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July 22, 2009

Greg Norman


STEVE TODD: Greg, thanks for coming in, straight off the course there in Sunningdale. How did you find it?
GREG NORMAN: Nothing's changed. Absolutely magnificent. I love playing Sunningdale. It's one of the smartest moves I think from the R&A's perspective, for MasterCard, for Sunningdale to bring the tournament here.
I know there's people saying, well, it's a Senior British Open, they should be playing on a links golf course. But at the same time, I think Sunningdale at the end of the week is going to surprise a lot of people. I think it's going to be a great venue. There will be a lot of people coming out here. They will get a tremendous amount of support.
So it's a positive move. And I like the golf course, anyway. I spent many a year living just down the road from the clubhouse, so I know it well.
STEVE TODD: You obviously won here back in 1996, The European Open obviously, does that help coming back to a course you know, obviously it's changed a bit since then, but good memories?
GREG NORMAN: Some very good memories. It has not changed that much to tell you the truth. It's playing shorter. Holes I used to be hitting 4-irons and 5-irons into, now you're hitting 8-irons and 9-irons. But it's still got its character. Every time you walk on the tee, it looks beautiful, sets up nice, you have to know where you're going and how to play it. It's a golf course I've always enjoyed playing.
STEVE TODD: Am I correct to thinking you might have gone back to a putter from the old days, as well?
GREG NORMAN: I've used that putter on and off for the last couple of years. Well, I've had it 40 years or 39 years. Putted with it for a long time, a long period of time. I've been putting with it for most of this year now, anyway.
STEVE TODD: It's served you well over the years, obviously. What do you think of your chances coming into this week?
GREG NORMAN: A little better now. I played disappointingly last week. I wasn't really in 100 per cent health to play well last week, and it showed. This week, I'm feeling better, stronger. I'm starting to hit the ball a lot more solid and crisper.
So hopefully if I keep this momentum going I've had the last two rounds, this will give me a chance to perform well here.
STEVE TODD: And the fifth last year at Royal Troon, you obviously came in with a lot of pressure following The Open, and this is obviously a different challenge again, you've got a good record in this event.
GREG NORMAN: Well, yeah, doesn't matter what happens the week before, the past week. You just have to go on. This week is a new week. You have to perform well and play well. It's your pride and it's your profession. Doesn't matter. I'm sure Tom's going to feel a little bit of a letdown, but I'm sure come the weekend, he'll be back in full stride.

Q. You've been paired with Tom Watson the first two days, just your thoughts on what he did, after what you did yourself at Royal Troon the year before?
GREG NORMAN: I thought it was a tremendous performance. I think 99.9 percent of people in the world of golf were pulling for Tom to win. That's no slight on Stewart Cink. I'm sure Stewart felt that way himself. When he got into the playoff, he had to do his own thing, which he did a tremendous job with, the way he performed in the playoff.
But when you get somebody of that stature who has been around the game for as long as Tom has done, and being what he has done in the game, it makes it that much more of an emotional event when he puts himself in that position.
And quite honestly, when he hit the fairway on the 18th, I thought he was going to win it. Like I said to him, I was gut-wrenched for him. I was really hoping he would win, because it would be great for the game of golf.

Q. What does it say about the standard overall, that a man of 59 can do what Tom did last week?
GREG NORMAN: I think it's a testament to the game, it really is. You know, I think it's an eye-opener for a lot of young kids out there who are probably 16 to 20 years old right now thinking their game is frustrating and not really getting anything out of it. If you just keep persevering and you keep your game in the solid shape -- and keep your body in solid shape, too. It's going to wear down after a period of time, but it goes to show you technology helps, but experience also helps.
And I think like I said, it's a testament to -- well, not only to Tom, but to our game to show the fact that you can go -- and I truly believe somebody post-50 is going to win a major championship here very, very shortly. It may not happen on a golf course like Bethpage Black. It may not happen on a golf course like Augusta National in April when it's cold and wet and damp, but it will happen at the PGA Championship. It will happen at a British Open somewhere down the line.
Look at St. Andrews next year. I mean, I don't think they can lengthen it much more than what they have done. No rough there. Going by the way we played there a couple of years ago, everybody is driving four greens a round, five greens a round average; there's going to be the possibility of that happening next year. I think what Tom did just accelerates the process in the mind of a lot of guys post-50.

