Greg Norman Interview (R3) - The Open
BY iseekgolf.com | European PGA Tour | 2008 British Open | Round Three | 20 Jul 2008
Q: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re joined by Greg Norman who shot 72 today for a three-round total of 212, 2-over par, to lead the Open Championship by two shots. Greg, fantastic round. Just take us through your thoughts on what must have been an amazing day.
Greg Norman: Well, I’d put it in the top three hardest rounds I’ve ever played under the circumstances. I’ve played under tougher weather conditions, but under the circumstances, the third round of a major championship and on the Royal Birkdale golf course, it was just brutal today.
I’ve said that a couple times now in television interviews, and it was so hard to start the ball 60 or 80 yards right or left of your target line. The wind was so heavy and so strong, I’ve never seen it – K.J. and I were talking about it. I’ve never seen the ball react like it did once it hit its apex. Once it got above the sand dune line it was at the mercy of the elements. It was incredible to watch, actually, to see the golf ball react like it was reacting.
Q: You’ve been talking about those realistic low expectations every day since you’ve been in here. I just wonder what these three rounds, particularly today, do to those expectations going into tomorrow?
Greg Norman: Well, I’m going to keep that same mindset. Obviously I played well enough to put myself in this position, obviously. That comes from a good, safe, happy mind in a lot of ways. I’m very content in my mind, but at the same time, I have the lead now, so I’m going to go out there with the same mindset tomorrow and it’s going to be tough again tomorrow. You’ve got to stay focused and stay in the present of whatever you’re doing.
I said today to Jim Huber on the driving range that you really don’t pay attention to anybody else out there because you’ve got such intensity doing what you’re doing just to get yourself around the golf course under these conditions, you really don’t know where you are until the end. That’s probably going to be the same case tomorrow.
Q: In 1986 you saw when Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Masters at age 46. Now you’re on the verge of possibly eclipsing that. What would it mean to you to go out and win this tomorrow?
Greg Norman: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of myself. Ask me that question tomorrow night if that happens, okay?
Q: What do you say to the people who on Thursday said you can’t win it and on Friday said you can’t win it and maybe tonight will say you can’t win it? What do you say to those people?
Greg Norman: I didn’t hear any of that (laughter).
You know, I’ve obviously got a chance tomorrow. But there’s a lot of golf to be played, 18 holes to play around here. Padraig Harrington obviously played well today to get himself in the position he’s in. He obviously played extremely well the last 36 holes. K.J. Choi, very impressed with him today, his demeanor, his attitude, his ball-striking. He’s always going to be a force to be reckoned with tomorrow and going forward. Very, very impressed with his golf. He could have been a couple, three shots better, but I’m sure everybody could have said the same thing.
I’ve got to go out there and play my game, and I’ll answer a lot of different questions tomorrow night if I have to.
Q: I believe it was yesterday when you talked about fighting off the distractions that disposition brings upon. I’m wondering if you have gotten better at that the last 72 hours and if your routine will change tomorrow in preparation for the final round.
Greg Norman: No, my routine is not going to change. I’ll go and have dinner with people I’ve been having dinner with the last couple nights, Matt Collins and his wife and the Leisurecorp people, just go and have a nice quiet night with Chrissy and then we’ll hit the sack and wake up probably about 8 or 9:00 in the morning. I’ll have a good night’s sleep tonight, believe me. My routine is not going to change at all.
Q: You haven’t played much tournament golf of late. I just wonder how tired you feel now physically and mentally.
Greg Norman: Well, physically I’m not tired. Mentally I’m not tired. I would say today made you work a little bit harder, no question about it. Where you really had to work hard was on putts a foot long and 18 inches long. You had to concentrate and focus so much on those, I think that takes a little bit of extra out of you. But I don’t feel drained at all. I mean, physically I feel very, very good.
Q: You’ve won two Opens but you’ve frittered away five or six great chances when you’ve led going into the final round. Are you going to be able to hang on tomorrow?
Greg Norman: I can’t answer that question now. We’ll find out.
Q: Jack Nicklaus was in town yesterday and said that he knows you haven’t played a lot of golf lately but that if you get into this position you’ll remember how to win or how to close. Are you sensing that now? Is it just sort of coming natural at this point?
Greg Norman: I think that’s a very good comment to make. I think only the individuals who have been there before know what you do. It’s like seeing shots I hit today from 120 yards with a 5-iron. I didn’t even – the yardage was mentioned to me, but I didn’t even pay attention to the yardage. I already saw the shot, I knew that was the shot I had to play to get the ball close to the hole, and I did that probably three or four, maybe five times today.
That’s how you like to be. If the conditions are tough tomorrow, I’m going to have the same mindset and just visualize the shot before I even know what a yardage is.
And at the same time, I’ve been saying this all week long, too, you’ve just got to hit the ball solid. No matter what you do, hit it square, make sure the ball starts off in the right direction.
Q: Two-part question. When did you know you were going to play the Open for sure? I know at the beginning of the year you weren’t sure of your schedule.
Greg Norman: I think I decided to commit to it about two and a half months ago, two months ago.
