little while, how do you approach taking on a course such as Oak Hill and the challenges and your goals going into this weekend?
GREG NORMAN: Well it's a tough one. You've got to -- I actually tamper down a little my expectations. Because I don't play a lot of golf. I got to be honest with you. If do I play, I play with my son. And even though we play in the competitive spirit nature, it's still not the same as coming to Oak Hill with rough and super fast greens and cold conditions.
So I really don't put a lot of expectations on myself this week. I just want to go out there and play well, of course, try and play well the best I can.
But you got to play tournament golf. There's no question about that. You make mistakes out there out on the golf course and they're more mental mistakes than they are physical. When you make a mental mistake it becomes a physical mistake. So you dig yourself a bit of a spiraling vortex hole. So you got to stay above it, accept what it is, if it's good, it's good; if it's bad, it's bad, just move on.
I wanted to come here and play the PGA Senior PGA Championship because for a couple years prior to this I entered the tournament and because of some quirkiness in my schedule, an injury or surgery, I haven't been able to play. And I've got the utmost of respect for the PGA of America and I just felt like I got a week off this week, I scheduled it, I blocked it out, I kept it blocked out as long as I could and because I wanted to come here basically to play for the PGA of America and give my respect to them.
Q. Just Oak Hill, you're familiar with this course and just, we were just, Sluman was up here a couple of minutes ago saying he's played this course 500 times and it's still a challenge. It still wears you down. And just the challenge of coming back and playing Oak Hill, a course like this that maybe has played so hard for quite some time.
GREG NORMAN: When I played here back in the '80s or whenever that tournament was back here then it was a brutal golf course and I could hit ball pretty high and I could drive the ball very straight. And it just busted you all, every shot. And every putt you had to think about where you wanted to put the ball on the green, basically because of the speed of the green.
And those are the days when we were pretty good. And I'm not saying we're not as, not great players now, but we are nowhere near the players we were 25, 30 years ago. And that's, that goes for all of us in the field.
So when you come to a golf course that's as tough as Oak Hill and the speed of the greens is the way they are, it's going to be probably more mentally demanding now than it was back when we played actually played the game very, very well.
So it's going to be a tough test. Tomorrow's going to be tough, tomorrow morning is going to be tough when you're teeing off at 8 o'clock in the morning and it's 40 degrees, you know that doesn't help the juices too much either.
Q. Early in your career as a golfer did you foresee going where you've gone now on a business plane? I mean, was that something that was always in your head that you had a mind for business that you thought that that's where you would go eventually down the road?
GREG NORMAN: I can honestly say no. But then on the other side of that answer would be I was always in the mindset that I didn't want to play golf for the rest of my life. Where I really got a leg up in the business world is my knack or my understanding of what branding is all about. And it's been an interesting ride in a lot of ways because I am the brand. I live the brand. So no matter where I go, I'm one of the few that have the brand follows you or you follow the brand.
And I give you an example. When I was going through the final throes of getting on the Board of Directors of Heinz, that we get in this interview process with the Board of Directors and other people, and one of the questions was, I actually counted to the question that was asked to me was, what do I know about branding. And I went back -- my answer to the question was, I challenge anyone on the sitting on the board of Heinz right now to say, who in this room is actually started their brand from zero and put it to its level where it is today. So my point was I understand branding and I understand marketing and I understand the positioning of where you should be.
And that's when I got an idea of my business sense. I'm not saying I'm a smart businessman at all, I just understand where I like to be from a marketing perspective and like to be from a branding perspective. So I had the ability to, because I had a fairly successful logo, very early on, due to Reebok, basically, I have taken that logo and it's moved forward in a lot of other different places basically like the logo, like the brand, like the position of the brand because it's kind of like upper end.
So I've been very meticulous in protecting that. Not letting it slip below. Because it's very easy to go and pick off a lot of things, low hanging fruit and get a bit of quick cash flow coming in. But the ultimate goal in business as far as I'm concerned is your long-term development of the business and make sure you protect it so that the long-term goal to me is better than the short goal. Because as you build your company up there is a chance down the line to do something for your perspective businesses and that's when you get your return on your investment or your return on your time.
So it's a long process. And I've been going at it now for basically 16, 17 years. And building it up and just some of the businesses now are just really starting to generate some very, very good momentum in the last four to five years. So it's taken 12 or 15 years to get them to a position where you can sit back and say, okay, all right. Now they're perpetually generating what you need and you got to keep pushing it forward like in any business. To make sure you sustain the growth that you've been on.
