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July 23, 2008

Greg Norman


STEVE TODD: Thanks for coming in today, Greg. I think we are all fascinated with the story that evolved last week. How have the last few days been, and how have you come to terms with it?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I came to terms with it very quickly. That's part of sport and you've got to be able to understand what you go through on a golf course and what the results are.
Obviously there's only one winner, but I feel like in a lot of ways, I had a lot of mini-victories, not any within myself, but for a lot of other things, as well. I thought on reflection, it was a very impressive performance.
You know, to get the e-mails I've received from some of the players of the past is phenomenal. I got one of best e-mails I've ever had by Seve Ballesteros. To have the reception and the receiving and the accolades and the adulation from players like Seve -- he's not the only one I just mention him because his e-mail to me was very, very powerful. Those type of things really mean a lot, and that's what I mean there, was a lot of mini-victories, as well.
I know I didn't win the golf tournament. I would have loved to win the golf tournament. The golfing gods were not shining on me the way I would have liked them to shine on me on Sunday. I was close to playing and shooting a better score than what I did. But at the same time, the middle part of many round, I didn't use my legs as well as I should have used them for about four holes, and when I started using my legs a little better, I started to play better the back nine.
But it was a fun four days to tell you the truth. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being connected to my inner past in a lot of ways; your inner past of knowing how you perform and that great feeling you had, the sense of respect in a lot of ways and you walk down the 18th fairway and people stand up and do the things that they do and receive you the way they received; it was a great week. I got away from it. Chrissy and I and Bob Collins and his wife, Margaret, and David Spencer and his wife, Julie, and the six of us drove up to the Lake District and spent a day up there just to get up away, and I had never been there before, and now we're here.
STEVE TODD: Speaking of the past you had some great experience here; nice to return?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, Troon, I made the comment, if Troon had the wind conditions that Birkdale had, it would probably be a tougher golf course to play. The interesting thing, when I walked on the first tee yesterday, there's no bleachers no TV towers. There are TV towers, but not four on each hole.
So the line on my tee shots, I really didn't know where I was going, because it's when you play an Open Championship -- and same thing happened to me when I went back to play Royal St. George's one time without any TV towers; I didn't know where to hit the golf ball.
So it was an interesting experience walking on the tee going, okay, there's no bleachers, now the first hole is slightly different. On 18, there's no bleachers behind it, and now instead, of hitting down a corridor, you're hitting to a massive expanse of links golf. I actually wanted to play today. I really thought about not playing on Monday, but I need to play today just for that reason, to get my new lines off the tee.

Q. (What did Seve say to you in his e-mail)?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I'm not going to get into the nuts and bolts of it, but it was just a lot of admiration, the way I played the game, the shot-making ability that I showed, that type of stuff. Seve was brilliant at it. He was one of the best. He and Trevino you put up in the top two in the world of the way they played on links golf courses. And he made comments on some of the shots I hit: "It was great to see that, the younger players nowadays don't do that as much," and just things like that.
For Seve to step out of the past and write me an e-mail, I had not had an e-mail from Seve, ever, so it was pretty impressive.

Q. How are you physically Greg?
GREG NORMAN: Physically I'm fine. Tired, it was probably the six days in a row, we had the same conditions. Practise rounds, four days of tournament, and each day seemed to me as the wind moved more to the northwest, it became a little more harder and harder, because that golf course, Thursday, Friday, the wind was more due west.
So there was quite a few holes that was either straight into it or straight downwind. And it's a lot easier in the heavy winds to play straight in or straight down. When you're playing a heavy wind quartering from two o'clock or ten o'clock or four o'clock or eight o'clock, it's a very tough way to hit the golf ball.
And I thought it as each day went by, it was just getting that much harder in magnitude. Matter of fact, I was talking to our helicopter pilot flying in, it's interesting even in aviation, because I do fly helicopters, when you fly or play golf in a 10- to 20-mile-an-hour wind, okay, it's tough, but you can feel it. But as soon as the wind gets to 25 to 30, it not like an extra five-mile-an-hour, ten-mile-an-hour; it's almost an exponential jump in the volume and heaviness of the winds.
I thought Saturday afternoon, the wind didn't abate at all. I felt like the wind was just slowly picking up with a little bit of intensity from about the is second hole to about the 15th, 16th.

Q. Did you surprise yourself at your fitness and staying power--
GREG NORMAN: Oh, fitness has never been a problem with me. I was basically one of the first ones in 1991, '92, to really get into the strong fitness routine, identified a trainer, worked with a trainer, made sure that he understood the components of what the game were all about, understood the core of the body, which is the most important thing.
I was very, very strong in my mid-section, your glutes and your abs. So even when you're putting, all I had to do was widen my stance and squeeze about two inches below your naval where your centre of gravity is, and my stability was very good.
I putted very well. Even though I lipped-out a lot on Sunday, I actually putted very well the whole week, and I think that's because of my stamina and my inner core strength.

