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May 20, 2009

Greg Norman


KELLY ELBIN: Greg Norman, ladies and gentlemen, World Golf Hall of Fame member, join us at the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club. Greg tied for sixth in his Senior PGA Championship debut last year at Oak Hill Country Club. Greg, welcome back to the Senior PGA Championship and welcome to Canterbury. You played a couple times, thoughts on the golf course, please.
GREG NORMAN: Yes, second time around it. Interesting golf course. Still haven't decided how I'm going to play it, to tell you the truth. I think there's some opportunities where you can actually take an aggressive approach and hit driver off some of these left-to-right holes and cut it back into the hill.
But I would say all in all it's a very conservative type of golf course. You got to know the greens, you got to know where to put the ball on the greens, extremely fast from back to front and very slow from front to back. So knowing your yardages and putting it in the right position on the green is going to be crucial.
KELLY ELBIN: You got two very distinctive nines, the shorter front nine and much longer back nine.
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, well they are distinctive. I actually kind of like the front nine better than the back nine. It's got a little bit of character to it. But golf course has got a nice balance and you got to be very careful playing around here.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions, please.

Q. When you say it's an interesting golf course? Do you mean that in a good way or do you mean that in a kind of you haven't figured it out yet or what?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I haven't got it figured out yet, but it's certainly interesting in the fact that you got reverse cambers on some of the doglegs. And you don't normally get that on modern golf courses.
Normally we work with the terrain differently. Here you can see they just put the holes in the slope and the slope is where the slope was. They didn't really move a lot of dirt to build this golf course.
So you really have to shape your shot, especially a tee shot. And if you really want to get conservative then that means that you're putting yourself a long way back into some of these greens. And I would rather be in there trying to spin the ball into the green than trying to hit a little bit more of a club that will bounce forward. So once you get past the hole here it's interesting. So there's that word again.

Q. You talked about shaping shots and everybody keeps talking about the equipment the way it is today and that you really can't move the ball like you want to. So is this kind of counter intuitive, you have the equipment that doesn't really need to do what you need to do out here?
GREG NORMAN: Well you can tell this golf course -- and actually I spoke to one of my pro-am partners yesterday -- this golf course was built how many years ago? You know, quite a number. Almost a hundred years ago.
KELLY ELBIN: In the '20s.
GREG NORMAN: In the '20s. When the fairways weren't cut as high and the greens weren't cut as high and so you can have a lot of slope on the fairways and the greens and you can get away with it.
Now days with the fairways, how it's cut down, it's very difficult to lay up on a hole like 16, if you hit it in the rough where do you lay it up, the ball is going to run. The 17th at Olympic Golf Club, you roll all the way back down in the rough of the. So you really got to know the layup area.
That wasn't the way it was back in the '20s and '30s. So being counter intuitive you can still work the ball, but you can't really slice the ball as much as we used to or hook the ball as much as we used to. Now days to hook a ball 30 feet's a pretty big hook. In the old days we could do it 90 feet. Really work it tremendously.
So, yeah, we can do it, but not to the way the golf course is used to be built with the capabilities of the golf balls in those days. Is that a good answer to your question?

Q. Yes.
GREG NORMAN: Do you follow that?

Q. I'm fine with that.
GREG NORMAN: You got it?

Q. Can you talk about last year what this tournament did for your year, what impact it had on your game and just where your game is right now?
GREG NORMAN: I would like to say it's fairly solid. It's not great. But it's solid. I haven't really spent a lot of time as much time leading up to this tournament as I would like practicing. But I'm not overly concerned, I'm not like sitting here, oh, my gosh, I'm not playing very well. I'm playing fairly solid golf.

Q. Last year?
GREG NORMAN: Last year?
KELLY ELBIN: Comments on your play last year and what that might have done for your season.
GREG NORMAN: A lot of similarities to the rough. Oak Hill last year was probably deeper and more thicker rough off the fairway so you really couldn't miss the fairway. At least here you can advance the ball forward. You can get it going forward 180, 175 yards. Very similar, actually. The greens were the same. Very speedy. A lot of undulation, so I think from a tee shot standpoint I think that Oak Hill is probably a little bit more conducive to driving the ball than what this place is.

