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December 10, 2009

Greg Norman


MARK WILLIAMS: Greg Norman, welcome to the interview room at The Shark Shootout. Your own tournament, tournament host. First of all, how about an update on the shoulder?
GREG NORMAN: Update on the shoulder. Well, it's been 12 weeks yesterday, I think it was, I'm not allowed to play or swing a golf club until the end of February, February to February. So really that's all I can say.
The shoulder feels great. I don't have any problems with it. You know, it's still a little tight. There's still some motion I need to get back into it. It was a pretty excessive procedure in the whole process, but the doctor likes where it is right now. It's right on track. It's not behind any schedule. It's not ahead of any schedule. I'm just biding time and see what happens with it come the end of February.
MARK WILLIAMS: Now, you've played in all 20 of these events. This is the 21st. Does it feel strange being here without playing? And also is there some advantages in being here without playing?
GREG NORMAN: I'd rather be playing. I can tell you that, because basically six hours of your day you enjoy being out there on the golf course, you enjoy being with your Pro Am participants. You enjoy engaging with everybody from a spectator standpoint, so it is unusual. It's a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.
And there's a few other things that get bolted on that you're not normally used to doing, but it all comes part and parcel. You have to make the adjustments for it, and I would much rather be playing. The hardest part for me was jumping in an airplane without a set of golf clubs.
MARK WILLIAMS: Let's have some questions. Gentlemen.

Q. Greg, what is it about this field that strikes you? Anybody stand out this year? You've got a couple of new players in there, obviously some players that have been here for years. Anybody stand out to you right now?
GREG NORMAN: I like to see what Rickie Fowler's been doing, I like to see what Kenny Perry's done and Steve Strickler. I think those are the three that really jumped, two of them, on the whole end of the spectrum, with Rickie and Kenny.
But then you look what Steve Stricker has done for himself over the last few years. He's really pulled himself up with world rankings and very impressed with his performance this year, consistency week in, week out. I thought his play at the Presidents Cup was phenomenal. I watched a lot of that and obviously he was partnered with Tiger for most of it, but at the end of the day I think those three guys really pop it for me.

Q. How much have you had a chance to see Rickie Fowler play?
GREG NORMAN: Watching The Golf Channel. That's about all I've done, and I would like to go out and watch him tomorrow. I'm going to see how his game is. I've spoken to a few players that have watched him, said he's got a tremendous play, a lot of speed. Technically I couldn't make that an honest assessment because I haven't seen either way.

Q. I heard he calls you Mr. Norman. Do you remember a similar time when you were calling -
GREG NORMAN: Oh, yeah. I called Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Watson and Mr. Floyd. Absolutely.

Q. Obviously this is a very important tournament for the Naples, Southwest Florida area, and you brought it back here for 10 years now. What is it about Southwest Florida and Naples in particular that draws you to this area?
GREG NORMAN: There's been a tremendous support from the local community. I knew back 10 years ago that it seemed like golf was a bit of a starved sport here from a spectator standpoint and from a PGA TOUR quality standard.
There was a senior event here. There had been a senior event here, but at the same time to get the magnitude of some of the players or the players in this field was a great bonus for this area. Naples has been a tremendous supporter, the Chamber of Commerce, I spent some time with them this week, they like it. So from a community standpoint and from a Merrill Lynch and our standpoint, you look at the wealth that's in this area.
I know it's been affected like a lot of other pockets in the United States have been affected, but at the end of the day this is a great community, great area, excuse me, Collier County has supported the game of golf on a phenomenal level with a number of residential golf course communities and quality golf course communities. And the value is here across the board.
So to stay here the way we have stayed here has been a great asset for us, and the Ritz-Carlton and just the whole ambiance around here is pretty hard to top anyway.