Q. Do you see yourself now playing more? Did it trigger a desire? --
GREG NORMAN: Well, now I read the newspaper that the PGA have extended an invitation to me to play in the PGA Championship, which I haven't confirmed or denied. That's four weeks in a row I already had something scheduled that week. Tonight Bob Collins and I will talk about it over dinner, and so I have to make a decision. I don't want to hold up the PGA of America. It's a great honour to be thought of in that regard.
But at the same time, you know, I still wanted to make sure, like this morning I woke up stiff. I didn't play golf -- I played golf yesterday. But I had to do a little more stretching this morning. And I didn't hit a lot of balls yesterday; I just played 18 holes. And that always is in the back of my head.
I've had multiple surgeries, and those multiple surgeries do start to show up when I do hit a lot of golf balls, and I have to be careful.
You know, one of the decisions of my back surgery a few years ago was whether to replace my vertebrae with an artificial vertebrae, and we decided not to because the doctor asked me, this is the best thing you can do for yourself, for your future and your health, but if you plan on hitting golf balls and playing golf tournaments, whether it's two or four or six or 20 a year, you can a put an artificial vertebrae and go and put that rotation on your placet, just can't do it. You have to make the decision what you want to do, if you want to play golf, we'll fix it the best we can, but it's like putting a hip replacement in.
So I decided not to do it because I still wanted to play. So those are the things that I have to be very cognizant of. I can't go out there and just pound golf balls and pound golf balls. My practise routine is 90 minutes to 150 minutes now; not hours upon hours upon hours. And I do hit very few drivers now. I'm more middle irons, short irons, chipping and putting.

Q. Is there a lesson in that, not have any expectations?
GREG NORMAN: Well, believe me, I tried to go into a lot of golf tournaments with no expectations, too, and I was playing in my prime in the 80s and 90s. You have to understand, it's totally different. Chrissy and I talked about this at length. We drove up from Birkdale, so we had a lot of time in the car to talk about it.
It's totally different nowadays with your expectations when you are the No. 1 or you're near the No. 1 and people expect you to perform. It's not like you can walk in there and say, well, my expectations are going to be lower this week: I'm going to go over there and I really didn't like the golf course and I'm just going to take it easy on myself. Just can't do it that. Nowadays it's different. My practise routine and my happiness and my life and where I want to be in my life, it's totally different for me.
So I can waltz in there like Birkdale and I can be realistically honest with myself. Deep down inside, do you want to perform well? Always, you want to perform well.
But at the same time, I have to walk onto that first tee and say, okay, Greg, you know what, I'm not shooting a 66 or a 68 in the wind; I'm looking at shooting a reasonable score that keeps me happy that makes me keep going into the next day. So that's how your expectations really change and differ.
And it's a great place to be, to tell you the truth. I can totally empathize or sympathize with Tiger Woods, going into the U.S. Open and not feeling 100 per cent physically fit, but absolutely having to gut it out; because you are the No. 1 player in the world and you are expected to win and you are expected to go out there and do it each week.
Sooner or later, the tank gets drained every time do you it, and I've done it for 33 years. And that's why some of the conversations I had with Chrissy, she said to me, "The magnitude of last week will hit you 48 hours afterwards." And, you know, Tuesday, last night when we sat down and had room service, you kind of sit there and go, whoa, yeah, it was a really good week.
Now, I haven't read one newspaper. She said, "Have you read any newspapers about what you did?"
I said, "No, I haven't read a thing." She kept them all but I haven't read them. I wanted to reflect on it myself and reflect on -- even though you guys were great from what I hear, I wanted to reflect on it through my own inner self rather than have somebody kind of weigh me with their opinions or feelings.

Q. Was there any regret, like you just came up short?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, absolutely, it really hurts. My responses, I must have had 500 or 700 e-mails and texts from Friday night to today, this morning; I still have to get in there this morning.
Yeah, it hurts. Deep down inside it hurts, no question. When you're a sportsman in the arena, no matter how old or how young you are, when you give yourself an opportunity, especially the more experience you have under your belt, when that opportunity doesn't really eventuate, even though the conditions should never have eventuated, you still wake up, and go, oh, shoot, you do feel it. I'm a human being, too, and I love to play the game.
To me, the game of golf is more important than any player than ever played. But the history of the game of golf and to be part of that history, and it will be interesting over a period of time how will the British Open at Royal Birkdale be remembered. Like the Masters in '96 has been remembered in a different way than a lot of people would like to think the Masters should be remembered. It's weird pages to the book.

Q. After last week, is it in your head that it's possible for you to win a Major?--
GREG NORMAN: Certain golf courses, yes. To go to a behemoth event like Bethpage Black, 7,700 yards, heavy rough; I'm strong, but my strength in my fingers are not as strong as what they used to be. Those type of things, I would think would be a little bit more of a mountain to climb.
Now come to a Turnberry or Alisa Course, great golf course, not an overpowerfully long golf course, St. Andrews; I would say certain golf courses, yeah, in the next couple of years, I could get excited about practising an extra month before I went to play a British Open. Yeah, I could say it that way.

