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December 11, 2008
JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome everyone to the Merrill Lynch Shootout. It's truly a special day for the tournament. What an honor to have a panel that needs no introduction. We'll do so anyway.
We've got our tournament host, Greg Norman, Mr. Arnold Palmer, Mr. Jack Nicklaus, and Mr. Raymond Floyd. Thank you guys for joining us.
We'll start with you, Greg. Obviously a tournament that means so much to you. Millions and millions of dollars have been raised. We've got the original four from 1989 here. Talk a little bit about the evolution of this tournament and the impact that you've made for CureSearch and the goal of curing cancer for children and this not being a problem anymore.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I mean, first of all, I want to thank the three guys for coming. Twenty years ago, it was just a wish and a dream of mine to be able to help raise some money for Arnold's hospital in Orlando the concept really from my perspective game from playing at Bay Hill at the member/guest that we used to play at.
I used to live on Bay Hill and do all any practice there. I played with a friend of mine called Lawrence Levy
view, and we played the member/guest, and the member/guest is the exactly the format that the Shootout is today.
I thought at that time, I said, Well, okay, we had so much fun playing at Bay Hill and playing with the members and getting together, so I thought this would be a wonderful format for the pros. I approached Arnold and asked if I could help raise money for his hospital at that time. Just as I was sitting in the locker room talking about it, it's evolved twenty years later to where we are here today.
All the guys sitting here have been very instrumental in their own fund raising and their own charities. It's just a great testament to what iconic individuals can do. We're true believers in what we do and our sport. We truly love our sport with a passion. But more than that, I think we all love giving back. Whatever it is.
We give back with such empathy and feeling. Again, we all have our respective charities that we love and do and want to support. For me, after twenty years to pick up the phone and get in touch with them to come over here and help celebrate the 20th anniversary is truly an honor.
These guys have done it all. I'm the young guy in the group up here. They've being very much part of my success in my whole career, but they've been very much a part of the success of the Merrill Lynch Shootout to where we are today. I want to thank each and every one of them today.
JOHN BUSH: Mr. Palmer, we'll get comments from you about being here today, and also about the impact that this tournament has made on charity over the years.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think it's wonderful what Greg has done. He certainly mentioned earlier the Shark Shootout, which started at Bay Hill with the hospital there, which was fantastic. He really motivated and got a lot of people excited about doing things, which is now the Arnold Palmer Medical Center.
I couldn't thank him enough then and now for what he did to help get it off the ground and to see what has happened. An example of that is that the medical center with the Winnie Palmer Hospital For Babies, the Arnold Palmer Hospital For Women and Children, the cancer medical center, and, of course, the trauma and emergency center.
Yesterday, as an example, that facility had 444 patients. That's just as an example. This kind of started with Greg coming and saying to me, Hey, I'll help you do this with the Shark Shootout, and that's how it really got kicked off. A lot of people have forgotten that. We haven't. Of course it's wonderful, and it's been a great thing.
When you see what is happening there, you appreciate what these people, all of these people in this room, and particularly these four guys, are doing for medicine, for charity. It's kind of nice to think that you're a part of a program that has been so benevolent giving to the medical world, to the people of the United States, and of the world for their efforts in making things like this happen.
So I'm extremely pleased to be here.
JOHN BUSH: Mr. Nicklaus, your comments.
JACK NICKLAUS: Actually, it was 1986 the four of us played, and that was at Bay Hill. I think that, as you say, it was basically Arnold and Greg got together to do it for Arnold's hospital at the time. I think that's great. Me and Raymond, I'm sure were both very pleased to be involved in that. It was a long time ago. I don't even remember what we did then or what it was. We just had the four of us play. I know that. What happened?
RAYMOND FLOYD: You lost.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that's why I don't remember. I always remember when I win, so I obviously didn't win.
Anyway, I thought it was kind of surprising to me when I got a call from Bart and said, you know, Would you come back for the 20th anniversary of the Shark Shootout? I had no idea that they had played twenty events since -- I guess 1989 was the first.
Of course, Greg and I played the first few together, and then he dumped me. Got rid of me out there and he said, I'm going to get somebody I can win with. Just kidding.
But then I think I came back and played once with Gary, my son. We played over at Doral at Greg's course there in I think about 2000. So been involved a little bit and played a little bit, and it's great to see that the event has been successful and raised a lot of money.
JOHN BUSH: Raymond, you're a two-time winner of this event. Comment on being back.
