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July 30, 2008
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
RAND JERRIS: It is a pleasure to welcome Greg Norman to the interview room this afternoon. Greg is playing his second United States Senior Open Championship this week. He played previously in 2005 at NCR and a fourth-place finish.
The last two weeks have been pretty remarkable for you. What have you learned about your game in the past two weeks and what are you bringing here this week?
GREG NORMAN: My game has basically improved back from the British Open and the Senior British Open. My game got really from what I felt was progressively better and better on the weekend at the British Open.
My shot-making ability, and I made this comment at the British Open, the one thing I wasn't really sharp with was my shot making ability fading the ball back in the wind and drawing the ball back in the wind and having a lot of practice and playing in the conditions I've gotten more comfortable doing that.
At the Senior British Open, I played a lot better than my scores indicated.
RAND JERRIS: In the difficult conditions over there in the wind, I think one of the things that may be hard to appreciate is the mental tenacity it takes to play in those conditions. With your playing schedule having been so light in recent years, is that a particular challenge for you or did you feel you were right there mentally through those championships?
GREG NORMAN: No. Mentally I was very good. It was tough. It was the toughest consecutive four days of golf I'd ever played. We don't normally get that type of weather condition day after day after day after day.
Really, there was only one day where a group of players probably got a little bit more adverse conditions than what I played under. That was Thursday morning's round. They probably had two hours of play there where they played in the rain but the great thing about the British Open was it was fairly balanced for everybody. Everybody experienced the same 30- to 40-miles-an-hour winds or 20-miles-an-hour winds, whatever it was, so it was very balanced. If you put yourself in the right position you could really maintain yourself.
Yes, I was disappointed I didn't go onto win it, but at the same time there wasn't anything else, outside of the fact that you know, the ball wasn't rolling my way on Sunday. I wasn't making the putts. I was hitting very good putts but the putts were lipping out instead of lipping in and that was the difference between winning and losing.
RAND JERRIS: How about this week? You've had a couple practice rounds here at the Broadmoor. What do you take from those two weeks to your game this week and this golf course.
GREG NORMAN: Totally different golf. Here you want to put the ball up in the air, get the thin air conditions. Anybody who flights the ball low here doesn't have the advantage of the guys hitting the ball high. I hit the ball high personally.
It's just around here it's just getting adjusted to the walking. It's a different type of golf. The sounds are different on this turf, and the greens are putting extremely quickly. You've got to know the breaks and the breaks away from Will Rogers Monument, basically, and you know that, but it's different type of golf, no question about it.
Q. What's been the biggest adjustment you've had to make this week after spending two weeks in Scotland?
GREG NORMAN: Just seeing the ball take off so fast off the clubface. You know, we're hitting 9-irons at Royal Birkdale; if you wanted to hit a 9-iron into the wind you'd probably hit it 90 yards. Here, you hit a 9-iron you hit it 80 yards. So the toughest is trusting your calculations. You know, when you've got 183 downhill by 20 yards you've almost got to take 20 to 22 percent off the yardage. So you've got to do the calculations in your head, you gotta get that figured out and see your shot and then you hit it. So it's a lot more mental work here to actually get the calculations right.
Sometimes when you get up there, you know you've got 87 yards and you're hitting a 9-iron, you think to yourself, okay, you gotta go ahead and hit your shot and trust you've done the right yardage and sometimes it comes up and sometimes it doesn't. It's a learning curve. Every player has gone through the same thing, and probably come the weekend we'll be more adjusted to it than we are on Tuesday.
Quite a few of the players have played the The INTERNATIONAL at Castle Pines, and the elevation was roughly the same as it was, maybe a couple hundred feet higher here. So you know what to expect. It's in your memory bank. You've done it before, played on those conditions before. So like I said, you've just got to go day-by-day and hope it gets a little bit more adjustment to it.
Q. Do you have any plans for future tournaments that you may play in, or do you think you may take a break after this because you've had such a hectic three weeks?
GREG NORMAN: No. It won't be a break because I've got a lot of business to do. I've got golf courses under work. A couple of board meeting to go to. So it's back to business as usual that I've been doing for the last five or seven years. So a break, no, it won't be a break. I'll just go straight into next week. I've got to get back to work. I've had really almost a month away from other business, so I've got to do a lot of catch up.
Q. No tournament that you're pointing to saying, 'I may play in this again'?
GREG NORMAN: No. I've got a lot of requests right now, just putting those requests in between now and March is tough. My end of the year is -- basically we're in the eighth month, going into the ninth month. And I've really got a lot of global travel to do for golf course design work, and each month I've got blocked time, seven, ten days to do overseas work. It's pretty hard to find a time to slot in a tournament, let alone anything else.
Q. How is your new wife enjoying her time here so far? Is she able to rest up and travel?
GREG NORMAN: Time here in the United States?
Q. No. Here at the Broadmoor.
GREG NORMAN: She hasn't been here. She's been elsewhere visiting some friends and family. They live in this area. She'll be back today.
