Greg Norman Interview (R2) - The Open
BY iseekgolf.com | European PGA Tour | 2008 British Open | Round Two | 19 Jul 2008
Q: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re joined by Greg Norman after a second consecutive round of 70 for a total of 140. Greg is leading the Open Championship. Greg, when you arrived this week, did you anticipate being in this position after 36 holes?
Greg Norman: Nope (smiling). That’s it. I’m not going to say any more.
Q: Can we just quickly go through your birdies and bogeys and what you played on those holes.
Greg Norman: 1st hole, 3-wood, 4-iron to about 45 feet off the back edge and obviously made it.
The 6th hole, hit a driver in the left rough, bad lie, hit a second shot in the right rough, laid up short of the green, pitched it on, two-putted for a 6.
7th hole, 4-iron from 181, probably 25 feet, one-putt.
8th hole, driver, pitching wedge to about 15 feet.
Saved it on 11, second shot right rough, pitched it on to about 7 feet, one-putt.
16, Woody Austin probably called this one the best. He said, you ought to thank Chris Evert for the way you can stretch out on that second shot – third shot (laughter). It was a very, very awkward lie to say the least. My biggest fear was either blading it into the face of the bunker or blading it over the green or just leaving it in the bunker. And my whole thought process was once I got comfortable with my stance, was just make sure the club head went through the sand as fast as I could get it going through. Obviously it came out perfect and made a good putt there for just par saving.
17, I thought I hit a good drive, left rough, not a good lie, very lucky to get it out, to tell you the truth, through the fairway. My third shot there wasn’t a very good third shot. I hit it high on the club face and the ball went nowhere, and no pitch. Obviously made a 10- or 12-footer there for a bogey, as well.
18, I don’t know what happened on 18. I thought I hit a great first putt. I thought I hit it with perfect speed. Obviously downwind, downgrain, and the ball just – the flag is right on the very – close to a drop-off on the back there, three or four feet from the back edge, and once the ball got any speed past the hole, see you later, and that’s what happened. At least I got a good read as the ball went by. I just told myself just keep calm and go out there and hit a great putt, hit a good second putt, and that’s what I did and obviously it went in.
Q: How long were those two putts, the last two putts?
Greg Norman: I would say the flag was on 29 and the green was 35, so it was probably a 20-footer. 18 feet from the back edge. I was two feet off the back. But it was uphill, a big break. It was kind of like a reverse bullnose on the back of that green, it was a good 20-footer.
Q: Just kind of a two-part question. First of all, do you feel the last two days like you’re stepping back in time a little bit? And secondly, off of what we talked about a little bit yesterday, what are your expectations now leading into the weekend after what you’ve done the last two days?
Greg Norman: Well, yeah, of course you feel like you’re stepping back in time. I think I can answer the two questions in one by answering the second part first. Yeah, my expectations were almost nil coming in, to tell you the truth. I hadn’t played a lot of golf. I was trying to work on my game as much as I could. Obviously we had a lot of preparation getting ready for the wedding.
We had a great time over there, so the least of my worries was getting out there practising and hitting golf balls and getting ready for the British Open. My last month has been really mind elsewhere, justifiably so, too.
But that having been said, like I said yesterday in this pressroom, I’m still – my expectations are still realistically low, and I have to be that way, too, because I can’t sit here and say, okay, it’s great, I’m playing well and I’m doing it. Well, I am playing well, I am doing it, but I still haven’t been there for a long time.
You work hard to get yourself into position, and I’ve just got to keep the same mind set going to the first tee tomorrow and every shot that I’m going to hit tomorrow. That’s all I can do.
Q: How was your last tournament at Birkdale prior to this week?
Greg Norman: I don’t have a clue.
Q: I don’t think you played in ‘98. That’s the reason I ask. You don’t remember why you wouldn’t have played in ‘98?
Greg Norman: I think I did have shoulder surgery, yeah. I think I had shoulder surgery around that time.
Q: So you probably didn’t play since ‘91 then?
Greg Norman: I played here twice. I finished 9th and 19th, that’s all I know. I can’t remember what years they were.
Q: Your new bride has a few more majors than you do. Is that ever a subject of conversation? She’s got 18. Are you trying to get caught up (laughter)?
Greg Norman: Ah, Jesus (laughter). No, I’m not trying to get caught up. She’s also won about 154 tournaments, also. I wish I had her level of success. She’s won 91 per cent of the matches she’s ever played. If I won 91 per cent of the time I went out there and played the game of golf, I’d be pretty good I would say. No, we don’t try and compare what we’ve done on or off the tennis court.
Q: Yesterday you said you found something, maybe a train of thought. What exactly was it that you found that’s working here?