Q. I was trying to ask you, being in contention last year.
GREG NORMAN: Oh, being in contention.

Q. How did that get your game really kind of, get you excited again?
GREG NORMAN: Any time you're in contention you get excited about playing. Of course when you get on that bike and start riding it and feeling the energy of not only your play and how good it feels and the energy of everything going on around you, that's what we play for. When you get it, it feels great. Even at this late stage in your life.

Q. You're playing a little bit more, is it because usually when you play you're in contention?
GREG NORMAN: Why am I playing more? I still enjoy it. My schedule's lightened up with the economic climate golf course design business has slowed down dramatically. So that gives me the opportunity to, I'm not traveling as much, so therefore it gives me the opportunity to put other things on my schedule.
Things are going to change starting next year, we already see it, and in our design business, we're getting a lot of activity looking forward into 2010. So next year will be a totally different year for me and I know that. Back on the plane, flying a lot around the world, doing the design work that's already in place.
So that will probably be, my playing schedule next year will be probably the opposite of what it's going to be this year. But it all has to do with the economic environment in the business world.

Q. Why is the design and all your business interests, why is it a priority over golf? Did you just lose some interest in golf?
GREG NORMAN: I enjoy it. When I go away and build a golf course, I go away for a day. If I go away to play a golf tournament I go away for a week. So I can go away and do five golf course design jobs in five different countries around the world and come home and get a lot more work done than being away for seven days. And I've still got two days up my sleeve.
So it's all about travel and making sure you put your priorities of life in the right perspective. And it's not that I don't want to play golf it's just that I enjoy being at home more often. I travelled 40 weeks a year for 30 years of my life. I'm trying to cut that back down to about 20 weeks a year for the rest of my life. If can I do that then I got a lot of spare time on my hands.
And believe me, it's a great feeling to be able to stay home on a weekend. And I, in my business, I do not work on the weekends. I do Monday to Friday. If we go oversees it's always leave on Monday and get home on Friday afternoon if it's a five day trip. Because my guys that work for me have families as well. And it's really nice to be home.

Q. If you're at home are you just being a 50 year old guy or are you still driving fast cars too fast and diving with sharks and all that kind of stuff?
GREG NORMAN: I still enjoy my hobbies that I like to do, I go scuba diving and I like spending time. I play tennis, or just do nothing. Absolutely nothing is a not a bad thing to do sometimes.

Q. At this stage of your life and career of the various components of your game, which is the first to come around once you get a few practice rounds under your belt and what's the last to come around most of the time?
GREG NORMAN: Normally the last thing to really come back into a hundred percent shape is your short game. Because short game comes on just absolute unconditional feel. You see the shot, you hit the shot.
You can go out there and practice your short game as much as you want, but when you get under tournament conditions when that ball's sitting down a little bit deeper in the love rough do you have the conviction to go after it and hit a great shot. You don't really practice those with the same pressure when you're practicing on the putting or chipping green or wherever you are just relaxing in the afternoon.
So, but the more you play, the more you, the more that shot comes back into your natural repertoire. And sometimes it's shots out there that you don't practice, but you pull them off because you see them and it's all hand/eye coordination. So that's the last thing that normally comes back.

