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July 15, 2009
BERNIE McGUIRE: Greg, firstly, welcome to the media center. Thank you for joining us this morning. We know The Open is a special week for you here, but coming back here to Turnberry, having won here in 1996, perhaps you can give us your thoughts about that.
GREG NORMAN: I think this is one of the best venues the Open Championship can have, obviously because the hotel is right on the hill. The golf course is one of the great golf courses in all the linkses we play. And setup between '86 and now is very, very similar. The rough is extremely thick and heavy out there. The fairways are a little bit wider this year than where they were in '86, or any other year to say the least.
But obviously the golf course has a lot more length on it. There's a few different angles we have to get adjusted to. So those players who never played in the early Opens here wouldn't know anything different. But the guys, like the older generation, we obviously have to make some adjustments to the shot lines and things like that.
All in all, the golf course is in absolutely perfect condition. The greens are probably the best greens -- I thought Royal Birkdale's were good last year, but I think these are more consistent and more perfect than last year.
Q. Do you think there might be a 63 this week?
GREG NORMAN: No. You know, if you go back, and actually this was an interesting conversation I had with Frank Nobilo last night, he went back and looked at the scores, and there's very few scores in the low to mid-60s on this golf course, and the golf course was in very accessible condition. But of all the other Opens around here, there haven't been too many low scores shot around here. And I don't see it this week, either, as well.
You only have to venture out of the fairway nine feet, ten feet, and you might lose your ball. And I think that's an indication not too many drivers are going to be used. There are going to be a lot of long irons into some of these greens. Yardage anywhere between 160, 190, 200, so to attack the flags when they start putting them behind these bunkers is going to be tough, as well.
Q. A lot of people making a big deal about your age, the veterans, the old war horse from the past. Is that really a factor in the game or in your game?
GREG NORMAN: It is always a factor because you're not as physically strong, your endurance is probably not as great as someone in their 20s or 30s. But at the same time you have the experience; last year led that to be the case. I used my experience under the adverse conditions very, very well, even though I hadn't played much or practiced much. So you draw on the experience, knowing where to go and where not to go. Knowing how to play the conditions, and sometimes a par is like a birdie in many occasions and just keeping your patience as best you can.
Weather conditions this week, I'm not too sure how it's going to play out, whether it's going to be anything like last year, but the golf course is that way. If you get off to a nice consistent start, you put yourself in a place where you might have a chance of winning.
Q. Just along those lines, in terms of expectations, of the four majors, would you agree this is probably the one where you could contend the most? And then secondly, do you feel that if the weather is as it is, and it's relatively nice, it makes it tougher for you, rather than like worse conditions would make it?
GREG NORMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. When you have no wind and it's just the technology is so good, and even though it's a hybrid they hit it 260, 270. They hit the ball straight. They hit the ball high. And there's not a whole lot of trouble out there for them, to tell you the truth. There's not a lot of bounce on them, because there's a lot of moisture in there, there's a lot of greenness and grass on the fairways, so you need to have a little bit of wind to kind of like help some of the players out with the distance, but not the power in their game. So, yeah, dead calm conditions you're bringing in a lot more players.
Q. The three past winners here have all been guys who were either No. 1 at the time or pretty much became No. 1 after they won here. Is there anything about this golf course in your mind when you look at it that seems to bring out the best, any characteristics of it along those lines? I'm trying to wonder why it has produced "Masterpiece Theater," I guess, for lack of a better term?
GREG NORMAN: I think more because a lot of the doglegs and reverse camber, like the 4th hole, dogleg left, kind of tilts from left to right, like Olympic Golf Club, a lot of the fairways are like that. You have to work the ball against the wind, especially if it's left-to-right going out and right-to-left coming back. You have to work against the wind and against the slope. So the players can really maneuver their ball around.
Technology is a little bit different nowadays than what it was in olden days where we actually could move the ball a lot. The guys still move it, but not to the degree that we could do it. So anybody with the power and the ability to control that ball and flight their ball back into the hill obviously is a high quality player, so therefore their chances are winning around here are a lot better, if they're striking the ball well.
Q. Last year when you came to Royal Birkdale, you said that you absolutely had no expectations for the tournament. This year when you come --
GREG NORMAN: Same. I'll save you.
Q. I was asking about your preparation. Last year's preparation was just a continuation of your honeymoon you said, but this year did you really prepare for the tournament?
GREG NORMAN: Well, this year -- yes, I did. I spent a little bit more time practicing in Florida, where it was 98 degrees and 98 percent humidity and no wind. You go through about eight gloves in a practise session.