Q. Greg, I guess I'll get this one out of the way. The Tiger Woods story, has it settled down any in not just golf but in news in general. Just your thoughts or concerns about that and its impact on golf.
GREG NORMAN: Well, to be honest with you, today is the first day I've really caught up to speed with it. I've been in China, I've been in Australia, I've been in Europe, and quite honestly, I really didn't grasp hold of it all until today.
You watch CNBC and they're running things on it. You scan through most networks and they've got almost a ticker tape going down at the bottom of what's really taking place. And I feel sorry for Tiger, but he's gotta figure out his situation for himself personally.
From the game of golf I'm sure we'd like to see him back out there performing to the level he has played. He's been a great asset to the game and he'll continue to be that way. But from a personal perspective, I wish him well; I hope he sorts it out. Family is family, and nobody likes to be in that position and I'm sure he'll work it all out.

Q. Do professional golfers, being on the course, being a celebrity add pressure, make it difficult to be a professional golfer and ignore those things when you're married and continue on to be moral and faithful?
GREG NORMAN: No. We have great fan base out there whether they're male or females, and they come out and watch us and support us, and we respect them for that. And we give them their autographs, and we hit the golf ball the best way we can hit it. And at the end of the day our fan base is always going to be our fan base.

Q. What about from a sponsor standpoint and the health of the TOUR standpoint? How do you think this could affect it or how concerned do you think the TOUR should be?
GREG NORMAN: Just going on what I heard on the news from CNBC, that's the only thing I can relate to, to tell you the truth, and there's obviously some damage control that will have to be put in position and into place. There's no question about that. He is the leader of the pack.
He does represent the PGA TOUR. He does represent golf in a lot of ways, so will there be an impact. I really can't make a comment on that, but I'm sure there are people thinking about it, reacting about it, making assumptions, and what's it going to be like for the next year when he comes out and plays again or is he going to come out and play again.
There's all these speculations out there, and quite honestly, what is really the truth. Nobody is really going to know that until we know.

Q. Greg, I interviewed probably two-thirds of the field yesterday and asked them what they like about this tournament, and the two answers almost every one of them gave was the fact that it's your tournament and they like being a part of it because of you and also they spoke about Cure Search. Can you kind of talk about having that esteem among your peers and also the real benefit to Cure Search, such a great cause?
GREG NORMAN: Well, from a player's perspective I think the uniqueness about the PGA TOUR is that we're such loyal supporters to each other.
You know, there isn't a question that's asked from a player to a player, would you help me do something and we're always very willing to reciprocate if our schedule allows it. And the Merrill Lynch Shootout has evolved over a period of time from basically four players to what we have today, and it's the creation of this, I guess, formula of fun in a lot of ways where the players really enjoy it.
But at the same time I've taken the pressure off them by pairing them with their best friends or a great associate or great playing partner that they've played with in the past, and it's really their week. It's not my week. I just put all the stuff together for them to get to the first tee and enjoy it.
And obviously Cure Search has got a lot to do with it. I would venture to say that a lot of us have been touched somewhere across the realm of life of cancer touching somebody we may have known or do know or maybe even a family member.
It's a horrible disease, and especially -- doesn't matter if it affects anybody, from a child to an adult, more so when a child gets it, and I got involved with it from Dr. Richard Andrassy, he was head of pediatric surgery at M.D. Anderson in Houston, and I went in and watched him work on kids with cancer, kids so small and kids who have never seen green grass or seen the ocean or anything like that, so it was very easy for me to fall right into it and just make it my principal charity. It's been that way for a long, long -- 20-plus years now.
And the players feel it, and everybody has their favorite charity to go to, but when you really start touching with the kids, and especially like tonight when we have the dinner and one of the kids gets up and talks, that becomes a very touching moment because now it's a reality. And we've had some kids that have survived through the cancer sequence and others who haven't, too. There's some sad stories.
And that's the reality check, and that's the reason why we're here and when they see tonight and they're going to hear from a young kid tonight -- well, he's not a young kid. He's a college student, who's really passed through all this ugliness of cancer, and he's going to probably give a great speech tonight as well, so that'll touch everybody as well.

