What they said: Greg Norman

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February 29, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

GARY FERMAN: We welcome Greg Norman. Greg is here to play in the Pro-Am today. If you want to make an opening statement about being here today.

GREG NORMAN: It never rains in Florida. Never had that. No, obviously, I'm here because Ken Kennerly asked me to come and play in the celebrity division in the Pro-Am.

Originally, I had intended to play the golf tournament. Honda sent me an invitation to play but unfortunately I have a family commitment on the weekend that I could not get out of and could not move and obviously I could not play the golf tournament. But when he asked me to play in the Pro� Am, I was very, very happy to come and do it for him.

Q. When Tiger was finding a place to play -- (Inaudible.)

GREG NORMAN: Look, any golfer of that high level of quality of player is looking for a place where he can have peace and quiet.

The type of golf course Medalist is, it's a great player's golf course. You have to drive the golf ball extremely well around there. There's not a whole lot of rough, so you are working on a lot of feel, bump-and-run shots.

And the quality of the number of PGA TOUR professionals out there, I think there's 31 that are members of Medalist Golf Club now; Tiger goes there, he's like any other member. He gets treated exactly the same way. He likes the facility. He does a lot of practice. His practice time away, it's either early in the morning or in the afternoon from what I understand, so he feels very, very comfortable there.

Q. Do you ever see him there yourself??

GREG NORMAN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I've seen him on the range and I've seen him going to the first tee. Like a lot of the TOUR players that are members there, they like to play the golf course. I know Rickie would run around there and probably play 54 holes in a day. Hank Kuehne is the same way and I know Tiger likes to play. These guys like to get out there.

The golf course does challenge you. It's a windy, exposed golf course. It has some length to it and a lot of variety of shots you can play from downwind into the wind, elevated greens. So you're really challenged for your second shots a lot of times. I think that's why they enjoy just going around the golf course.

Q. Not Presidents Cup related --

GREG NORMAN: Come on, Alex, I was waiting for it.

Q. Jack was in here talking about the fact that the fields now, younger guys in the field in general are probably stronger than three or four years ago, and for someone like Tiger, who has basically taken a couple of years off to come back -- would you talk about your thoughts on the same subject??

GREG NORMAN: Well, I agree with Jack 100 percent. When you take two years off or three years off, these kids get younger, you get older. There's no question about it.

The hard thing from a player's perspective of the upper echelon when you've been there, your body has never betrayed you. When you get up and play every day, you know you can just go to the first tee without even a practice swing and you can swing away with a driver. The older you get, the body is telling you, there's a few more ailments, a few more aches and pains, a tweak here, a tweak there.

So we have to be a lot more sensitive on that approach. So these young kids come along, they don't have all that yet. So they have the ability to just get out there and play, play, play. So you do feel the older you get, the younger they become. Obviously with the time lag of Tiger not being out there, these kids got more confident. They are winning golf tournaments and they are getting the flavor of what it was like to win on a regular basis.

So the intimidation factor all of a sudden gets chipped away a little bit. So when they walk to the first tee -- and it's been interesting. I read -- I follow golf now more than I've ever followed it, in the media, I'm watching Golf Channel and reading magazines. It's interesting reading the comments about some of the players that say, I can beat Tiger. You can go back five or six years and they would not be saying that. They would be saying who is going to finish second.

There's nothing wrong with that. I admire a player who feels like he can go out and compete against a great player and feel he can win. That intimidation factor has been chipped away and I think it's extremely healthy for the game of golf, too, that the young players feel they can be up there on a regular basis.

Q. The other day Commissioner Finchem went on television and said the game of golf is growing; are you finding that to be the case??

GREG NORMAN: It's not growing in the United States, I can tell you that. I think it's growing on -- not I think; I know it's growing on a global basis. To see the development -- we can walk through the geography, if you would like. Geographically, China, they are still trying to work out the moratorium on golf course construction there. But there are so many Chinese who love to play. When you think about the number of expats, Chinese, around the world who love to play the game of golf, there's a mine of potential there for the development and growth. So mom and dad play, the children play, and this is just from the expat standpoint.

Then you look at what's happening in India, the price of land in India is probably the most expensive in the world to build golf courses, but we are building golf courses. People want to build golf courses in India because of the boom and the success in the financial world and the economy of a lot of the Indians.

So golf is getting a bit of a push there. Vietnam is huge; Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, you can go through the Southeast Asia rim; Australia is churning away fantastically well.

There are pockets in world like the United States, it will come back, no question, we will flush through this inventory of too much golf course real estate properties and too much golf. Last year they closed down 161 golf courses in, what was it, not so long ago, they were building 400 a year so they had this reversal.