Q. The fire to play, does it still burn right now as it did when you were younger, the fire to get out there and play and compete and talk about all the mental stuff that you just talked about.
GREG NORMAN: It does, but it's different. There's no question, I enjoy getting out there and playing well. Like today, I enjoyed my practice round today. I really, really enjoyed my practice round.
You know, I know deep down inside my game is solid, my game is strong. My head is good. I'm relaxed. I got a great attitude. Everything feels good, and if I don't play well, it doesn't really bother me. But I do want to go out there and perform well. I do want to play well.
I have been disappointed in my two finishes the past two weeks, which is a very good sign. I could have easily said I was happy with third place in the British Open, and quite honestly I was upset and disappointed. As we look back on it, yeah, it was an unusual sporting moment in time for a guy my age who hadn't really played much to come up and give myself a chance to win a major championship; at the same time, you can say boy, you know what, it could have been.
Same with the Senior British Open. So that's a good sign for me, when I look back on things and I'm not content with the result. I'm thinking, well, you know, you should have been better. You can improve. You can improve. You can improve, and hopefully I'm going to do that this week?
Q. Does that make you want to play more?
GREG NORMAN: It really doesn't make me want to play more. I just want to play better. And I don't need to go out there and play more golf, to tell you the truth. I don't have the desire to go play four weeks in a row or play three of the next five weeks and take a week off and play three of the next five weeks. That fire is not in my belly. I can tell you that.
But the fire that is in my belly is just to improve and play better every time I play.
Q. Given what you just said, is it difficult for you to turn down an exemption to the PGA Championship, and do you enjoy your business ventures as much as you do being out there on the golf course?
GREG NORMAN: It was one of the toughest decisions I've had to make in golf, turning down the PGA. I was torn with it. I talked about it with Chrissy a lot. I talked about it with Bob Collins, the president of my company, a lot.
Eventually it was my decision. I had a lot of other factors that came into play. It wasn't just the fact that I didn't want to go play. I did want to go play. I really did. But under the circumstances and prior commitments personal and professional, I just wanted to make sure -- it was an honor. I wrote a letter to Joe Steranka; it was an honor to be considered for the special exemption.
And obviously the my performance on the golf course, did it warrant it, may be, but I feel great that I've played my way into Augusta. So I can look forward to that come April, play myself into hopefully playing-condition-wise. Augusta is different from the British Open; Augusta is different from the PGA.
But going into the second part of your question, I enjoy my business tremendously. I've grown a business out of absolutely nothing to where it is today just on my vision and my belief and love for business and wanting to learn. Business is no different than golf.
You know, like I answered the question before, all I want to do is get better in business. The same in golf, all I want to do is improve in golf.
Even in my whole career, I never wanted to be the best in the world. I just wanted to be the best I could be, and if you can be the best you can be in anything you can do or want to do or put your mind to, then sometimes you're going to be okay.
My business is definitely like that. I'm very, very passionate about it. I love expanding golf on a global basis, whether it's through the USGA or the R&A or PGA TOUR or professional golf in general. There's very few of us that have that ability to do it. Jack Nicklaus, obviously his golf courses he's done on a global basis; myself on a global basis; we're really great ambassadors for the game in a lot of ways and it's same thing a business that I love to do.
So I'm fortunate to be able to enjoy the fruits of success of my business but also expand the game of golf.
Q. You're playing three straight tournaments. Does heat enter your mind at all or so far physically you're able to hold up this week?
GREG NORMAN: No. I've got a ranch a couple of hours from here, so I spend a lot of time there. I'm used to the altitude. I do a lot of hiking at that altitude. I go up to 12,500 feet, 11,000 feet in some of my hikes.
Yes, it is an adjustment. You'd be a liar if you didn't feel it. We're all at an age where we're not young and fit like you. So we all do feel a little bit of it. But if you're used to it and you condition yourself for it and don't overstrain yourself and do too much stuff during the week, you should be fine.
Q. Greg, you've played 36 holes here now. Have you had that Broadmoor putt when you hit it and you go, "what the hell was that," and how do you handle that in a tournament situation?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I'm sure we're going to get it because we haven't seen the pin position yet. All the pins have been basically in the middle of the greens. So when they start putting them on the risers and downslopes, we're going to get them, for sure.
I'm sure some players are going to get them. I'm sure it'll probably happen to me, too. There's going to be some putts out there that you can't believe where the ball ends up. It is what it is. These greens are designed were designed for nine and a half on the Stimpmeter, so a little bit of common sense is needed in pin positions, and I'm sure they're not going to try and speed them up any more than what they are. Just depends on the firmness of the greens as the week goes by.
Q. Greg, speaking of your ranch here, how much time do you spend here in the course of a year or whatever?
GREG NORMAN: I come out here quite a lot. I love it out here. I've had a place out here for over a decade now, and enjoy it immensely just from the point of view of getting away and being in the mountains. I really, really do. It's very, very peaceful?
Q. Greg, we had Mark Wiebe in here earlier, and he won a couple tournaments during part of your heyday, and then just fell off the map. Do you have any empathy for a guy who can come back finally and does that say something about him?