So I came over to Ireland, went to Dunvegan and stayed there for a couple of days, and it was just like going to Skibow, but I opted to get out of Skibow thinking the weather was going to be bad. And Loch Lomond I thought about playing because the weather might be bad, and as it turned out it was all perfect. I go to Dunvegan and it was miserable weather and it was blowing and raining about 30 miles an hour, so I didn't do much practise there.
So it's kind of like the same similar preparation it was last year, but in a different location. I came here and done some practise, and I hit the ball okay yesterday, not great, and I'm looking forward to getting out to play today under fairly benign conditions.
Q. When you're walking around out there during your practise rounds, what's going through your mind? Are you remembering '86? Does it feel like years and years and years ago? Does it feel like yesterday? What are you thinking?
GREG NORMAN: Well, it's more of a conversation with my son. He's on my bag this week. And he asked me questions, Dad, what was it like back then, where did you drive it? And I'd say we'd hit it here and we'd hit it there. And I played with Tom Watson yesterday. And it was interesting for the younger -- I played with another young kid, Jeremy Kavanagh, I believe, and he was asking questions about Tom and I about what it was like.
It's hard to relate to it because the golf course was so different. When it's dry and fiery and a little bit shorter, like we say, we hit sand wedges to 16. And yesterday was like 190. But it was a different hole altogether.
Just talking to my son about it, just for him to get an idea about how things changed over a period of from '86 to where we are now, but that's about it. But you do feel it, there's no question. It's always -- good memories, bad memories, always entrenched in there, for all the right reasons or wrong reasons. So when you can have a chance to extol on them a few times, why not.
Q. It seems to be very much a risk-and-reward course. You have to make up your mind whether you're going to fly it shy of those bunkers and then you have to go with a longer iron. How many drivers do you think you might use?
GREG NORMAN: I'll use a lot more drivers, because I drive the ball, you know, 290 to 300. I don't drive the ball 300 to 330. So my chance of using a driver is a lot more.
This is the type of golf course where if you start playing defensively it's hard to get aggressive on it. If you do start laying yourself back too far, like I was explaining before, now you're going in there with a 7-iron to a 5-iron or a 6-iron to a 4-iron. It's very, very hard to get at some of these greens.
But the most advantageous thing about Turnberry that people don't really look at is there's probably 11 to 12 greens that are bowl shaped. And they can be very much in your favor if you know how that bowl sits. And a good player will know that; he'll know how to sling it in. If he misses the flag 30 feet to the left, he's doing it for a reason, because he knows it's going to gravitate down. So you can err on the side of mis-hitting a shot, because the ball will end up closer to the flag than most other golf courses.
So if you know Turnberry well like that, you can use it and play aggressively. On the other side, if you short-side yourself, you've got no chance of getting it up-and-down, because obviously everything is sloping in and you've got a 30- to 40-footer for your saving par putt.
So there's a lot of little nuances around this golf course if you get to know it. And I think that goes back to the question the good players study it very, very well, they know it, they come in early enough, play different weather conditions. The last two days it was blowing one direction, and today it's a little different. And the golf course changes dramatically with even just a minor switch of the breeze.
Q. Arnold Palmer is 80 this year, and if he hadn't come over in '60 to play the Open there's a possibility that none of us would be here and this championship wouldn't be what it is. Could you talk a little bit about how personally he helped your career, and the type of gratitude you hold to him?
GREG NORMAN: I think every player should be thankful to Arnold Palmer, because he really opened up the era of commercialization in golf. He did a phenomenal job of exploiting it. In many ways, to this day, even everybody sitting in this room has received some benefit from it. He instilled a certain amount of understanding of, like I said, commercialization and understanding what publicity is all about for an individual. He did it very, very well.
And here he is still 80 years old and still doing a great job with it. Everybody has Arnold to thank. There's nobody else, quite honestly. And Jack came along and had a completely different attitude and philosophy towards the game of golf and those two gelled beautifully together, because they were competing against each other on a global -- well, more on the American stage than the global stage, and every time it came to a major championship there those two were again. It was great for the game.
And now it's morphed out, and you have someone like Tiger Woods taking the helm and doing it and everybody is trying to keep up with him. So we all -- every one of our bank accounts thanks Arnold.
Q. Do you regard your round here in '86 your best-ever round?
GREG NORMAN: The 63 second round? I put it up there -- there's three rounds I remember very, very well, this one, Royal St. Georges, and the 62 I shot at Glen Abbey in the Canadian Open. And Doral, three scores but four different golf tournaments. But this one, everybody still talks about it, under the conditions, and how did you ever -- I drove the ball exceptionally well.