Greg Norman: Standing a little bit closer to the ball. With the wind blowing as hard as it is you need to be on top of the ball a little bit more. In my heyday I always stood very, very close to the ball. My hands almost hit my thighs as my club head was coming through at impact, and that’s what I did. I’m still trying to do it, and sometimes it gets away from me a little bit, especially tee shots into the wind. You feel like you want to get wider and a little more separation from it, but you’ve just got to trust it and stay with it.
Q: Have you thought for some time that somebody in their 50s could contend in majors and possibly win?
Greg Norman: I think that all comes down to the individual. If you keep yourself physically fit – what happens with athletes, I think, when you get to the mid 40s, late 40s, your body just really doesn’t react to the way your minds wants it to react. Your mind is sharp, you still want to do it, you still feel it, you still feel comfortable and relaxed in your hands, but sometimes your lower back and your body won’t let you do it.
If you keep all those things in good stead, I said this to Chris yesterday, the tennis I’ve been playing has been the best thing for me, because it keeps me loose, it’s good on the cardiovascular, it’s good on my lower back because it keeps it strong. So yeah, maybe there’s a little bit of extra exercise than ever anticipated to keep me in the fitness that I am keeping.
Q: Just wondering if you could expand a little bit on the importance of those saves on 16, 17 and 18, just to kind of keep the vibe going for yourself.
Greg Norman: Well, I think anybody is going to say the same thing. You’ve got to keep your momentum going with putts like that. One look on the board, and I saw Camilo just tore it up the last four holes, so obviously he’s putting extremely well, too. It goes to show you that every putt, no matter whether it’s for a birdie, for a par, for a bogey or a double bogey is crucial. You’ve just got to keep the score out of your mind and make sure you make the putt you’re there to make and then move on.
The score really is irrelevant in a lot of ways, it’s just getting the ball in the hole.
18, you know, it’s very much a piece of my mind. I knew I hit a first good putt. I didn’t let myself get down on the fact that I knocked it 20 feet past, and I knew the ball was coming right off the middle of the putter all day, and I just trusted my stroke and stayed calm in my mind, and that’s why it went in.
Q: Do you feel like you escaped a little bit with those last three holes?
Greg Norman: I think I escaped more on 17 than I did on 18. 17 was really starting to get – how my lie was with the tee shot was really ugly. I was in fear of leaving the ball there. The club could have gone right underneath it. It was really in the spindly gorsy type grass, it wasn’t just in the grass. The ball was sitting up a little bit. I had to work hard just to identify that it was my ball, it was sitting that far down. I really wasn’t feeling good about where that ball was going to go, to tell you the truth. I figured I could be there for a long period of time. I think that one was one where I did well to stop the bleeding there.
Q: I know you talked about Camilo’s five birdies coming in. Number one, does that surprise you given the conditions; and number two, you played a practise round with him on Tuesday, I think. What was your impression of his game and of him?
Greg Norman: He was hitting the ball, especially driver, very well when I played with him. He was hitting it extremely low, which you have to do around here obviously, and that obviously set him up very, very well. If you get the ball out there a little bit further you can be a little bit more aggressive with your little medium to shorter irons because you can get them at the flag a little better.
The interesting part about today, the holes were pretty much on the front edge of the greens the last three or four or five holes, so you needed to have a little bit more lofted club, and he obviously did that. Very impressed with his game. I played with him in the Canadian Skins game about a month ago. He won that. His attitude and his demeanor on the golf course is just great. He knows he’s got a lot of pressure on himself, too, because he’s a good player, he hasn’t won a major. He’s talked about it. He wants to be there, and he wants to win, no question. The finish for him was very, very good for him.
Q: How much of being where you are now is due to wisdom and what you’ve learnt about the foibles and peculiarities of playing links courses down through the years?
Greg Norman: I think a lot of it – I shouldn’t say a lot of it. A lot of shots I’ve played out there definitely have been. 108 yards, 110 yards, 140 yards. 108 yards I’m chipping with an 8-iron, especially uphill into the wind on 10. Most guys try and hit a pitching wedge up there, but once it gets above the spectators and the mound behind there, that wind just knocks it up and the ball could be coming back off the green very quickly. So those are the shots that you draw on from the past experiences.
Q: And a quick follow-up. How long do you think it took you before you felt comfortable playing on courses like this in conditions like this?
Greg Norman: 32 years ago (laughter). No, I’ve always enjoyed it. Australian golf is very much like that, playing Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath. You can land the ball on the green and skid it all the way back there. I’ve always enjoyed this type of feel.
Q: How emotional did you find that ovation and walk up the 18th today?