Q. Greg, where do you intend on playing next season, about the same as this year?
GREG NORMAN: That's going to be totally dependent on -- I can't work out. I haven't been able to work out for 12 weeks. I'm allowed to start hitting balls, but not a driver, by the end of February.
But I'm not physically in golf shape either, so I've gotta get my muscles back because if I went straight out there and started hitting balls like I've normally been practicing for years, I'd probably hurt something else. So I've gotta get myself into physical shape, which I'm not allowed to do until basically starting around Christmas time. And that's going to take me eight or ten weeks to do that physically, and then I've gotta start practicing, which will take me another eight to ten weeks, I'm assuming, to get my game back into shape because I haven't really played golf in it'll be nearly six or seven months by then. And it might come back quicker. Who knows. So I really have no idea what my schedule is going to be. It's floating out there. Just going to see how the comeback trail from basically April, May, June, how it's going to play out.

Q. There are a lot of people that said that your pick of Adam Scott in the Presidents Cup was as much to give him a shot in the arm as it was to help the team. Having said that, how did you feel watching Adam Scott win the Australian Open?
GREG NORMAN: I was very proud of him, number one. He was very nervous coming down the stretch, which he should be. I think that's what he misses the most, that internal want and desires to go win and execute.
But extremely happy for him. He needed it. He knew he needed it. A lot of pressure on him because he had to get in the Top 50 to get in the Masters, and you know the story down there.
So there's a lot more than just winning on his home country soil for the first time, and I had dinner with him the night before because it was Tony Navarro's 50th birthday. That was Saturday night. We all sat down and had a quiet dinner. He was very relaxed. You could see in his eyes. He wasn't anywhere near, oh, my gosh, tomorrow's a big day for me. He was like, okay, let's have dinner with Tony.
So I felt good for him going into it. He still had to pull it off. It wasn't an easy day, it's not an easy golf course, and I think this is the catalyst for him to go forward. Confidence is everything, and I always knew and he always knows and you know from being a commentator in the game and the media how great a player he has been and can be and will be. It's just a matter of putting the key in the door and just turning it all the way and unlocking it, and I think he's on the right road now.

Q. There were stories of Jack Nicklaus coming to you on the eve of your British Open victory and just talking to you and reminding you about your brick pressure. Have you had a similar moment like that with a young player?

Q. With Adam, or any young player.
GREG NORMAN: No, not really. Words of encouragement.

Q. Yes.
GREG NORMAN: More than anything than specifically, hey, focus in on great pressure like Jack did with me.
If I see the opportunity, I will take it and then I will throw it out to them. I really enjoyed working with -- not working with, but being around Ishikawa at the Presidents Cup. One of the kids that's probably more mature beyond his years, but just to be able to converse with him and talk about certain things about golf and what the Presidents Cup was all about and what it meant. I enjoyed that four or five days with him.

Q. Greg, what you did at Birkdale and Kenny Perry at Augusta this year and Watson. Players nowadays are much stronger than they were way back when. Do you foresee the record being broken for and obviously a major? In other words, do you foresee longevity in the game coming, and we might see that record being broken?
GREG NORMAN: Definitely. I think St. Andrews might be a great opportunity this year. But then again, on the flip side of that, to be a bit of a contrarian, you are starting to see more injuries in players nowadays at 35 to 45 than we had in the past, and those injuries are coming because we are physically stronger and we got more body speed, and the joints aren't really any different than what Mother Nature gave you.
So we're loading up, like a football player, loading up with physical strength and so fast, and yet when they make those moves or get caught in a certain angle, the weakest joint always fails, and for us we're finding that because the golfers out there, Tiger is a prime example with his knee, that snap of his knee to get all that power.
I'm a bit of a prime example of that, too. I've been a pretty fit guy my whole life and had a lot of flexibility, probably too much flexibility, and the weakest joints pay the price.
And there is a bit of case study on that now. So as a contrarian, you say where does this balance out. You talk to the younger generations, the really young kids and make sure that they understand this, and there is a fine line about how big and strong you need to be and how much power you truly need to have in the game of golf.
I think we're kind of like hitting the glass ceiling with that now because power is an asset but at the same time how much more are you going to really get out of the game? Maybe three, four, five yards, so you gotta balance your body after that.
But again, going to the positive side of it, the answer is yes because I think as the players go through their physical conditioning and they learn to manage that process, I think the older you get, the better off you are going to become because you're going to have the experience and the knowledge and technology on your side to be able to do it.
But it's only going to happen on certain golf courses, too.