RAYMOND FLOYD: Well, it's special. I think to echo what's been said in front of me, I think the real significance is the reflection of the charities and the sport, what golf has meant to so many through golf as the vehicle.
Starting with the Shark Shootout, there's multiple events that go on around this country and the world weekly, even if that's daily, that it's all about charity. I think all of us in our careers, when we look back, there are certain things that are special and make you say that this was a special moment in my career or special time. But I think we'll all reflect and see how proud we are of the sport that we played because of what we can do for others.
But the Shark Shootout is always great. I've enjoy playing many years, and I think all players will come. It's a wonderful format, and I know I enjoyed my years tremendously.
JOHN BUSH: We'll go into questions now.
Q. Greg, can you talk about what you remember from that first event? I know it's grown now and you're really involved in running it and it's much larger. What was it like back then?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I was surprised at the turnout we had from the spectators. When you put the a group together like we had on that first event with the four of us up here, you know, I was the guy -- the new kid at block. I was new into Orlando. I was playing well in the United States at the time, but I was spending a lot of time in the community.
The support that came out immediately that day was phenomenal. I was representing Grand Cypress where we played, and just the event went off with such a smooth transition during the whole day. And it was, if it was this easy to do it for one day, let's just keep pushing the needle forward and pushing the needle forward.
I can't remember exactly what the first check was, I wish I could, that we presented to Arnold for the hospital. It was just the success. A lot of people turned up that day.
ARNOLD PALMER: Just under $700,000.
GREG NORMAN: There you go. Arnold just said we raised just under $700,000 on the first event.
Q. What was it like for those five years before it came out to California? Did you play in all those Arnold?
ARNOLD PALMER: I did, yes. I played -- Jesus, I've forgotten now, but I was in California. I played out there with Peter.
Q. You had two years and then you had two years off, didn't you, Greg, before you started in California?
GREG NORMAN: Yes, that's correct. Yes.
JACK NICKLAUS: We played 1986 and '87 and then had two years off -- no, just one year off.
GREG NORMAN: We were in California in '89 to -- we were there for six years, I think six years.
JACK NICKLAUS: It was '86 and '87, and then we didn't play in '88. In '89 you started the tournament in California.
GREG NORMAN: No. I can't even remember -- who's got the -- I can't remember. You've thrown me a curve ball. We never skipped a year.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. That's just what I have.
Q. The first five years were at Grand Cypress. Arnold and Greg played. You were the first pairing.
JACK NICKLAUS: But that doesn't add up.
Q. It was five events at Grand Cypress.
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, but we started in '89 in California.
Q. There might have been overlap, but there was five events. Greg, how did the galleries grow in that time it was at Grand Cypress, the first one and then the four after that. I mean, had it grown so big you thought it was something that you could take to a larger stage?
GREG NORMAN: Well, no. I like the format, but you can only have a certain number of players -- galleries for one group. You wanted everybody to enjoy the moment, experience the moment, to get up close and personal on the 18-hole round.
It really started to morph after the fifth year. We started seeing the popularity of what the event was really all about when I played with four guys.
From there, it just took off. We started talking to the PGA TOUR and talking to McDonald's at the time. The Sherwood Country Club came on the scene. We sort of just grew into that. The tournament we always -- every year we'd toy around. I know wet press conferences earlier to figure out will this tournament get bigger? Will this tournament get better?
We love where it is right now. It's captured a great position with NBC and a great position at the end of the season. Quite honestly, we, right now, are very, very happy with where the tournament is. It's grown from 4 players to 24 players, and I don't see it growing much more from then.
Q. Arnold, Jack, and Raymond, can you just talk about how this event has grown as you've watched it and what Greg has done? There's not been many challenge-season events or whatever you want to call it that have been around that long, other than the skins game.
ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think, as I said earlier, the fact that Greg threw his lot in with us to help create what we now know as the Arnold Palmer Medical Center, I can't thank him enough. And the guys that came along with him, whether it was Jack or Raymond or Gary, or -- Jesus, they all came and made their contribution to this effort.
When you look now at the multi-million-dollar facility that's creating a lot of great things for young people, it feels pretty good. It's something to look back on and be very proud of. And, of course, as I said earlier, I thank Greg for bringing the Shark Shootout to Bay Hill, to Orlando for the hospital, and all the things that have happened.