Q. How important then is it that the shark name came to help build that brand? You mentioned the logo, but with that name as well to help make that brand.
GREG NORMAN: Oh, it's been very important. No question. It's hurt in a lot of ways because you can't take the shark to a financial institution, right? A financial institutions don't like the idea of that the shark. But at the same time it's not the image of being a shark, it's the image of the great white shark. That's what my a/k/a is basically. And it's worked extremely well for me.
And when I the way I see it, is that the way it's recognized in the countries like in India and China and places where you never expect to see it, it actually gets, it pops up. And because of that it gets me excited because I've always been an international player. I've always been a global individual. And to see it resonate out the way it's doing now makes me very proud.
Q. The nickname goes back how far and can you trace it to one person? To whom do you credit that or?
GREG NORMAN: Well, it goes back to 1981 when I was leading the U.S. Masters. Friday night I went into the press room and at Augusta and nobody knew who the hell Greg Norman was. And yeah, typical press conference and they asked what do you like to do and blah, blah, blah. My game is an aggressive style of game and I have blond hair. I told them I like to swim with the sharks, used to fish for sharks, dive with them. And Saturday morning I picked up the paper and the Great White Shark is leading the U.S. Masters and there it was. And that's how it started and thank God it stuck. I'm lucky. So the media does do a good thing every now and then.
Q. The Hall of Fame speaks for itself, but with the business interests and everything else that are such a large part of your life, did that come at the expense of your golf game do you think?
GREG NORMAN: Well that's my choice. My choice was I didn't want to be out there and practice and play 45 weeks a year like I used to do. My body wasn't going to sustain that.
I was hurt. I had had multiple surgeries from back to hip to shoulder and I didn't want to go through all that again. So it was my choice to say, okay, I've got other things that I can turn my attention to now, other things that I enjoy doing. And I've got other things that are going to give me a pretty good risk reward. So I made the choice to step back away from the game of golf physically, the playing week in week out, because I just didn't have the desire to go out there and practice eight to 10 hours a day. I just didn't have it.
I was burned out, even today I don't like to do it. I do it, maybe two hours an hour and a half and then go play 18 holes. So that was my choice. And I think I made the right choice for myself and my life style and for my business and for my family around me.
So it's, you're the one who can make that determination. And I just didn't want to come out here and play 30 weeks a year. I didn't want to play PGA TOUR, Champions Tour, I didn't want to be in that transition zone of 46 to 50 where nothing really happens. So I just prepared myself for that four years of down time and I did a pretty good job of setting it up.
Q. Do you play tennis with Chris and if so, how easy does she take it on you?
GREG NORMAN: I play tennis with Chris, yes, probably two, three, four times a week. We go out there in the evening before dinner and play for an hour and a half, two hours. I never played tennis up until about a year ago in my whole life. I actually wish I had taken up tennis instead of golf. I really do enjoy tennis.
Chris actually makes a comment that my athletic abilities are wasted on golf. Because I move, I can still move, I got good hand eye coordination, I move across the court pretty good. And playing tennis, I love it.
I get very, very involved in, committed in it, just like I was when I was a young kid playing golf. I got very into it. Wanted to learn, give me more information, give me all the information. So there's times I go out there with a tennis ball and I'll hit a thousand tennis balls on my own back across the net. Just because I enjoy it so much.
So as for her taking it easy on me, no, she doesn't take it easy on me. No. We get into a halfway decent rally that I think is great and it's probably boring to her. She will just put it in or put a certain shot across the net and it's all over.
So, but that having been said, it's just impressive to watch her play tennis, just as much as she enjoys watching me practice. I mean, I'll go out in the backyard and hit balls and she will come out and just sit there and watch me.
And we both talk about our respective careers and when you have been No. 1 it's very difficult to talk to anybody about it unless you've been No. 1. I don't care whether it's tennis or golf or whether it's any other sport that you play, once you reach the top a lot of people don't understand the necessities of what is required of you to be there, outside of your sport.
And we have had just really brilliant conversations, but now she hasn't been able to relate to anybody else, just as I haven't been able to. And that in its own right has been very good for both of us actually.