So that will equalize itself pretty soon and the United States will get -- there's so much cash sitting on the side here waiting to be injected, the timing has to be right for them and then you have South America, Central America, México, Brazil, Argentina, even Chile, Peru, there's so much activity now towards the game of golf.

Commissioner Finchem is right, the game of golf is growing at such an incredible rate outside the United States, and it will probably slow down too, outside the United States and the United States will pick up and that counter balance will take place. We saw it in the 80s with Japan. We don't have to wind the clock back too far to see what happened with that.

There's always checks and balances around the world. I'll be fascinated to see what happens in Brazil with golf being in the Olympics in 2016. I think it's going to be a huge shot in the arm but how it comes back in legacy post the Olympics; that's going to be the interesting one to see how the development of the game continues up to that.

Q. As the best player in the game, you were highly scrutinized, what's the challenge in dealing with that, especially when things are not going well.

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think we all have our own ways of handling it. I don't know how Tiger handled it but he knows he's been there before, he understands it's part of the position you put yourself in. When you are sitting up at the top of the pedestal, everyone else is throwing rocks at you. Some are softballs and some are hardballs. It's just how you react to them.

I think it's a great place to be and you're obviously where you try to get yourself to be in the beginning. I think Tiger has done a great job of handling it to tell you the truth, and I'm only seeing what I read. His intensity is there. He wants to be back and he wants to be back to the position he used to be. Will he get there? I don't know. I think going to what Alex was saying, the growth of the youth of the game in the 20s, early 20s, is going to be a stimulant for Tiger. It's easy for him to think back at his age, ten or 12 years, and say, that's where I was, I would like to get back there.

It becomes a catalyst for spurning himself onto become better and better and better, and right now, from what I see and what I'm reading, that's what he wants to do and what I see at the medalist golf club, that's what he want to do. He wants to practice and get better and get out there and compete and win. Look, he'll win again; the big question is will he win at the regular pace and regular level ten, 12, eight, nine tournaments a year that he's done so consistently well for so long. That's the big question.

Q. Might not be the best guy to ask this, because I don't remember you going through any slumps with your putter, but Tiger is in kind of a spot right now where that is sort of the main point of analysis with his game. Wondering, what's it like when you're a world No. 1 or former world No. 1, and just not going in the hole anymore no matter what you try and you're naked out there in your own little island and everyone is watching??

GREG NORMAN: That's the worst part about it; you're exposed. One of the comments I read, I think it was Pebble Beach, you could never see a ball going in the hole. That's the secret of putting well. You actually visualize the ball going in the hole. Why he's in that state, I don't know. That's more of a mental thing.

I've seen a few physical differences with his putting stroke, because I'm a playing and I've got an eye for it. But I can see occasionally like at the Match Play, you could see the swing of the putter was not exactly the same as it was the first day as it was on the last day. Is that a technique or is that tension or who knows, or is that a mental block.

We all hate being in that position. When you see someone at the top the game -- I love watching the best do the best. When you see the best struggling, you feel for them because you know what it's doing to them inside, and every five� foot putt he misses, you feel like another nail might be going in that gets a little bit deep and a little bit harder. You feel for him.

Look, I felt the same for Ian Baker-Finch, even with Nick Faldo at times and Severiano Ballesteros when he went through a bad time. We all feel for it and how do we help the person get out best we can. John Daly; we all tried to reach down to John when he was completely down and out, and all for different reasons. Because you just don't want to see somebody in a lot of pain, which Tiger doesn't like it. So he'll figure it out.

Q. Almost every great player comes to a crossroads where he has a little lull maybe, Jack went through it, and in'79, '80, you had your period of time and you had a seven� year plan where you built your game back up. Where is Tiger in your estimation, because he's certainly at a bit of a crossroads. Where is he in the process and how do you think he gets back to what he was doing best??

GREG NORMAN: Well, how does he get back to the peak of where he was? That might be a very, very steep climb. He'll probably have to do it in baby steps, because you just can't go from here to here vertically. You go from here to here with a slow, gradual consistent rise, and you know, it's probably a day-by-day, tournament-by-tournament, month-by-month, year-by-year.

Tiger, we don't know the X-factor, how good is his body and how long can his body allow him to hit the golf ball the way you need to hit it against these young kids who fly the ball 315 yards.

These kids start out-driving you a little bit more, you start pushing yourself a little bit more. So your body, as fit as what he is, that fitness is a great attribute to have, but there are weak links in your body. Those weak links are exposed the more pressure you put on them, and that pressure comes from the extra workout or the extra bag of golf balls. Just the natural progression of what happens. So how his body is going to be going forward for the next four or five years -- how old is Tiger now? 36?