Q. Why is it that one year you can do it, and the next year he can go even better? Why aren't 25- to 40-year-olds doing it? I'm putting you in a slightly difficult position because you don't want to blow your own trumpet, but what I'm hoping you'll say is that you are better than they will.
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, I can just see the headline. (Laughter).
No, I think everybody has got the skills to do it. Everybody has. But I think it's probably more that when I did it last year, it opened up a lot of people's eyes. Probably even Tom said to me, when we had a practise round on Monday, he said, you stimulated me last year, you pushed me, you did it, I want to do it.
You know, naturally, I don't mind saying this one. We were having different we are Tom, Hilary, Chrissie and myself on Monday night and Chrissie asked Tom the question, she said, "What would mean more to you, winning the Senior British Open or doing well at the British Open?"
And Tom said, "You've got to be kidding? The British Open." He said, "I would rather win, finish second, third or fourth at the British Open than the Senior British Open."
And it's logical. Why? Because the British Open is the British Open. It's the greatest championship on the planet in our mind, and so I actually called and left him a message. I said, "Remember your comment on Monday night?" But see, it was in his mind. He believed he could do it.

Q. And you said the same thing to your own wife?
GREG NORMAN: I said the same thing. And that's no slight on the Senior British Open. It just shows the intensity and the magnitude of what the British Open means to us and the challenge of the type of golf course we play.
So I probably stimulated him last year, and he stimulated himself this year, that and Monday night, and there it was.

Q. After the grooves change, do you think that will bring more stroke-makers, more shot-makers back into the game is this?
GREG NORMAN: Absolutely.

Q. So you still think --
GREG NORMAN: I'll give you another comment made by another astute major championship winner, Andy North. Andy North said to both Tom and I when we were playing, he walked around with us, he said, "You two should be out there playing every tournament at start of next year, because it will take six months for these kids to figure out how to play with these new clubs." V-groove clubs will definitely show the difference between a shot-maker and an average just power player, because now you have to think about the shots you're going to hit.
Now you have to think about how hard you've got to hit that ball out of the semi-rough. Even at Turnberry, or even around here, some of this wispy grass here, the ball will go 30, 40 yards further than what these guys think. They will have to make the adjustment. I don't know if they are doing it now. If I was them, I would be doing it now. I would be playing the last part of the year with the new grooves for 2010, no question about it, because it's going to be a dramatic change to the game, and a great one, too, it really is. It's a positive move.

Q. Tom Lehman made a very good point, he said the difference between you guys, and the new breed, is like a pitcher: They have got one great pitch, and you have got four or five; in other words, you have four or five ways of taming that golf course. They excel at playing one way. When it comes to having to do like they did at Birkdale in that wind or this week, they don't have so many ways of playing.
GREG NORMAN: Well, there's two reasons for that. One, the equipment has established their game that way. Because the equipment really is designed to hit the ball high and hit the ball straight. It's very difficult to maneuver these perimeter-weighted golf clubs that a lot of these guys use.
So they get up there in perfect conditions in the United States, or even around here at Sunningdale when there's no wind, they bomb it; it's bomb's away. Hit it dead straight and the ball is going to go dead straight.
Now, you bring in the cross-breeze like at Turnberry, every hole is a cross-breeze hole. Even the 14th was just a little hurting left-to-right, but it was more into you. You just don't get up there and hit it high and let that wind take it, because now all of a sudden you've got reverse roll fairways and the ball is going to roll off or in a bunker somewhere, and now all of a sudden, these guys teeing off with 3-irons 470-, 480-yard holes, they are going to get it in play and the whole game changes.
Different from when we played. Most of us drove the golf ball a lot, because we were maneuvering the golf ball. We can hook it back into the wind, hold it back into the wind. I'm not saying the guys can't do it now, but the equipment doesn't allow them the flexibility to do it the way we did.
So with that, with the equipment and the younger generation, they have never seen a Persimmon driver, they have never seen V-groove golf clubs or the old balata golf ball. So they have honed their game and technique around the equipment they have got today.
The old players, like myself and Watson and all of the guys here, we have gone through that transition of time, and we have had that ability to actually change our game to a degree, to not change our game. And we have also seen what the equipment has done to the game of golf and to some of these golf courses we play, because we have been out here 30 years. That's why it's good when they start rolling the clock back a little bit on technology, it's actually for the benefit of the game because you are bringing the art of the game of golf back to the game.