Q: And if somebody had said a week ago, a month ago, three months ago you’d be leading the Open by two after 54 holes, you would have said?
Greg Norman: Oh, really? (Laughter).
You know, I came over here to really practise and get ready for the next couple weeks. Obviously I’ve practised and I’ve put myself in position for this week. You know, to experience the British Open the way we have this week on a great golf course like this has obviously tuned me up both mentally and physically, so I’m obviously looking forward to the two following weeks. If Troon is like this next week, then whoever asks the question, then I will be tired at the end of next week if I have to play another week like this.
Q: K.J. Choi just said in his post round interview that he was very impressed with the imagination you used in many of your shots. Can you give us an example?
Greg Norman: I think I just did before, hitting a 5-iron from 120 yards, hitting 7-iron from 104 yards, hitting a 6-iron like I hit into 17 from 209 yards where I hit it over the top of the grandstand. Those are the type of things that he’s probably talking about.
Q: Where did you hit the 5 from 120?
Greg Norman: The 5th hole.
Q: Before the Open had you heard of Simon Wakefield, and are you surprised to find such a young journeyman up there in the mix putting a challenge up there?
Greg Norman: No, I’m not surprised at all. I’ve seen Simon’s name because I follow the results in golf tournaments more and more now since I’m the captain of the Presidents Cup team. So I just read the results. So I have seen his name out there.
But I don’t think there’s any such thing as a journeyman anymore out here. I think the players who come out here and play on a regular basis, whether it’s the U.S. Tour or the European Tour, they’re tough, competitive tours, so these guys have really got good grounding. That’s why I say I don’t believe in journeymen. Everybody has got the chance to win the golf tournament. This is just another golf tournament. Even though it is the British Open, it is just another golf tournament.
I think I made the comment at the start of this week, too, that there could be a dark horse have a chance around here because of the conditions, the way the golf course set up. Royal Birkdale, and I’m going to repeat myself again, Royal Birkdale doesn’t suit anybody but suits everybody, and if you go in there with that mindset and know you can play well enough to get around it, anybody can win this golf tournament, starting the week, and obviously it’s getting narrowed down because we’ve got one round to go. So no, I’m not surprised.
Q: When you were in this position back in your prime, you were always expected to win or people were gunning for you, they thought you were going to win, they thought you were the guy to beat all the time. Does it feel like that to you now or is it a totally different mindset feeling for you at your age and at this point in your career?
Greg Norman: It is different, no question. The players are probably saying, my God, what’s he doing up there? At the same time, these guys have known that I have played golf before and I’ve played successful golf before. You know, from – I think, again, it’s a reflection of what the game of golf is. I complimented and commented on Rocco Mediate, what he did for the game of golf at the U.S. Open. I complimented and commented on the way Tom Watson performed on Thursday at his age and in the worst conditions shooting 74.
I think it’s a great indicator for every player out there, whether you’re just coming on the Tour for the first year or you’re turning 40 or in your 50s. The game of golf is there to be played, and if you go in there with the right attitude and keep yourself physically fit, you can put yourself in that position no matter what.
If I’m a young kid, looking now and seeing a guy at 53 years old leading the British Open and I’m only 18, I’m going to say, boy, I’ve got a lot of years left in my career. I think it’s great, I really do.
Q: I was just wondering if you have any coach working with you at the moment, and if there were any shots that you really practised before coming down to Royal Birkdale which worked out for you.
Greg Norman: I work with David Leadbetter two weeks ago before I left. My son and I went up to his academy. He’s getting lessons off Sean Hogan and David, and I had a few lessons off David up there. I’ve always seen David on and off when I needed to, and I saw him briefly at the start of this week. So yeah, to answer your question, yes, I have.
And work on one particular shot? No, I’ve just been working on getting myself in a good position over the ball. And if I’m in a good position over the ball and getting comfortable, then you can go at the shot you need to play.
Q: Just kind of a two-parter. We saw you at Pebble and sporadically this year, as often as you’ve been out. You said you had a hard time kind of keeping your head in the game over 18 holes because of your limited play, so I’d be curious how you’ve been able to manage to do that this week in such demanding conditions. And secondly, whatever is going on inside you, whether it’s nerves or butterflies or excitement, does that at all feel the way it did back when you were in this position so regularly in the ‘90s?
Greg Norman: I mean, I’ll be honest, I walked to the first tee nervous today. It was a good indicator for me that I was as nervous as I felt. I hadn’t felt that way probably, you know, for ten years maybe, maybe even longer, when I walked to the first tee. So I was excited about being there. I wanted to be there.
And I think that was the perfect indicator, again, to say to myself, okay, you know what, you’re excited, you’re in a position, you want to be here for a reason. Now you’ve got to stay with yourself and stay focused and get yourself stimulated, and I hope I walk to the first tee feeling the same way tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be because it’s a little different situation, and I hope I can keep it going.
The tee shot on this opening hole is the toughest opening tee shot I’ve ever played in golf under these conditions. It’s brutal, and you make one little mistake and you can find yourself starting off on a bad foot big-time. You’ve really got to be zeroed in mentally when you walk to that first tee.