That was one of my fortes in my heyday. So I didn't have a problem just pulling my driver out and just playing the whole golf course aggressively. I maneuvered the ball very well. And I could play it back into the slopes like we were talking about before. So I actually was getting the ball way down there, like 16, sand wedge. In those days I was worried about spinning it back into the burn, instead of worrying about carrying the burn, so that was one of the things I was worried about. It was one of my better rounds, yeah.
Q. It was such a great story last year. Do you think that you've still got another one of those great tales in you for this year?
GREG NORMAN: I don't know. To tell you the honest truth, I wish I could sit here and say yes or no. It's not just the fact that I don't feel good about myself or my game, it's just that I don't know.
To be honest with you, I'm looking forward to St. Andrews, before I even tee it up tomorrow because I really think St. Andrews, the way it played a couple of years ago, suits any player, especially with the new groove technology coming in next year. I think the younger generation have never experienced it, don't have a clue what is going to happen to their game. They better start making the adjustment very early on before January comes here.
When you go to a British Open style where you can't spin the ball as much, the whole game of golf is different. So I actually look forward to it.
Andy North said yesterday to both Tom and I, you guys should both start playing more golf because you know in the early part of next year when the guys are trying to make the adjustment, the more experienced players are going to have an advantage over the younger players because of their lack of control over the golf ball. So I look forward to that more than I do this year.
Q. Does your wife get jealous at all that you're in a sport where you can still compete at your age, when she can't?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, she makes comment of that. She would love to compete, but she knows the younger tennis players, it's totally different.
Tom and I talked about this at dinner the other night. And we brought this subject up, and we talked specifically about tennis and golf. And I said here's a guy turning 60 this year and a guy who's turning 55, we can still compete against kids who are in their 20s. Now, I turned to Chrissy and said, you know, you can't do that in your sport. And I said, golf is the only sport that I know of that you can do that, maybe lawn bowls, maybe, right? (Laughter.) But I don't think it has that stature, with all due respect, but it doesn't have the stature of what --
BERNIE McGUIRE: Darts.
GREG NORMAN: Darts. Okay, guys, here we go. Physical sport, how about that?
So, yes, we do talk about it. And she loves it in a lot of ways, because she's a great driver for me. Because she'll say go work out, don't forget to practise, don't forget to do this, because she knows what it takes to get yourself in that position.
And she also knows that time is our enemy, and sooner or later you won't be able to compete at the level. But while we can in our 50s and 60s, it's a great feeling.
Q. As a follow on to that, last year when you found yourself in the heat of the battle, how important was it to go home to someone who's been there and kind of had done the same thing. You were able to talk to her about that presumably?
GREG NORMAN: She was more exhausted than I was, to tell you the truth. It's like when you're not in the arena and you're pulling for somebody, it actually drains you of a lot of energy, because you've got no control over the situation. And she was tired at the end of the day.
We talked about it and probably more the next morning when we woke up. Hey, how are you feeling? This is what you've got to do, get in your own world, do your own thing, do whatever you need to do just to block everything out. She knew four or five or six hours before going to the golf course what to do.
When you get off the golf course in the nighttime, you just need to kind of like unwind just a little bit but not too much, where you lose your focus. So she was asleep before I was.
Q. A couple of parts. I just wanted to ask you how your business empire is coping this year, all the sections that are doing particularly well, and other parts maybe particularly not. And do you think that the economy is recovering now as far as you can see? And also can you talk about how you've pulled out the MacGregor business, and your thoughts on that, please?
GREG NORMAN: You must be from the Financial Times, are you? (Laughter.) My business is like any business. You have to make adjustments. If you become reactionary to a situation you're probably in a bad state. If you're proactionary to it and you know you've prepared yourself for moments like this -- nobody can really pick when a recession is going to hit, nobody really knows to the magnitude of what it is, but if you have a good business model and you have the flexibility and adaptability to work with that you can get yourself through it.
I've had to make changes. I've unfortunately had to lay off people, which is not a good feeling. It's the first time in my entire life, in my short business life of nearly 20 years that I've had to do that, because of the golf course design business. America is absolutely dead, and it doesn't look like it's going to come back for quite a while, to tell you the truth. This is in golf course design I'm talking about.
There are gray pockets. We see, in our business, the rest of the world leading the come back from the recession before the United States. I think the United States has got a lot of understanding of regulations that are being put in place by President Obama. Those regulations are different than what we had before. It's kind of like the free market enterprise that it used to be. Entrepreneurs had a great way in the United States, and now there's a few more encumbrances on us to really go. So we have to understand those as we go forward. And some of them are still being written. And it will probably take ten years to really understand them once they get into maturity and then try to figure out what's going on.
