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December 8, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Like to welcome into the interview room here at the Merrill Lynch Shootout, Greg Norman and Bubba Watson. Greg, we'll start with you. Great playing out there today by the team, and this guy was golfing his ball, wasn't he?
GREG NORMAN: He certainly was. I was just long for the ride. I was just trying to be Mr. Steady Eddie because you could see that Bubba was in the zone today and was really dialed in with his driver.
He was never swinging outside of his capabilities. The ball was under -- especially with his short irons. He was hitting the ball the right distance all the time. Yesterday he started to hit few really solid putts where the ball was coming out of the top of his putter and the ball was tracking extremely well.
In that situation all I can do is being a support team. Unfortunately I let him down on the 14th hole when I 3-putted for par when he was slapping it around in the water a little bit. That was our only hiccup where we really didn't gel perfectly on one hole.
THE MODERATOR: Bubba, talk a little bit about playing with Greg and how he's helping you this week with your nerves, putting you in a comfort zone out there.
BUBBA WATSON: He helped build the course, so on the greens he's a good help. He tells me what he thinks and, you know, he tells me when my stroke looks good. I don't know if he's just lying to me, but he's making me feel good. I'm hitting the putts where I want to, and on the last hole there I thought I was going to make it.
Just barely perfect speed I thought and just didn't fall in. That was the only putt I thought in two days that I thought I should have made -- that I thought was going in. Not should have made.
Overall I've putted well and the nerves are starting to wear off a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: Two shots back going into tomorrow's round. Comment about what's before the team.
GREG NORMAN: Well, tomorrow our chances are pretty good, considering Bubba drives it out there so far. It's nice when you can talk walk up -- for me to be able to walk up 50 yards and have another shot. So that's about four or five clubs out of my bag less that I can go at.
I quite honestly feel like I'm putting very, very well. So the two of us are putting well. We're going to be putting from the same place tomorrow and we're going to have a lot of good looks at it.
I'm sure again I'll get the ball in play on certain holes and let Bubba just try and rip it on the greens. With his accuracy and length I think we'll be able to dominate a lot of the holes.
It's the same for Calc and Woody. Those guys are long enough to dominate, too. Three shots might have been tougher than two shots, but right now two shots is not really much in a scramble.
We just got to go out there tomorrow and shoot something in the 60 or less would be a good score.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Greg, what's the one thing about Bubba's game that really impresses you?
GREG NORMAN: I haven't seen a guy like this since the days of Ballesteros, Trevino, probably a little bit of myself because I maneuver the ball a lot. I used to flight the ball tremendously high low, whatever I saw. You really don't see players these days with the technology that we have and the golf ball that we have do the things that Bubba does.
That's a unique talent, to say the least, because he told me that he goes out there and plays with one club when he goes out there sometimes. That's an art in itself because you're learning to play shots, hook shots, fade shots, hit them high and hit them low.
With that ability that he has and with the youth on his side, you know, I said to him today basically the world is his oyster because the door -- most of the time when we're looking for our first victory we try too hard and push ourselves too hard to get that first victory, but Bubba realizes all the talent that he has within himself that he doesn't have to go searching for it.
It's going to come to him, and it'll probably come to him a lot quicker because of the physical ability he has to play shots. I cannot overemphasize that enough. I haven't seen anybody in this era -- I know Tiger is a great player. Bubba said he plays a lot of practice rounds with Tiger. Tiger likes to maneuver the ball. I bet he doesn't maneuver the ball as much as this guy does in visualizing.
His greatest asset is his ball flight. He's got a beautiful ball flight with every club, whether it's a sand wedge or a driver.
Q. You said that his length and his accuracy. When you are on top of your game that's what a lot of people said about you. There wasn't probably anybody that drove the ball straighter and longer than you did.
GREG NORMAN: Well, that opens up your game. If you're and extremely long driver of the golf ball and you're accurate you play the Par 5s like a Par 4. So therefore, when you used to go out there and play -- and as with Bubba -- 68 is really your par, and Tiger is probably the same way. 68 is his par. If the Par is 70, obviously 68 is still your par because there's two Par 5s out there.