Greg Norman: I probably think that’s why I hit the ball, the first putt, too hard (laughter). I was the first to putt, and by the time you get there, mark the ball and everybody calms down, you’ve got to putt. We were on the clock. We were on the clock for the last two or three holes, so you know, you just want to make sure you just keep it going.
Probably I didn’t think about it at the time, but thinking back on it, maybe it had something to do with it. I hit it just a little bit harder because my adrenaline might have been running just a little bit more.
But the feeling is phenomenal. There’s no question about it. The support here has been great. Just even seeing the pressroom full is pretty good.
Q: I’m just wondering, how much tennis do you play, and what handicap would you give yourself?
Greg Norman: When we’re home we probably play three, four times a week, sometimes five times a week. Chrissy does a lot of work at her academy. She goes there in the mornings and plays with the juniors there. Then she’s got three boys that she plays with where the high school team plays, and then I come in fourth or fifth, which is fine with me because by the time I get back, we probably spend about an hour, hour and a half on the tennis court. She’ll feed me tennis balls because I am just learning. I am about a 20 handicap or 18 handicapper, and I’m just learning how to get it back across the net.
Q: Lynn was saying out there that Gregory was supposed to be toting the bag this week and couldn’t make it. I’m wondering why that was the case and whether he’s missing all of this since he’s never experienced this with you?
Greg Norman: We did talk about it but he decided that he wanted to play some amateur golf and qualify for some tournaments. He’s in Orlando right now qualifying for a tournament. I spoke to him obviously last night. He’s very excited about it. Obviously he’s disappointed he’s not here. But at the same time, I think it’s important for him to go play his golf and enjoy what he needs to do for himself and test his skills and try and get better in his own right.
Q: If you were still a full-time pro I guess you’d have come here with different expectations of yourself. Do you think the fact that you are where you are on the leaderboard at the moment is possibly a reflection of a completely different frame of mind?
Greg Norman: In my life, oh, absolutely. I feel great. My life is great. I’ve got a wonderful wife, and my whole being that’s going on around here is just beautiful, to tell you the truth. So obviously it makes you feel more relaxed, makes you feel more comfortable about what you’re doing and where you are. There is obviously less pressure on me than most because obviously there will be more pressure tomorrow and Sunday. But honestly, there’s probably less pressure on me than anybody out here because even though I’m in the position I am in, I’m going to go out there and just say, hey, just go have fun with it.
I’ve been here before. Hopefully I can play one shot at a time and go with it and just relax and enjoy every step of the way, which is a little different philosophy. A lot of the old veteran reporters in here probably know that some of the interviews I used to have in here, I wouldn’t be saying those words as easily as what I would have done 25, 30 years ago.
Q: Do you find some of the old self coming back? Now you’re atop the leaderboard, do you find yourself once again the way you used to?
Greg Norman: You know, your whole philosophy is do the best you can, no matter what position you’re in, whether I’ve shot 75 or 70. You’ve just got to make sure you keep yourself in the best possible position you can do, and that’s all I’m doing right now. I’m making sure that I’m eliminating as many mistakes as I can, and I’m going to make sure I take advantage of the good shots when I do hit a good shot.
I don’t care whether you’ve played a lot of golf week in and week out or you haven’t played any golf. That’s still your modus operandi when you go out there.
Q: Given your minimal expectations for this event, did you have any alternative plans for the weekend?
Greg Norman: No (laughter). Boy, I miss you guys (laughter).
Q: Let me swing it all the way to the other end. Do you think you can win this thing now?
Greg Norman: You know, I don’t know how to answer that question. I think I’ve just got to take it in my stride knowing that I’ve got myself in a position where I have to really be a little bit more careful on things and be a little bit more relaxed on things. I know I’ve got to make a big effort to do that. I’ve got to stop trying to get caught up in the moment of it all and just keep myself very subdued and just very relaxed and go with it.
If it gets into position come Sunday afternoon, then I’ll probably start thinking about it a little bit more, and hopefully I’ll be able to – if that is the case, hopefully I’ll be able to pull off the shots and be able to do that.
Q: Obviously the weather is the story around here. If I remember, at Turnberry the first day in ‘86 when you won, that was really terrible conditions. I think you shot even par, didn’t you, which is one of the fine rounds. Can you just go back and maybe compare this and that?
Greg Norman: That question was asked me the other day, and I put Turnberry as the top three toughest rounds I’ve ever played golf in ‘86. In St. Andrews when be played the Dunhill Cup was another one when it was freezing cold and the wind was howling. The conditions today weren’t as bad as yesterday, in all honesty, even for our group in the morning. Even though it was raining this morning when we teed off. It wasn’t really a heavy, vicious wind.
I wouldn’t put it in the top four or five. I mean, I’d probably put it in the top 15.