Q. When you were younger in your 20s and 30s you were obviously a great ball-striker, but always considered one of the best drivers of the golf ball. That was in the year of the persimmon heads. Has it changed a lot now? Do you think there's more guys who hit 70 percent plus in fairways hit because of equipment or back in the day that was a heck of a lot harder figure to reach?
GREG NORMAN: I think it's easier to hit the golf ball straighter now days. And the ball goes longer. No question. Is that -- that is technology. No question about it.
I think a great barometer, just to get off your question a little bit is, a great barometer is when the V grooves come into play next year. And I hope it does. There's rumors floating around here this week that it may not even come into play. But if the V grooves do come back into play, that will be a great barometer to see how good these players are with their touch and their feel and their imagination. And understanding that that ball, it looks like it's going to leap 40 yards extra off the club face, how do you play that?
That's going to be great to watch on television. Because that's, to me, is the art of understanding the game of golf. And understanding the spin of the golf ball. Not just a pure given fact if you hit it in the rough and I did it a couple times today on these firm greens, I'm in the rough, I know it's going to spin, I'm just going to open that club face up a little bit more and the ball comes down like an old dog lying by a fireplace. It just drops on the green.
Now that's not going to happen next year. So those are the type of things that actually help the better players distance themself from the average players. And I think that's why in my generation you saw such great shot makers out there, Trevino and like I said, Seve in a lot of ways, he hit phenomenal shots.
So you got a combination where I was a good driver, but I was also a good short game player, so that was a lethal combination in a lot of ways. I could be very aggressive off the tee, aggressive second iron shot, because I wasn't afraid of missing the green, I knew I would get it up-and-down the majority of the time. So it really allowed you to free up your game big time. And V groove clubs are going to change that a lot next year for a lot of players.

Q. You said you liked the front nine better?
GREG NORMAN: What did I say?

Q. The front nine at this golf course, you said you like a lot better, it has more character. Could you elaborate on that because the back nine has the only two par-5s on it and they're back to back.
GREG NORMAN: Well par-5s don't necessarily make the character of a golf course. The front nine, the holes go a lot of different directions. Your first hole you have to be careful, you have to read the speed of the ball once it lands on the fairway. Same with the third hole. You got to cut it into the hill. Fourth hole you got to kind of draw it down the hill. Fifth hole you got to cut it down the hill. And sixth hole you got to think about your tee shots all the time.
The back nine is not really the case. 10th hole you go up there and hit a driver right at the bunker. And the 12th hole you hit a hybrid just get it on the fairway. And 13, you just got to hit it straight, a straight driver.
So just those holes I mentioned, the character is a lot different. So in my mind's eye I think the front nine, even though it's shorter, it can play a little bit more interestingly again that word, for the way your mind sees it or the way your eye sees it.

Q. Having had some time now to reflect on Augusta, what are your thoughts on the changes to the golf course they made the past few years? Now that you've actually seen them up close?
GREG NORMAN: Well I wrote a letter to Billy Payne congratulating him on the way they set up the golf course. They did a phenomenal job, even though I only played two days, the two day that I played, they were smart, they were very, very sensitive to the conditions, and the golf course played the way it should play.
And if you go back there -- sometimes when we play on practice rounds we play off the tips. All the time. Like today. You're one pace from the back of the tee. When you get in tournament play, things vary dramatically, it could be 20, 30 yards on the tee shot. And Augusta National did a great job with that. The golf course played long, but it didn't play ridiculously long. The golf course played, it was very playable for every player. And that's the way you set up a golf course.
There's some other golf courses that just play brutally long and there's only a few players that can really take advantage of it. So from my point of view I thought it was great, very well done.

Q. Who is caddying for you? Is it your son?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, he is.

Q. Is Chris here?
GREG NORMAN: She will come up tomorrow.
KELLY ELBIN: Any sense yet on what a winning score may be come Sunday evening?
GREG NORMAN: The lowest one.
KELLY ELBIN: Very good.
GREG NORMAN: I've got no history around here, so it's pretty hard for me to make a judgment on that. If it stays hot and firm, this golf course is not going to get easier, it's just going to get harder. So you guys help me. What's been the winning score in the history? Over here? 276? 274? What has it been? I have no idea.

Q. Par's always been 72.
GREG NORMAN: Par's been 72 here? Okay.

Q. 274?
GREG NORMAN: When Nicklaus won here what did he shoot?

Q. Par was 71 then.
GREG NORMAN: It's not going to be something where players are going to go out there and shoot four 65s, that's for sure.
KELLY ELBIN: Greg Norman, thank you for your time, good luck.
GREG NORMAN: Thanks very much, everybody.

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