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July 17, 2008

Greg Norman


BERNIE McGUIRE: You just said to the BBC you've enjoyed this first day of the championship, the setup of the course and et cetera.
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, I made this comment before my round today that I think this is the best British Open I've ever played in, and I think the golf course has been set up by the R & A about the fairest and toughest I've ever seen. It doesn't really favour one particular player or style of player. It favors every style of player. Sometimes you don't get those kinds of golf courses for major championships, and this is a very well-balanced golf course. That's why it gives an opportunity for somebody like myself to get out there and play and put a good score on the board.
Tom Watson I heard played well today, and Mark O'Meara played well, so it really is a big testament to the way the golf course is playing, the way the golf course is set up.

Q. Just talk a little bit about, does this bring back -- obviously you've had a lot of past success here, and maybe to a lot of people it seems unlikely for you to put a number up like this. Talk about drawing on maybe some past success.
GREG NORMAN: I'm probably one of those ones, too. I don't play much. I don't practise much. I probably practise more tennis than golf. But at the same time, there's something about this event that stimulates you.
When I came over here I played two pretty good practise rounds. I hit the ball solid. I really played almost identical the first three rounds of golf I played here. The atmosphere here, the excitement, it changes. Like coming down 18 after five and a half hours of golf, the way people receive you, you don't get that anywhere else in the world. It's a phenomenal experience. It gives you a little more juice than what you normally would have.
I've got to keep my expectations realistically low, to be honest with you. I haven't played a lot of golf. Even though Judy Rankin and I talked about it going down 13, it's just like riding a bike. But even riding a bike sometimes after a long time you're a little wobbly. I've just got to manage the process the best I can.
There's a lot of great players out there. I haven't seen the leaderboard, but there's a lot of great players probably in contention, and I've just got to take one shot at a time and see what happens.

Q. You said you really haven't played that much. You played well early and then you said two practise rounds. Anything else in between that, that maybe you saw an opportunity to really play even decent here, let alone what you've done today?
GREG NORMAN: I went to Skibo Castle for four days. We got there last Thursday. And I've always gone -- I would say not always, but the majority of time I've gone up there to do my quiet practise there.
I started hitting the ball okay towards the end, and I came out of there on Monday with a thought process, and I took that thought process right to the practise tee on Tuesday morning.
And when I went out on the golf course it stayed with me and felt great, felt very natural for me. So that's what I'm working on, that's what I'm staying with. I'm not going to try and focus on anything else, just stay with what I'm doing right now.
But that being said, I still haven't hit a lot of golf balls. These conditions are very, very trying, and all I'm trying to do is put the club face square on the ball. I'm not really trying to maneuver the ball that much. I'm trying to put the ball on certain parts of the greens, take what I've got, whether it's a 20-footer, or if I hit it close, great. I feel like I'm -- the speed of the greens are good for me right now, considering I haven't played much. If they were really fast I'd be headed to Rochester for the Senior PGA, different story.
But under these conditions you feel like you can give the ball a little more of a hit with your putter, which is a good feeling when you haven't had a lot of tournament play under your belt.

Q. Do you see conditions like that as a challenge more than a hindrance? And how do you handle the adjustment from being in the Bahamas to our gorgeous English summer?
GREG NORMAN: Well, there's probably a 45-degree difference in temperature, but that's about it. Tough conditions are sometimes an equalizer. Maybe there's some young players out there who haven't really experienced this type of condition before. I know the British Open really hasn't dished up too much of that stuff when I've played in the last four or five of them. You know, it's an equalizer.
When somebody says what's the toughest conditions you've ever played in, and I say Turnberry '86, I know some of these kids might not have been born in '86. That's an exaggeration. But when you relate back to that you've got a lot of experience under your belt.
They're learning new aspects of the game of golf by playing under these type of conditions.

Q. In recent Opens you seem to have a habit of turning in fantastic numbers in the opening round. What is it about the event and perhaps about the start of golf that seems to suit you so well given your relative lack of preparation?
GREG NORMAN: I probably feel like -- every time I came to the British Open, to me this was the home of golf. When I was a kid growing up, all I saw was the British Open on TV, then I saw The Masters and then I saw the U.S. Open. As soon as I left the shores of Australia, this is the first Tour I came to, so I experienced a lot of links style golf. We have a lot of it in Australia in the Melbourne area, not as dramatic as this, but a lot of that bump-and-run and feel the shot around the golf course a little bit more than target golf.
So I've always kind of gravitated toward enjoying this game better here. I'd rather -- sometimes I enjoy pulling out a 5-iron and bumping and running it from 100 yards instead of taking a pitching wedge and throwing it all the way in there. Those are the type of things I see in my mind and I go ahead and execute.