So you always knew that you had an edge. I always believed that if I was driving the ball great that would open up my aggressive play with my irons. And even if I mishit my driver in the rough, you're far enough down there anyway and you're strong enough anyway to get it out of the rough with a sand wedge, 7-iron, 9-iron, when everybody else is trying to get out with a 7-, 8-iron, 6-iron.
So again, you still have that advantage. So even though the golf course is being lengthened to 7,500 yards, you know, it's always relative to the distance these guys are hitting it. It's a huge, huge advantage as long as you manage the rest of your game to fit in what you do with your driver.
Q. Bubba, this is quite something to hear this from somebody that's been 333 weeks No. 1 in the world. What are you learning from him?
BUBBA WATSON: Just everything. The way he handles himself. I'm not big on techniques and swings, so I'm just watching how he walks throughout course, how he thanks everybody for helping out this week and thanks the fans for showing up to be here to watch us.
Everything. How he carries his life and he just walks through anywhere and just says hello to everybody and thanks everybody. That's something you can learn by. Who cares about winning the golf tournament if you're not a good person? That's the way I live my life.
If I come in second six times in a row, that's a good year for me. The media is going say you need to win, but I'm going to say that's pretty good. Me and my wife can eat. But that's the way I look at it. Just learn from him and Tiger and Jack Nicklaus when I played in his tournament. That's what really impresses me the most.
I mean, with everything that he has going on in his life, all the business ventures he has, and he still has time to play golf and he loves being with his son. It's just great to see. It's nice that he can still do that and thank everybody.
GREG NORMAN: We got a big tennis match coming up.
BUBBA WATSON: I'm trying to butter him up.
Q. (No microphone.)
BUBBA WATSON: No, no.
GREG NORMAN: We both love to play tennis. I'm just a rookie at it, just started, and he's been playing for quite a while and enjoys it. So I've always wanted to have another sport to go to. It's a little late in my career. Jack Nicklaus played a lot tennis in his time off.
To me, I find tennis very complementary to the game of golf.
Q. You got a good looking coach, too?
GREG NORMAN: I got a beautiful coach.
Q. For both of you. First of all, Greg, with the tournament that you're hosting, is it hard to maintain your focus and concentration?
GREG NORMAN: Not really. We've been at it for 19 years now. First five to ten years were pretty tough trying to get everything in place. Right now with Taylor Ives and his crew who runs the tournament for me, works for me. He's at it 54 weeks a year now. So he's got it dialed in and takes all the pressure off everybody else around. He has it all on him.
Right now I don't. I mean, I have the evening functions I've got to do. Like tonight I've got to do two of them. You always have something to do. So those are the things after a long day you wouldn't mind just going back and putting your feet up and chilling out a little bit and laying in bed with Chrissie and watching a movie. Maybe not watch a movie. Maybe something else. (Laughter).
So, you know, but that's the only thing that's really an added burden on me.
Q. And for Bubba, was there anything Greg said to you during the course of the week it either help you relax or settle in?
BUBBA WATSON: I think I saw him for the first time late Thursday night this week, because he's so busy with all his functions and everything and his movies, obviously. So like I said yesterday, the first few holes we were paying it was different. I was nervous as all get out. I mean, I had him and Fred Couples, some of my idols going up, and then there was Daly who has won two majors. So I'm just trying to walk down the fairway and not trip. I'm just in awe of everybody.
But then on the back nine my caddie said, Hey, why don't you ask him to help you or something, get some team chemistry. Do something. Then we started rolling in -- I made a putt on 11 yesterday, and every since then giving each other high fives and pep talking each other.
Just like walking on 18 today I said, I need you one pore hole. Help me out. He goes, Okay, I'll help you out. He hit it right down the middle. We figured out that when he hits it down the middle I usually hit a good tee shot. Always when he messes up is when I struggle. So he hit it down the middle and he hit a good shot in there. Just flew with that wind.
But it's just being there and talking to me and treating me just like another person. That's a pleasure and an honor.
Q. Have you ever in this event gone into the scramble that you're the guy hitting getting out of the way for your partner?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, I can now relate to how I used to play back in the '80s and '90s. I never really paid attention because when you are known to be a long driver and when you do out-drive people, you just -- it's a beautiful feeling actually because you're actually ahead of everybody. So you got that extra period of time. By the time you get to the ball and wait for everybody to hit and you're far enough away to be in you get your quiet zone to prepare yourself. I relate to it bigtime.