Q. Given that you're assured of the governors, would you take advantage of the new iron rule and play St. Andrews next year?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Q. How has the injury affected your motivation? Are you recuperating just to enjoy the game or is there still a hunger to want to win again and get in the mix again like you did at the British?
GREG NORMAN: I don't know. I can't answer that question, to tell you the truth because I haven't been able to go out and hit balls with the new shoulder basically.
I played for quite a few years with my shoulder popping out of the socket, and really, I could feel it and it was affecting my swing, obviously.
And now my doctor says I'm going to have a much tighter swing. My shoulder here is going to be a lot more supportive of my golf swing, especially at the top of my swing, so I don't know what to expect, to tell you the truth.
And to get out there and really practice and get yourself back to that level, it takes a lot of work, takes a lot of commitment and dedication. I'm going to be 55 next year. I'm not going to be 45.
So it's going to be a different mental approach. I know I am going to have to make a different mental approach. At the same time this time away from the game as a player has allowed me to focus on a lot of other things, from the development and the growth of my business on a global basis. I've traveled quite extensively in the last couple months and seen what's happening in the globe, whether it's India, whether it's China, whether it's South America, and there's tremendous opportunities for the game of golf that I can see myself playing out over the next 10 or 15 years, which is probably just as valuable to me and to the game than me just getting out there putting a tee in the first tee and just hitting it.
So there's a lot of balancing, and I'm not trying to give you a little guessing game here, but I really don't have a definitive answer or a definitive direction of where it's going to go until I know what it's going to be like in basically April or May.

Q. Who are you using right now, Greg, as a training partner or somebody that's helping you along? Are you planning after the rehabilitation, who will be helping you along with your swing?
GREG NORMAN: I'm actually working with Jimmy McLean down in Miami, Doral. I started working with him about a year ago, maybe a little bit longer ago. And we keep in touch, so I'm sure that as we get back to the position of, okay -- and it's really a fine line because the way you put your elbow by an inch or three-quarters of an inch in the position right here makes a big difference of where your hands are at the top, and that's where I'm going because my elbow started going this way because my shoulder kept popping out of my joint. And I'm sure if you went and looked at my swing, you could see it going in here and that's because my shoulder was giving way, couldn't support it.

Q. So you are you anticipating maybe a possible swing change?
GREG NORMAN: Or maybe more going back to the way I used to swing. Who knows.

Q. Is there a team out here this weekend that you see as a favorite to win?
GREG NORMAN: No, I don't actually. I think it's a fairly balanced field, to tell you the truth. I don't think anybody's really standing out. I'm sorry Scott Hoch couldn't be here obviously, with Kenny, but at the end of the day I think they're all fairly equal. And it's like anything, what happens tomorrow is what's really going to set up what happens on Sunday.

Q. If we were forcing you to bet money on one team, what would that team be?
GREG NORMAN: I don't gamble. It's against PGA TOUR regulations.

Q. Greg, can you talk about Morgan Lee being involved in the family business? How much is she and how is she and what does that mean to you?
GREG NORMAN: Very proud of her. She just got promoted to global marketing manager of my wines, and I spent time with her in Australia. We went to some meetings about the growth of the wine, my wine, not any -- we have never launched in Australia. We've always exported to the United States.
So we're going to launch it in Australia, probably go into China. We've got South America on our radar screen as well, so when you start looking at this, when you look at India, China and South America, they make up for over 50 percent of the population in the world in their three countries. Well, South America is a continent.
But when you look at that, you have tremendous opportunities, and she's been -- I'm proud of her, because she's really taken the initiative. She's very passionate about our business, but at the same time I try and balance her success and business with her having a social life, too. It's one of the real dichotomies of success in a lot of ways, and I want to make sure that she still gets out there and has fun as a 27-year-old good-looking young girl.
MARK WILLIAMS: Okay. We appreciate you coming in, Greg, thanks for the time and all the best for a successful week.
GREG NORMAN: Thanks, man.

End of FastScripts

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