Q. They've never seen someone like Seve in an awkward positioning being able to play some weird shot that you would never expect, because he was doing all of those, getting in funny positions and having the vision and skills to be able to play it.
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, we did practise and we used to practise in the rain, and we used to practise awkward lies, downhill lies, stuff like that, every part of the game.
Like I said, technology doesn't allow you to do that, because it's very difficult nowadays to hit some of these shots we did hit with those 5-irons and stuff. Growing up not seeing it, you're never going to see it. If you grow up practising and seeing that shot, it's always embedded in your system, so it's easy to pull it out.

Q. I was going to ask you about this week's tournament, the Senior Open Championship, many great names from the game of golf taking part, what your thoughts are on the field and also the course, as well.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I haven't seen the field to tell you the truth. I just see my starting time. But I'm sure the field is a good one. I know back at the Senior PGA Championship when we played in Cleveland, Ohio, a lot of the guys came up to me and asked me about Sunningdale: "Have you ever played Sunningdale, do you know about Sunningdale, is it worth going there."
I said, "You're crazy if you don't." I've seen a couple of players here who asked me that question back then. Hopefully they came here because of that, or maybe they came here because of the Senior British Open anyway. But I'm assuming the field is strong, it always is.
STEVE TODD: Strongest they have had.
GREG NORMAN: Strongest they have had? That's a testament to the guys at Sunningdale; the location, it's a great location, right near Heathrow airport, accommodation is good, food is good, atmosphere is good. Makes a lot of sense.

Q. Do you think Carnoustie next year will attract the same type of field?
GREG NORMAN: I would say so because of the history of some great tournaments being at Carnoustie. I think it's necessary they go back. I would like to see something like a move on the rotation to a golf course like a Sunningdale maybe every five to seven years.
I think we have to stay links predominately, no question, but Carnoustie has got a great reputation, I know that. Tough golf course. So from St. Andrews to Carnoustie, that's an easy one for us next year, it really is. That's a no-brainer. It actually makes it even better for me.

Q. Going back to the previous subject, assuming shot-making comes back into the game to an extent next year, what sort of guys do you see prospering, and who will we never hear from again?
GREG NORMAN: That's a hard one for me to answer. I heard Tiger Woods is already playing with the new grooves for next year. So he's obviously trying to get a jump on it. Smart move. But you would expect that. If I was in Tiger's shoes, or if I was one of the leading players, I would be doing that now, too. So depends on who is willing to accept it and make the adjustments fast enough to do it.
Every great player has that ability. It's just a matter of getting on it straightaway. So to name names would be tough on me because I really don't know the names of the players up there. Like I said, they are all great shot-makers. It's just that shot-making now is going to go to another level, and that's going to test their mental skills, imagination, and feel for the game of golf, as well.

Q. You have no question in your mind that he can do it?
GREG NORMAN: No, no question in my mind. If everybody just played with their regular clubs, 2009 clubs up until January 1 and they changed, I would assume that pretty much everybody has made the transition by April. It really doesn't take that long. It's just when you come to a British Open, or you come to a Turnberry, or you come to a golf course that's really fiery, and wispy grass, and you've never experienced that before, now you'll have some question marks. Because you know the ball is going to fly, and you might be used to seeing it fly eight or ten yards in the lush grass in America. You come here, that ball will fly 30 yards. I've seen it; I've experienced it; I've done it. Sometimes on a shot, you just hit the ball as far as you can with a 5-iron with V-groove clubs. And if you don't know it, and it comes; see ya.

Q. Do you think that it will make a difference between Tiger and the rest of the field?
GREG NORMAN: Depends on how quickly everybody adapts to it. If the rumours are true that Tiger is out there using the new grooves, then you know, he's obviously preparing himself to be ahead of the game by January 1.

Q. Would that be wrong to say that you've played this course a hundred times, or that would be an underestimate?
GREG NORMAN: It would be a minimum I would say.

Q. So 200?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, I don't know. Now you're pushing it. But I used to live right here. Michael King and Sam Torrance and all those guys, we used to play here a lot, between here and Wentworth and a little bit of Swinley Forest, all around here, we just messed around and played.

Q. A tee shot of yours on the 6th hole in The European Open, do you remember the worm popping up in front of you?
GREG NORMAN: Don't remember that. (Laughter).

Q. You gave us a good story.
GREG NORMAN: I don't remember that. See, I'm too old to remember that. (Laughter)
STEVE TODD: Thanks a lot.

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