Q. When you were having your breakfast this morning and watching the television, do you then form in your mind how you would have to play today? Did you look and see the scores early and then think, well, something bad is going to happen sometime during the round and I'm just going to have to accept it and get on?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I wouldn't say I was thinking about something bad is going to happen during the round, but I know when Chrissy said it looks like it's going to be a day of a lot of patience, that's what it was. She also said the weather was going to get better. So she really caught the ball on that one, too. We did get the better side of the draw, no doubt about it. But at the same time, when you watch it in the morning you feel sorry for the guys, but there's times when you say, well, I've been there before. I've been on that side of the draw, too. You've got to take it, it all balances out, and you have to take advantage of it.
What you see in the morning you can't really pay a lot of attention to it. But when we started hitting golf balls on the driving range yesterday, yes, it was still raining, yes, it was still windy, but then it started to taper off on the putting green. So we had to make this transition, being one way mentally, expecting rain and cold and wind all afternoon to, okay, now the game is going to change a little bit because the wind started to move direction, maybe 10 degrees a little bit more to the north -- or to the west, excuse me, so that made us make an adjustment on the golf course, as well.

Q. Being in contention at Rochester, shooting 70 today, is there any part of you that wants to increase your tournament schedule, or are you at a point in your life or in your career with business that that's not something that's even in the back of your mind?
GREG NORMAN: No, I won't increase my tournament schedule. My mind still wants to play, but my body doesn't want to practise. I've gone through enough pain and surgery over the last four, five, six years that I just don't want to do it anymore.
Believe me, I still enjoy playing, but I don't enjoy standing out there on the driving range for four, five, six hours a day.
And on top of that, the other side of my life is absolutely fantastic. I enjoy playing golf and I enjoy spending time at home with Chrissy and with my kids. I enjoy my business and what I'm doing. It's the first time in my life I've probably got the most beautiful balance I've ever had. Before, all it was was golf, golf, golf. And when you're in the position you're in you had to stay so focused on doing that, everything else took second stage.
Now, really, golf is second and everything else is first as far as I'm concerned. And it's a great feeling.
I'm not putting a whole lot of pressure on myself to say, okay, now I'm playing well, let me play another six or eight tournaments this year, that means I've got to practice another six or eight weeks, that means another 17 weeks away. Forget it. I'm not going to go there.

Q. Has your marriage, recent marriage, to Chrissy, helped to revitalize your golf game?
GREG NORMAN: I wouldn't say revitalize my golf game, I think it just revitalized my life. When you're more relaxed and you're happier, then everything else kind of makes it a little bit easier, too. Even when I go out there and practise, you practise with a little bit more intensity over a short period of time because, okay, I'm looking forward to going home. I would say it's a rub-on effect of the golf, no question, but my life in general to me is, like I say, very much more in balance than it has ever been.

Q. You mentioned keeping your expectations low, but isn't it an absurd notion to think you can put three more of these together and have one more in you before it's over?
GREG NORMAN: I'm not even going to put my head in that position. Tomorrow is another day. I want to make sure that first tee shot gets off the tee the right way. I mean, it's the toughest opening hole tee shot I've ever experienced knowing what lurks right there, so you just approach it that way. That's the way I approached my golf before. No matter what situation that I was in, I just approached it one shot at a time.
If I give myself a chance at the end of the tournament, either nine holes or six holes or the last 18 holes I feel pretty good about my chances, then you start to think about it. But you don't sit here on Thursday afternoon at 6:30 or 7:00 at night and think, okay, Sunday is around the corner and I'm there. It's not the case.

Q. Can you explain, if you were still a full-time professional practising the way you used to, what more might you have in your game now in terms of touch, feel, whatever, and maybe in short might you be a lot better than you were today?
GREG NORMAN: The obvious answer to that is yes, because the more I practise, the better I'm going to get, obviously. I think where it would be refined would be my shaping of the shots. When I played my best, I always put the ball into a position that worked off an apex or worked off the middle of the green to where the flag was, and that's a wonderful feeling to be able to do. That's where if I practise more, that's what I'll be able to do.
I feel pretty good about my play. My short game has always been relatively good, and my putter has been always a pretty strong stick in my hand. The only thing I would think of is my shot-making ability, and I probably hit the ball longer, because the more you practise the more club head speed you generate. Even the ball I'm hitting a pretty good distance. I think I can hit the ball a bit longer.

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