So, you know, look what Vijay did in his early 40s. So you look at it and say, well, he's got six years and 24 majors. So you think, okay, if his body stands up to the test of time, but when he gets to 40, those 20-year-olds are 20 years younger than him, so they are not 14 or 10 years younger than him anymore. That's the big difference, too.

Q. Never seemed like you lost your putter.

GREG NORMAN: No.

Q. Why not? Or what do you attribute that to?

GREG NORMAN: I don't know. I don't think I've lost my nerve anywhere. I still go SCUBA diving in caves and diving with great white sharks. I don't know whether that has an indication of what's running through your nerve endings or not. But I don't know. I've never really thought about it, why my putting never went off.

Maybe because I spent a lot of time putting. 50 percent of my practice routine was short game, maybe that's why I was always a good short game player. I would stand there and practice for eight fours but four hours of it would be putting, chipping, chipping, putting. I had little games I would play with myself with 23 golf balls; and if I don't get those 23 up-and-down, I would go and hit the 23 again in the same spot. Got to get them all up-and-down.

So that's making --not going to hit every chip perfect so you have to make a 10-footer. And then I used to have games how I used to practice putting.

Q. Why 23??

GREG NORMAN: One of those sleeves; a tube that you pick up with the ball. There's 23 golf balls in there. (Laughter).

Q. Where are you on The Presidents Cup situation? When we talked in Australia, Nick Price was sort of -- well, he is in line. My understanding was that he was asked first, and he declined based on his reverence and respect for you; that you should go first. Certainly not only Nick Price, but other guys behind him should have opportunities. Freddie has the same situation where he's done a great job just as you have and there's other people waiting. What do you want to do, what would you like to do, what are they talking about?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I actually had dinner with Frank Nobilo last night and the conversation came up. I asked Frank: "You know, Frank, would you do it again if I was asked to do it."

He said, "Well, you know, would you do it again? And if you do it again" --

I said, "Frank, if I do it, you're in, I can just guarantee you that."

And he said, "Well, are you going to do it."

I said, "Well, I haven't really thought about it to tell you the truth." Probably the most powerful moment for me as a player who has never -- who didn't play an event, was what the response was from the players on the Sunday night of The Presidents Cup in Australia, what Ernie Els said; what everybody else echoed, that they would like to have me back.

To me, that meant a lot to me. But you walk away from there saying, well, there's other people in line. But time is on their side, because there's always going to be another Presidents Cup and stuff like that.

So to really answer your question, if I was asked to do it again, I would sit back and I would think about it, because it's a two-year commitment. The inevitable answer to that question would probably be leaning more to the positive than the negative side.

I've done zero lobbying since the night of The Presidents Cup. This is the first public comment I'm really making about it. I enjoyed doing it. Muirfield, I love the golf course, I've won around there, makes sense. I know I've put some thought processes to the betterment of The Presidents Cup for the International Team.

So if I get asked again, it would be an honor. But if I don't get asked again, I won't get jolted for it, that's for sure.

Q. But you haven't been asked??

GREG NORMAN: I have not been asked, no.

Q. When you are playing these celebrity Pro-Ams, do you do a little research on who you're playing with or do you care? Do you have questions you want to ask, and what do you notice about the athletes nowadays from other sports?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I've never played in a celebrity Pro-Am. I've always been the pro.

Everybody knows everybody. I know Kenny. I don't know Jason, but I know Jason. I know Bill Belichick. I'm a huge fan of football in this country. And I've played golf with Lexi. When she was 15 years old, Jim McClean asked me to come play with her. So I do know the history of her and I can swap a little bit of spit with everybody and make sure I don't make myself look like an idiot.

I think it's fantastic when you think about these celebrities that do come and play in events like this. The number of non-professional golfers out there who love our sport is just incredible.

Q. So when you play with Bill Belichick, do you pick his brain about football??

GREG NORMAN: I don't know whether I would pick his brain. I think we would have a conversation about it. Conversation, hey, I'm a Steelers fan, but I also love the New England Patriots, right. Maybe the rivalry, the intensity, stuff like that. Most of the time when you play golf, it's just general conversation. It's not really a specific conversation.

Q. Along those same lines, you've played in a million of these Pro� Ams, but for the people who get to play golf with you, do you see the excitement in their eyes and what does it mean to meet some new people who have a chance to and play around with you??

GREG NORMAN: I think golf is the great connector of life with individuals. When you see the opportunity and you play with some very, very poor golfers, but when they get to the first tee and they beat you on one hole out of 18 because of their handicap; or they out� drive you and they have got a 40-yard advantage and they hit it perfect drive, they actually feel fantastic.