I think he would have -- if he had been there the other night when we had a gathering of people to just sort of make a concerted effort to continue with the things that are happening there in the hospital and in the medical center, it made him feel good just knowing that he had a part of what it started out to be.
JACK NICKLAUS: I can't say anything more than what Arnold just said. It was pretty good.
RAYMOND FLOYD: I can recall Sherwood very clearly starting out. I can remember the first year we played we didn't have a finished clubhouse, so we started there when the golf course was new. It was amazing the size of the gallery that we had for such a small event.
But I think it evolved into something that has withstood the test of time. When you talk about a special season-ending event, for it to go twenty years, I think that speaks volumes, the success of the event, the players that have played, and the charities that have benefitted from it.
My hat, again, is off to Greg for his dream in making it real and following through with it.
Q. Raymond and Greg, you've both won this. For Jack and Arnold, are your careers incomplete without having won this tournament? (Laughter)
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, that's what I said earlier. I mean, Greg played the first three years together and we finally finished second. We almost had it right, and then he went out and got another partner.
GREG NORMAN: I had to move on. One of the great testaments to this event, is the fact that we've had just three major title sponsors: McDonald's, Franklin Templeton, and now Merrill Lynch. And the popularity of the event really resonates through the corporate world, because of the event being a two-day Pro-Am and the functions and relaxed nature of what this event in all about.
You only have to sit in the locker room like we were today in a rain delay and just have all the amateurs come up to you and say, This is one of best weeks I've ever had. To me, that's what it's all about. We all try and give back, as I said before.
But when you hear the response from the players and the sponsors, that tells me that we've really got a very, very successful event here.
Q. This is for Jack. You know, in addition to Greg running this tournament and all the other things he has going on, he's going to get ready to play in the Masters in April because of his performance at the British Open over the summer. Just curious what you thought about that at the time and now he's reflecting on it, you know, a 53 year old man being up there the whole tournament and nearly pulling it off.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I watched a fair amount of it. I thought that what he did is something that is pretty special to the game of golf. When you go and play an event and you're really -- and I would assume that you hadn't played a lot of golf prior to that, and it was -- I liken it a little bit to what happened to me in '86. I hadn't played a whole lot of golf, at least serious golf, that I was really ready for the golf tournament.
You know, Greg's as champion. When you get yourself playing, and all of a sudden you play a good first round and you say, Gee, that was nice. That was fun. Maybe I can do that again tomorrow. Then you play a good second round, and all of a sudden you're, Gee, I'm really doing pretty well. You remember how to play. You remember -- it sort of lights a fire under you and you get excited. You have fun with it and say, Man, this is what I used to do. This was one fun.
You remember what to do, which he did very well. I think a lot of people were pulling for him and hoping that he would pull it off. I know that he came very close, but, you know, if the opportunity arises now that he gets an opportunity to go back to Augusta, which he hasn't been for -- what has it been, three, four years?
GREG NORMAN: Six years.
JACK NICKLAUS: Six years since you've at Augusta. He really hadn't played that much. If anything else, his certainly his talent is still there. He's always kept himself in great shape. I think he'll have a great time going back and have a lot of fun. He's always played well at Augusta, and there's no reason why at age 53 -- I mean, I almost won it on one leg at '58.
So certainly a man who's in a lot better shape than I was and five years younger can certainly do pretty well.
Q. Can I get your guy's reaction to Corey being selected as the Ryder Cup captain today, and also Paul not, I don't know if "brought back" are the right words, but having another shot at it immediately?
JACK NICKLAUS: First I heard of it.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I'm not involved with the Ryder Cup but I'm a player, and I can say that from what I understand -- and these guys are going to be better on the history of selection than I am. As for Paul not coming back, I think that's the respect that Paul has for the captaincy. I've only read in newspapers and magazines about what he would do if he was asked.
But I think Paul Azinger is a guy that has a lot of integrity about him. He knows he did his job and did a great job with it to turn around the momentum that the Europeans had with the Ryder Cup. And to do it as successfully as he did was a phenomenal job and a testament to him.
Corey Pavin is a great choice. I played a lot of golf with him over the years. He's a very tenacious guys and he's very understanding of the players around him. I think his captaincy, because of the intelligence factor that he carries, will go very, very well and a long way for him, and I think he'll put a great team together.
ARNOLD PALMER: I think Corey is a good guy. He's very competitive guy. He'll give it some very serious thought. He's a thinking young man, and he could probably pull off another victory for the Ryder Cup.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think if they try to take the Ryder Cup and make it a thanks to a lot of the players for their contribution and success and their record within the game. It's a nice honor for Corey to be selected. I think they sort of have tried to pick a different captain every year for about the last twenty years.