It's a pleasure to sit there and watch somebody hit the golf ball that hard and see the flight of a golf ball. That's what pure golf is all about.
Q. Playing with Gregory last week help prepare you for that?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, Gregory out-drove me last week, so we'll see how that goes. 53 years old.
Q. You said that tomorrow you may not have to carry or you can eliminate four or five clubs in your bag. Does that mean Gregory doesn't get as much for that round tomorrow?
GREG NORMAN: I think he's still going to have to carry the full compliment of clubs, yeah.
Q. Bubba, the driving, they were especially commenting on 17 when they said it was a monster drive. Can you feel it when you're hitting one that's even longer than most?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah. I mean, anybody can feel it. Fred Funk knows when he hits his best. Comes off the club face a little bit sweeter. The best part is when it goes straight. As long as it's in that short grass, that's when you're loving it.
And my caddie tells me all the time, but I'm still learning the game. Like yesterday when I was trying to swing extra hard when he was in the fairway, that's not how I hit my best tee shots. Today he said, Bubba, just go out there and hit the little cut off the tee. You're going to be past everybody and everybody is going to like it. So today I did that and stayed in my own game and didn't try to show off.
GREG NORMAN: Where Bubba learned the secret, because his technique is so good and the ball striking is so good, all have to do is learn how to flush the ball. If you hit it dead squarer and dead perfect all the time, that ball's going to go further than when you're trying to hit it hard.
When you try to hit it hard you have a little bit of movement in your body. Might just mishit it a little bit. He can swing at it 80% and flush it 100% of the time and probably hit it as far 100% the time. Those are the things that he'll learn to be able to do that, especially with the driver.
Now with the irons he controls his eyes and never tries to hit a really hard iron unless he's trying to hit a really big hook. That's learning how to flush the golf ball, hit it square every time. And if he gets that, then you eliminate -- especially under pressure, and under pressure, don't care what sport you play, if you can place the ball in play by hitting the ball square every time, no matter whether it's tennis, golf, baseball, you'll get yourself into such a grove that you'll feel like you're bulletproof.
That's probably one secret that when he gets that right, everything else becomes so much easier for him.
Q. Greg was mentioning 14. When you were in the water like that does it every flash through your mind that you might pull an Aqua Man anything like that?
BUBBA WATSON: No. I feel like I have good balance so I don't feel like I'm going to fall over. I had to say that. They were telling me that yesterday on the air. No, I was trying to go for the green and I sliced it out of the water, but I never thought I was going fall over and do that.
Q. Helen asked you earlier about learning things from Greg while you're playing together, and I remember when Adam Scott won the Player's Championship. He credited Greg's lesson on chipping that enabled him to win that tournament. I was wondering specifics. Not just attitude. That's a lot, but are there any specific techniques?
BUBBA WATSON: There's no swing thoughts or anything like that, just basic techniques. You know, let your putter roll through at impact and roll through and not jerk it back and look up too quick. He was just telling me to putt through the ball and stroke it. It's common sense, but it's one of those things you don't get to see yourself putting. You do it and don't realize you're doing it.
You keep getting about mad that you're missing putts, and then he steps in and say, Just stroke through it and leave it there. Pose a little bit I guess you would say, and listen for it to go in. So I started making some putts, and I'm going to credit that to myself instead of him.
Q. It's been I think six years since your last victory, since '01. If that's correct, what would it mean to you to win this?
GREG NORMAN: Well, any win is a great win, no question about it. Did I ever think that I would be having a chance to win a golf tournament again? Probably not because I don't put the effort or practice schedule into it that I used to. It's not the fact that my desire is not there, it's just that I don't like to hit balls a lot anymore.
This week is -- quite honestly, when I play with Bubba it stimulates me. There were three or four holes where I kind of went on walkabouts. My mind just drifted away a little bit and I started thinking about things that were going on. It was tough.
But that's the problem. You know, tomorrow I -- Woody's back there shrugging his shoulders and listening to all the crap that we're telling him. You want to go hit balls? It would be great for me to do this tomorrow, and I would love to do it with Bubba. He's talked about winning, and a victory, no matter what position you are in life, is always a good feeling.
End of FastScripts