Q. Does she play golf as well?
GREG NORMAN: No, she has got a desire to, but her three boys are keeping her busy. And when we have time off, we just love being together. We just don't want to do anything. We both traveled so much our whole career. We still travel, she still travels with me. Her business fortunately has the opportunity of growing her tennis facility because of my development business and people are requesting and asking for tennis facilities around the world now.
So she's got a great opportunity to expand her business and I'm happy that I can steer her in the right direction that could take place for her.
So she's a smart lady. She knows exactly where she wants to be and where she wants to take herself.
Q. Will she be here this week?
GREG NORMAN: She's planning on coming up on Friday, yeah. It's too cold for her right now.
Q. Really, Greg, tennis, do you pick tennis over golf if you had that choice now?
GREG NORMAN: Knowing what I know now, yes. They're two totally different sports number one. Golf is a lot more complex and difficult. It's an interesting discussion argument that we have, it's not even an argument, it's a friendly discussion Chris and I have all the time. And I think golf, because of it's complexities of 14 clubs, different environment, ball lays in a different position every time you hit a shot, from putting to the speed of the greens to weather conditions, everything's totally different.
Tennis you got a static environment. Could be indoors or outdoors. There's only four surfaces of the courts you get to know. Most of them are hard court. And you know your dimensions. And golf, if you know your dimensions, I could stand there and pitch a ball a thousand pitch shots and now I'm pitching it 42 yards, I'll do 800 out of a thousand 41 yards. Because you got a static environment.
In tennis, once you know it, you know the opponent and in tennis it's interesting because you really don't come up against anybody equal to you until you get to the semi-finals or the finals. So Chrissy is very much in agreement with me on this. And she thinks golf is a much harder game to play, but from my perspective I love tennis because I'm moving. And my nature is a little bit more in golf I had to suppress myself because I was a little bit, I showed my emotions on my sleeve, in golf it was good and it was bad too.
And with tennis you can be a lot more aggressive. And I get that way on the tennis court. I like to hit the ball hard, like to go after the shots. You got another chance, if you miss this point, you can win the next two points to win the game. Golf, you miss that one shot, you take a triple bogey, see you later. You're out of there.
So the whole dynamics of the game mentally and physically kind of suit my nature. And my mother was a great tennis player and I didn't even know about it. So she had -- she never even took me to the tennis court.
Q. In that sense as a follow-up, is there any looking back at a tinge of regret that maybe?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, no. No, not at all. No. No. I only say what I know now. Back then, I wouldn't say, gosh, you know -- Chris just makes the comment because she sees so many players that she, her comment now, which has been quoted in a couple of articles, says that my athletic ability has been wasted on golf. And I think that's coming from her, that makes me feel like I could play tennis a little better and better.
KELLY ELBIN: Just generally some comments on the conditions of your game. You played just three PGA TOUR events including last week. Some sense of just how you're hitting the ball right now.
GREG NORMAN: The first round of the AT&T in Atlanta we played under horrendous conditions. It rained all day and we took seven hours and 40 minutes to complete the round of golf, which was unusually long for a PGA TOUR event. So I really didn't, my concentration wasn't right.
The next day, second day I came out, I played very well the front nine, had a couple 3-putts and then the back nine I started, for whatever reason, concentrating a little better, the game started to pick up, I was 4-under for the last eight holes. I took 18 on in two and made a bogey. It's really hard to shoot 30 on the back nine.
And it was really encouraging for me and I left the golf course, proved to myself I could do it. So playing the AT&T in Atlanta is different from Oak Hill under the conditions that we have here. So I'm hoping to put in a good performance.
Q. Since you designed that golf course, that tree right of the green back of 18, was that ever intended to be in play?
GREG NORMAN: Well, considering where I saw the flag and where he hit the tree the tree is about 40 yards right of the flag, so nobody likes to see stuff like that happen. Nobody does. The tree, we left it there because it's such an iconic tree, it's big, it's been there for a hell of a lot longer than any of us in this room have been there. I try and protect as much of the environment as I possibly can. I didn't like to see that for Kenny because I'm a huge fan. But at the same time I think Kenny would probably say I didn't mean to hit that far right. It was probably trying to hit it front right of the green, no question, but not to hit it 40 yards right of the flag.
So, you know, you get the bad breaks and you get the good breaks. I'm sure somewhere another week it will probably even out somewhere. But that's part of golf, unfortunately.
KELLY ELBIN: Greg Norman, thank you very much.
GREG NORMAN: Okay. Thank you.
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