Q: You said there’s a lot less pressure on you going forward. I’m wondering if your experience and all your history here comes into play even more on the weekend. I guess kind of what I’m driving at is how much different the weekend is at an event like this than the first two days?
Greg Norman: Yeah, everything kind of gets a little bit more intense as each hole goes by, and it’s no different for the leader as it is for everybody else. Everybody else is either trying to push the leader or everybody wants to be the leader, so they’re under the same amount of pressure.
And at the same time, you know, from my perspective, really, the weekend is the weekend, but when it really gets down to the nuts and bolts of it, it’s Sunday afternoon. Whether it’s coming down 16, 17, or whether it’s coming down 18 or whether you’re making the turn, that’s when it really starts probably piling up on you, and you just have to wait until that moment arrives to try and take advantage of it.
Q: And if you’re still in the hunt at that point, do you think your history could become more of an advantage?
Greg Norman: You would hope so, there’s no question about it. You would hope so, because there’s certain shots that you have to react differently under pressure around links golf courses than what you do playing in the United States or some parkland golf course, that’s for sure.
Q: Just looking a bit ahead, maybe, but are you already looking ahead to play at Turnberry next year?
Greg Norman: No. No, I’m not.
Q: If I could apologize for the esoteric question in advantage. If you were just a golf fan watching BBC or whatever and could step away from your being, could you appreciate this is a pretty cool story that’s unfolding here with yourself, 53, where you’re at in this championship and the possibilities that lie ahead?
Greg Norman: Yes. I could easily say that, looking out of the picture looking back in. And I think it’s – I said this to Rocco Mediate the other day. I walked up to him on the putting green, and I said, “Rocco, the best thing to happen to the game of golf was what you did at the U.S. Open.” You’ve got a great player in Tiger Woods and stuff like that, but for everybody to see that you can put yourself into position no matter who you are or what you do or what your qualifications are or how old you are, if you truly want it, you can do it.
Rocco did that. Rocco proved that. I said, “Rocco, it’s great to see that, and the game of golf needed that and a lot of people needed to see that.” You know what, he brings it right into this tournament, too.
And the same thing is going to be said. I watched Tom Watson a little bit yesterday, and Tom has got a bad hip, and here he gets it around in 74-under tough conditions and beats guys like Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson by four or five shots. That’s great for the game of golf.
If I’m a young kid at the age of 21, 23, I’m going to go, oh, my gosh, 30 years, I can still have a chance of being there? That’s a pretty good testament in a lot of ways and shows that there is a lot of resolve in this game of golf, from Rocco Mediate to myself to a Tom Watson. You’ve just got to know that you can do it if you really, really want to do it.
Q: Looking back on your career, might this new attitude you have now have affected your outcome in the majors in the ‘80s and early ‘90s?
Greg Norman: I can’t answer that question. My intensity on the golf course back in the ‘80s and ‘90s was great. That’s the way I played. I wore my heart on my sleeve. Could I go back and second-guess myself at certain tournaments? Yes, of course I could. Could I go back and try and improve on it? I might have been worse off. I am who I am, basically.
Those days – I think both Chrissy and I would have said to each other, it would have been interesting if we were around each other in our respective sports at the time when she played great tennis. She might have been a little bit different, too, because we both bring very much an understanding of what it’s really like to be there and how you’ve got to deal with it. It’s easy to sit here and try to explain it, but when you actually sit there and have a conversation with a person who’s been in that position before, it’s a lot easier to absorb and accept and understand.
Q: You were right there when Jack won The Masters at age 46. Do you think maybe you’re owed one?
Greg Norman: You know, I don’t think there is any owing in golf. I think you’ve just got to take advantage of the situation you’re in. If you can do that and pull it off, then all credit to the individual or yourself. I think Jack’s victory in ‘86 you said it was, that was a tough one. He came back on a fast and furious back nine to do what he needed to do, and again, that goes to show you, 46, 53, there’s not much difference in age right there.
Q: Even if you didn’t put a lot of work into getting prepared for this, do you still have ambitions as a player?
Greg Norman: You mean to come out and play full-time?
Q: Not full-time, but things you want to achieve as a player?
Greg Norman: Yes. I mean, my mind still wants to perform well. I mentioned yesterday I really don’t have the physical ability to go out there and hit balls six to eight to ten hours a day like I used to. But my mind still salivates. I still cherish it, I relish it. When I come back from a good practise session for a couple of hours, I feel great about it.
But it’s hard for me to keep it going, just wanting to practise. I really don’t have the desire to do it day after day after day after day. There’s so many other good things in life that I appreciate and enjoy.
Q: Greg, well played. Thank you for joining us.
Source – Open Championship