GREG NORMAN: Sure. I've been a big fan of Mark for a long period of time. Nobody likes to see a fellow player fall off the world. I mean, we hate seeing it, because we know what it takes to win a tournament; to win one is not easy; to win multiple is not easy, as well.
When you've done it and things start to go against you for whatever reason, whether it's due to golf, whether it's due to your mental approach to golf or your physical aspect, swing or it might be in your private life, who knows. We all feel for him. We all know each other very, very well, even though we're not the best of friends, we all know each other and we sympathize and we empathize when things are not going right, because it's a tough game out here.
There's always somebody else coming through. That's why it's great to see somebody like Mark Wiebe come back and pull up your breeches and come back and do what you love to do. He's won and he's come back and he's showing his playability and his mental strength, and I'm happy for guys like that.
And I was very disappointed to see Seve Ballesteros do what he did. He was one of the great artists of the game of golf, and he fell off the world and unfortunately hasn't been able to recover, which is sad. And a lot of us talk about it, the guys who know Seve and see Seve, and even with Mark Wiebe, we talk about it and say hey, what's going on with these guys.
Q. You mentioned Chris will be here today. Can you talk about what kind an inspiration she has been in your game?
GREG NORMAN: It's reflected in my game, but it's more contentment with life. I mean, we all know -- I'm not the lone wolf here, but we all know if you're happy in life, everything else in the world seems pretty darn good. And that's really the testament.
I know every human being sometimes feels like they're the only one at the end of the branch and nobody else is with them when things are going bad. But when things are going great and you're happy about everything, it permeates through everything you have in life. My golf is where it is now because I love being where I am now.
So we sit back and we have conversations about things in general and things in life and the respect we have for each other for our respective careers. Even though she hasn't played for 18 years; she's retired; she knows what it takes and what happens. Tennis and golf are two totally different sports. But they're identical with your mental attitude about wanting to get out there and do well and win.
So it's wonderful to have a companion and your wife to be able to sit back and talk about it. And it's the same with me with her, too, you know. When you're the No. 1 in the world in your sport for so long, there's nobody else you can talk to because nobody else is above you. You're it. And sometimes you've got to fight it for yourself.
The British Open when I played there, I was on my own and I had myself and my wife. I didn't have a coach. I didn't have a sports psychologist. I didn't have a trainer. Sometimes it's great to be able to do that. I've been that way my whole life, do pretty much everything on your own and figure it out yourself. And sometimes you make a lot of mistakes doing it because you don't have that support team that helps you get around those humps and hollows. And I've got one now, and it's a beautiful feeling?
Q. Is there advice she's given you?
GREG NORMAN: Every day it's great advice. Great advice. Nothing specific, but everything in general.
Q. Greg, is there anything in the past two weeks when you were playing was there any time when you were on the course where you really were surprised with how well you were playing or any time where you thought this is more than you thought would do coming into this?
GREG NORMAN: No. As a matter of fact, when I played my first practice round at Royal Birkdale, I actually felt very good. I felt good about where I was mentally and physically. I played the tough conditions; I even felt good with that, because I always relished that and cherished that in the past. Some of my best rounds of golf were played under the toughest conditions, and that's because I'm a grinder.
I'm a very resilient golfer, and I try and maximize everything I can /and in those tough conditions, my attitude was just hit the ball solid, not try and do too much on the ball. Just put the clubface on the ball square and let Mother Nature do whatever she wants to do with it.
So my practice round was very good. Royal Birkdale was just -- I wrote a letter after the British Open to Peter Dawson saying it was the best British Open I'd ever played in atmosphere-wise. So I actually felt good after the practice round, so I really wasn't that surprised.
Coming Saturday night, I was surprised I wasn't leading by more, to tell you the truth.
Q. Greg, I'm one of the local meteorologists here in town and I'm wondering what the advantage may be for an early group going out in the morning when the wind seems to be lighter versus some of the later tee times when the wind picks up, and it's getting a little more erratic and the greens are getting firmer.
GREG NORMAN: That's a good question. The ball flies differently in the morning and the afternoon because of the humidity. You get a little bit more moisture there. You see the ball in the afternoon reach its apex and drift a little more with the wind where in the morning it doesn't drift with the apex even if there is a little bit of a breeze.
You'll see the ball stay up a little bit more in the mornings than the afternoon. You gotta be careful in the mornings. Sometimes you get led into a false sense of security thinking there's more moisture in the greens because it's morning time, and you've got to be careful you don't get too aggressive, try to fly it at the flag.
So there's always changes and adaptions you've got to make with the game of golf. And weather is one of those. When you're playing in a light atmosphere compared to playing in Birkdale, for example, that's the heaviest ever played in the world, and this is the lightest wind, even though it's windy, but the balls just as much here because it's traveling so much through the air and it loses its spin rate; and once it starts on the downward trend, the wind really does move the ball more than what you anticipate.
RAND JERRIS: Greg, thank you very much for your time.
GREG NORMAN: Thank you.
End of FastScripts