I feel great for them, I really do. That one shot will bring them back and they will talk about that one shot forever and a day. You can't do that in tennis. You can't do that in the NFL or NBA or NHL or any other sport in the world. But.

Golf, the lesser player can actually beat the best player in the world, one particular shot or one hole or a number of holes. It's a good feeling for them.

Q. I hate to bring up Tiger again, but we are local and of course we have an interest because he is local as you are. How do you think he'll do in The Honda Classic given there is such a great slate of players and tricky course and what you've seen of his practice and his performance so far??

GREG NORMAN: Look, every time Tiger tees it up in a golf tournament, he's going to put himself in a position to want to be there at the end. That's one of his greatest strengths as a player; that he allows himself to do that. I think he'll be there at the end. The golf course sets up very well for a great player. The weakest part or the toughest part for Tiger is this golf course is a very demanding of golf course off the tee.

Now I haven't played it today or recently, but I believe the rough is overseeded, so it's up, probably a little bit narrower. So driving is kind of one of the premiums around here for this week, and every player who has won here has always been a good driver of the golf ball.

I think if anything, that might be the one thing -- because he's not a consistently great driver of the golf ball. But his iron play has been really good of play. But we are talking about his putting; how good is that coming into this week, coming off the greens at Arizona or Tucson to the greens in Florida, it's a totally different feel, a totally different stroke. But I know in the back of his yard he's got a bermuda putting green. So I'm sure he's been working on putting on bermudagreens.

Q. Tiger mentioned about the number of kids these days who are training more and lifting weights more than they were ten years ago. Since you and Nick were really the standard bearers in that regard, what was your inspiration to get fit the way you did back in your era??

GREG NORMAN: In 1991, before, and up until that time, I was walking off the golf course with extreme headaches all the time and I could never figure out I didn't was having a headache. And because there was never water out there, it was always Sprite -- nothing against the product, but Coca-Cola or Sprite and very little water. I quit drinking sodas August of 1991 at the PGA Championship. I have not had a soda since. I just drink the water.

Then I started -- my body started to get rewarded for putting the right products in myself. Then I started working out. Then I really liked the idea of being fit and strong and being very, very flexible.

I worked out for the game of golf. I didn't work out just to bulk up and just look like you could walk down the beach and feel like you felt good. To me it was all about how can I make my game better, right (laughter) and that was working out and stretching.

I brought on a trainer and we worked together identifying what the golf muscles were all about. And one of the key questions I asked my trainer the first time was what are the little muscles we need to work on. Everybody looks at the big muscles and stuff like that.

But what little muscles deep inside your abdomen, deep inside your lower core and lower part of your back that you need to work on that really tie the big muscles in together. And that's what we focused on.

By strengthening up those, that gave me the ability for endurance, because I played a lot of golf, because I play golf in Australia, I travelled a lot and was always on a plane, so it gave me the ability to get my strength and flexibility married up. Nowadays, I think it's great to see the young kids doing what they are doing, because I think they will find that their longevity in life on the golf course will be much longer if they are doing it for not doing it.

Q. How many people do you think inspired and if not that many, what do you think took them so long to figure it out??

GREG NORMAN: Look, working out is up to the individual. It's the hardest thing to do is push yourself in the gym for the first two to three weeks; you're in agony because your muscles hurt, everything hurts.

Once you get through that three-week time period, everything else beyond that is just fantastic and then you plateau. You get to a level and you say, okay, am I really improving or the same or am I going back to where I used to be and then you push yourself to another level again.

Looking after your body is no different than looking after your golf swing. You can practice and practice and fine tune it and fine tune it; then all of a sudden you get bored with it and tinker with it and you walk away from it and then you walk back and now we have to get back into it. It's that mental and physical ability to push yourself to do it.

Even today, I love working out, I work out three and four and five days a week, even today, because it relieves the stress and tension of the day. I'm an afternoon work out guy from four to six and that's it. How many guys have I inspired? One to everyone, I don't know. I'm just very happy to see the boys doing what they are doing, and the girls, actually. The girls, you can see the girls are even looking after themselves and getting physically stronger.

Caroline Wozniacki is probably the best partner Rory can have because she is physically strong, her sport has to -- she has to be that way for her sport. So for Rory and the two of them to be respectively going through their careers at this young age doing the same thing in the highest possible echelon, there's no better partner to have sitting beside you than who understands what it takes to do is. I think the great counterbalance for Rory right now is Caroline Wozniacki. I don't know how close they are but it just seems like they are on the same path privately and professionally.

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