They have continued with that. I think that -- I don't think that the PGA looked at it as Paul having the great success and job that he did, I don't think that they thought that was probably as important as recognizing the players that have come along and contributors of the game and honor his as being captain. I think that's probably the thinking.
RAYMOND FLOYD: I would agree with Jack totally. There was a great move to have Paul return because of the importance of Ryder Cup to, especially people here in our country and the world, the competition. It's become the golf event every second year. It's incredible. And there was a great move to have Paul return.
Jack was the last captain that had two terms, to go twice, and it has been -- it's a tremendous honor. In my career when people say, Well, pick a highlight. I say, Well, my captaincy on the Ryder Cup was certainly one of my great moments in my career. It is an honor to represent your country and be the captain, and it's reflective of a career. I think Corey will do a fine job.
I think he's the right age. He's won his majors and played Ryder Cups. There are certain criteria that it takes, and all of those fit him perfectly.
Q. Mr. Norman, can you comment on the facility here and what bringing this event to Naples means?
GREG NORMAN: Well, one of the reasons for the success of this event is Naples. Naples was really starved for golf. You have it in Bay Hill and Southeast Florida. You have it in Northeast part of Florida, but you don't have it really on the west side when we came here back in 2000, 2001 I think it was, or 2002.
So the support that we got from the local community and the spectators that came out has been progressively better and better every year. For the facility here, from the Ritz Carlton to the Tiburon Golf Course, it's a no-brainer. The players love it and the amateurs love it, because you don't have to put a key in the ignition. You're here for the week. You come in on a Tuesday or whenever you want to come in, and you leave Sunday.
You're always bumping into somebody you know or always bumping into a player that you've seen on television and have wanted to meet. So it creates very much of a homey atmosphere. It's a tremendous feeling for me to have the tournament here.
I mean, very rarely do I even get down into Naples, but you have all of Naples come here. They appreciate what we've done in this area. So we give back to the community in many ways. Not just in donations, but the opportunity to see the players and the caliber of players and the type of golf tournament we put on.
Q. I was going to ask Greg and Raymond if you guys would mind commenting on the relationship that Jack and Arnold have now and have always had. Just your observations on what that has meant, including perhaps the needling that they embrace so much?
RAYMOND FLOYD: I'll start because I'm older than Greg, and I've probably know them both longer. But, you know, we're all good buddies. It's special when you have the top two players, iconic players as Greg used the term. They transcend the sport. They're household names around the world, not just in our country.
To see these guys interact in private when you don't have the luxury of seeing them at times the way Greg and I have, it's really special, the bond that is there, and their deep friendship for each other. It's very special.
GREG NORMAN: And I think that's just what golf is all about. You know, from my young career, Arnold changed the direction where golf was going. He brought the charisma and flamboyancy to it. He brought corporation into it and the dollars in.
Jack came along and he was threatening Arnold's crown. Because I'm young followed these two guys. Not like with Raymond where we played a lot against them. So I was watching Arnold and Jack play for a long period of time and just watching how they conducted themselves.
And it's not just the performance on the golf course, which is second to none, but the performances, the way they conducted themselves on and off the golf course. They've taught a lot of players, not just professional players, but a lot of young players that play the game of golf the word "respect." Respect for the game and respect for your fellow competitors.
For me, to be able to still call them friends and still be around them, albeit the fact that we all live in different parts of the world at different times, is the true indication of the spirit of what it's all about.
So from my perspective, to have the guys here, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for these guys. That's no -- I have modeled my game after Jack Nicklaus.
I saw a guy. I liked his style and wanted to emulate as much as I could. Like you said, Arnold brought the corporate world into the game of golf, and here we are today. Guys are making millions and millions and millions of dollars a year, and they should thank these two guys in the middle.
And then obviously with Raymond, Raymond sits back there and is very humble in what he says. At the same time, anybody who precedes you and conducts themselves in a professional manner should be compliments all the way through.
I don't think there should ever be a moment in time where the light diminishes on any one player who has really eclipsed more than what anybody else has done.
These three guys here are champions of the cause, and I'm happy to call them my friends.
JOHN BUSH: Guys, thanks for all you've done for this tournament and for the game of golf. Thanks for joining us today.
End of FastScripts