So America has got a lot of studying to do. But America is very resilient country. And they're great fighters. They'll come back, but I don't think it will come back -- like I spent time in China last week, two weeks ago. I think I've got a lot of belief in China, like a lot of what the rest of the world does, not just in resources, but in development.
I think the game of golf, and I cross my fingers, we'll get in the Olympics. If golf gets in the Olympics, look out the rest of the world. I think golf will really take off in China. The growth in China right now is like 50 percent a year in the number of players. They estimate by 2020 there will be 26 million golfers in China; that's more than the United States or anywhere else. So if we all study what's happening in China, then golf, all of us are going to be much better off and there will probably be more events there and it will be a destination to go.
You have to put ideological thoughts and opinions aside; you have to see where the growth of our game is going to go. And that goes into a lot of places. We see development in the Far East. We see right now Vietnam is doing very good. We see Laos and Cambodia. Who would think going back a few years ago, back when we all know, and that's the same thing; I'm building three golf courses in Vietnam, one in Da Nang and one on China Beach. And you think oh, my gosh, you only have to go back in a period of time, and you think these are all American dollars coming in.
And it goes to show you time is a great healer for many things, just what happened in Japan and Germany and stuff. Same thing will happen in the rest of the world. We'll all work our way through it.
I haven't seen -- I've been through three of them, but nothing to this magnitude. But to sit back and talk to the people who have really, really experienced it, it's not good out there, especially in the United States. But in our world and the world of sport I think we're very lucky to be in the position we are in.
I wouldn't want to be in Commissioner Finchem's shoes or Peter Dawson's shoes, because it's got to be tough to get corporate dollars to come and support us. But we have a great product, and that's the game of golf. British Open is a great tournament so people will still be there. We still fill up the media room and we still talk about it, and there's controversy and there's not, and there's good stories. So we just have to fight for it.
I feel for everybody in this world with the recession, where every one of us has been affected to some degree. It's one of those things, we have to suck it up and go forward with it.
Q. Can you comment on what happened with your involvement there --
GREG NORMAN: Well, I had a very small part of MacGregor. People thought I owned it outright, but I did not, I only had a small percentage. And there was a management buyout. There was a management buyout in the UK and in the United States. We still owned the intellectual property up until a certain period of time, just recently, and we sold that off to a retailer.
It was a decision that the senior shareholders wanted to do. I supported it. The survivors in this game right now in the hard goods business, are Wall Street brands. The middle tier and the lower tier brands are going to get killed, because the Wall Street, being the Nikes and the Callaways and those guys, and the Acushnets of the world, they've got the volume and they've got the penetration to be able to survive through this. But the mid-tier brands or the smaller brands, they're going to have a harder time. And that's where we kind of saw the writing on the wall and we got out while we could.
Q. You attributed a lot of your success at the Open last year to your newly married status. 12 months on, is life still as good, and is that putting a spring in your golf game?
GREG NORMAN: You guys are really good, because we still have the spring in our step, still play tennis every day. I'm actually getting better, she's probably getting slower. (Laughter.) No, it's all great. Thank you. We've had a great 12 months. It's gone by so fast.
We look back on it and go wow, 12 months ago this is where we are, and that's why, you have to enjoy it while you can, because time travels so fast nowadays. And in that time period we've seen a lot of people get married and a lot of people pass away. You just appreciate what you've got while you've got it.
Q. Have you beaten her at tennis yet?
GREG NORMAN: I take one or two points off her, but when she wants to win five or six or ten in a row, she can do that easily, too. No, we still play every day as much as we can.
Q. Your you talked about looking ahead for St. Andrews next year and finding that enticing. I'm wondering this week, too, the nature of this place is it's a shot-makers' course. Course management skills are also important. Does that play into the hands of the more experienced players?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, absolutely. I kind of answered that question a little bit earlier. It does. Really it's -- you call it a shot-makers', it's a player who can visualise a shot and execute that shot that he wants to see every time.
There's not really an easy shot out here on this golf course. Right from the very first tee shot you've got land mines out there waiting to grab you. So you have to position yourself. You can tee it off with a 5-iron, like today is probably a 5- or 6-iron off the tee and probably a wedge into the green. But you have to make sure you put that 5- or 6-iron on the fairway, because there's no worse feeling than laying up with a 5-iron and you make a bogey. So it gets you right from the getgo.
There's no really easy -- you turn back into the wind on No. 2, and what is it, 480, 485, and it's probably one of the tightest driving holes out there. So right from the getgo you have to put your thinking cap on, and the experienced players know that.
BERNIE McGUIRE: Thanks for joining us, and we all wish you very well this week.
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