Q. The British Open would still be your best chance?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, or a PGA Championship at a certain golf course. There's some great golf courses that the PGA play, golf courses I've played well on. Again, they are around the 7,200- to 7,400-yard mark. As soon as you start pushing the golf course for me, I still hit the golf ball a good distance. But as soon as you start pushing the golf course to 7,600 yards, it starts to compound the problem a little bit.

Q. Was it emotional last week?
GREG NORMAN: I guess the only time I really felt it was Saturday walking down 18. Sunday was great. I had to respect Padraig and the situation. The tournament was wrapped up when he hit the fairway and obviously he hit the green, so you had to let him absorb that moment and I wanted him to just go do his thing. It was great the way he encouraged me to come up with him, and I felt more excitement on Saturday than I did.
But outside of that, playing the game, I wasn't excited about playing the game. I was so intense on playing the game, and I think that was reflected in my attitude and even the way I started. I said to myself, you know what just keep hanging in there, keep hanging in there. And that putt I made on 14, I still believed I had an opportunity if I finished 4, 3, 3, 4. If I finished 4, 3, 3, 4, then I would have a chance of winning. And it was realistically on. I got a 4 and left it short in the jaw on 16, so who knows.

Q. As a past Open Champion, will that help you this week --
GREG NORMAN: Oh, I'll play all right this week. I'm not worried about my play this week or my concentration. I'll be okay.

Q. How did your experience give you an advantage against the younger guys?
GREG NORMAN: I'm not afraid to pull out a 5-iron from 120 yards. I'm not afraid to pull out an 8-iron from 98 yards. Those type of things that you don't need a yardage. You see the shot, you feel the shot, you go play the shot. And Seve was brilliant at that. Part of that e-mail exchange was artistry. That was the word that was used. There's few artists around nowadays.
When you see something like that take place, you have to be in the moment, and the only way people really see it, like a Seve or other players who have e-mailed me is because they know when they hear a commentator like a Peter Alliss say, my gosh, he's got a 5-iron, 120 yards; the player knows what he's trying to do. The players know exactly what I'm trying to do. But most people in the room, because you don't play that shot, have no idea what they are saying. And it's not the easiest shot to play, but sometimes it's the best shot to play. That's what he sees, and I played that on numerous times.
And also, the way I held it in there for the four days under the circumstances. He also reflected on that.

Q. What are your expectations now?
GREG NORMAN: Well, now my expectations are good. I like the golf course. I'm going in here, and remember, my comment last week, I was using the British Open for a warm up for the British Senior Open. Should be the other way around. (Laughing).
So now I've warmed up basically, okay, so now I've got to step up and hopefully I can do that over the next four or five days.

Q. Tell me about the Dubai course?
GREG NORMAN: I was there a couple of months ago. We made some quite substantial changes to tell the truth. When we first originally did the layout for the Earth, we never anticipated having the largest prize money golf tournament in the world played there.
So I've had to make some adjustments to it; the size of the field, being 60 players, the time of year in the desert, with the amount of wind that blows, and the wind in the desert switch. Cold air rises; hot air sinks. So the night air cools down, the wind will switch from 180 degrees during the day. So I had to make some adjustments to that.
We saw that, I think I can say this with all honesty, as a designer, I think the R&A missed the boat, because when you have to move the tees up 60 yards on par 4s, the thought process of weather conditions was not really thought out properly. You could put two other intermediate tees in between there.
So instead of taking a 440-yard hole and turning it into a 380, which is a dramatic change from a player's perspective, like 16, for example. You could have put -- if you're going to put an extension on a golf course and lengthen certain holes, give the flexibility if the wind gets up to 35-mile-an-hour from the west like we all know it does 60, 70 per cent of the time and do it. Put another tee in there and make the golf course flexible, but still keeping the same components of how it should be played.
I did that in Dubai, and I spoke to David Garland last week. I had a meeting with the PGA European Tour about it, and I explained to him, the golf course is built at 7,700 yards. It's a monster of a golf course, but you're never to going to play the golf course 7,700 yards. I said, David, the flexibility of this golf course is phenomenal. Use it. Use it, if one day you want to set it up as 7,200 yards, go for it. Put the pins, tuck them tight, they will go in with shorter irons.
Next day you want to push it out to 7,600 that way you balance it out for every player to have a chance, and not just building a golf course just for five or six players that hit the ball 320 yards. That's what I've done at the Earth Course.
So it's up to The European Tour now to set it up where now all 60 players, a guy can hit 280 yards through the air is not going to be compromised to a guy hitting the ball 320 yards through the air. He has the ability to get it around. That was Royal Birkdale to a larger degree, except when we got up to 11 and 16 and some of the holes they really shortened up on us.
That's where I think the thought process on having a player who has had the experience that I've or Jack Nicklaus or somebody who has been under the elements and knows how a ball reacts under high winds and even desert air, for example, you can set up a golf course for a great championship where you'll achieve the best results.
So hopefully The European Tour will set it up where every day, it's a different golf course. So the players now are going to go, wow, this was really challenging for me. Whereas Birkdale, it was like, every day it was the same. It was Groundhog Day except some of those tees moved up, threw us all off.
STEVE TODD: Thanks a lot for coming in.

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