Greg Norman, who has played in just 11 Champions Tour events since becoming 50-and-over eligible seven years ago – with seven top 10 finishes – will be making a rare appearance this week in the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh.
He was part of a press conference call last week, providing his thoughts on returning to competition, on his business ventures and on his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, of all teams:
MODERATOR: It’s nice to have you joining us on the Champions Tour and we would just like to see if you could make a few comments about Fox Chapel at first, if you have ever seen the golf course or have you heard anything about it lately, and what you’re looking forward to in anticipation of playing on the Champions Tour again, first time since 2009.
NORMAN: First of all, thanks and hello everybody. I’m looking forward to getting back to Fox Chapel. I remember playing there many years ago, I think it was for a corporate outing, I’m not too sure. I do remember the golf course to some degree ,not the entire golf course, but I know it’s a fairly tight golf course, old style, classic old greens. So that’s my style, I love that type of look when I play the game of golf. So I’m looking forward to getting back there.
One of the reasons why I’m going back there, one of my dear friends and doctor who did surgery on me, Dr. Jim Bradley, who is a member there, and we’ve been talking about it for quite a long time now. It just worked out with my schedule. If I know far enough in advance, I can kind of keep time available where it doesn’t get blocked out. That’s how it played out this year, so I’m just very, very happy to go back. While I haven’t played the Senior TPC, but I’m very happy to be there for Constellation. They’ve been a very good supporter of the Senior Tour and the game of golf for a period of time, and just happy that I can just give a little piece back.
Q. I know you’re a busy man with all your business involvement, but how much time have you had to work on your game in preparation for next week?
NORMAN: Not much. Very little, to tell you the truth. Maybe two rounds of golf and a little bit of hitting a few balls, but it’s pouring down with rain here in south Florida at the moment. I just came back from down in Pompano Beach where we’re doing a golf course there. I was having a practice this afternoon but I don’t feel like donning my rain gear and going outside and hitting balls in the rain.
That having been said, hopefully it will clear up in a couple of days and I’ll have a chance to play a few rounds of golf leading up to the first tee next week, and when I get there, hopefully I’ll be somewhat sharper than what I am now to be able to somehow compete come the weekend.
Q. I have a couple of things I wanted to ask you. I had a conversation last week with Fred Funk and he talked about the growing depth of talent that’s come from the PGA Tour to the Senior Tour, and he said to me that he thought that there are only a couple players that move the needle when it comes to TV ratings and also attendance, and that’s you and Fred Couples. That’s high praise. What do you think about that, and does this signal that you might want to play more golf tournaments in the future?
NORMAN: Well, I don’t know how to answer the question about who moves the needle, but I think Fred’s complimenting me on that. I think at the end of the day people — your history speaks volumes for what people expect of you on the golf course, and obviously in my past I performed fairly well on the golf course all around the world. So I enjoy playing in front of people. If that’s what moves the needle forward, fantastic. Will it prompt me to play more out there on the Senior Tour or golf in general? Not really, Ralph. I mean, I’m very happy and content where I am in life right now. I don’t play a lot of golf for a specific reason, because I enjoy doing a lot of other things in the world of business that I’m in. Studying a few new opportunities right now which will consume a bit more of my time going forward. I’m happy building in that regard.
Do I enjoy practicing and getting ready for golf tournaments? I’m going to be brutally honest and say no, I do not. Do I enjoy going out there and playing golf with my son and playing golf with friends? Yes, I do. But my expectations are totally different today than what they were many years ago when I was at the peak of my game. Life is a little different and it’s different for good reasons, not bad reasons. I approach things, you know, with a different philosophy and outlook going forward.
Q. As long as you’ve been away from the PGA Tour, there’s still this sense that Greg Norman is still the guy. You know, a dozen majors and stuff like that, but still there’s expectations of you even though you’ve been away from the game for a while. Can you sense those high expectations people still have of you even playing in this Players Championship?
NORMAN: Well, again, I think that’s a compliment to what I’ve done in the past and I do feel — it makes you feel extremely good when people say that and you do have that type of effect on it, because I did — I do love to play the game. But in the past I loved to play the game because I loved the game, irrespective of whether I played here in the USA or in Japan or Australia or South Africa. No matter where I played, I just loved to play, and I always competed at the highest of possible levels. So if I couldn’t win, I wanted to finish second. If I couldn’t finish second, I wanted to finish third. I was never content on just saying okay, I made the cut and that’s it. So I really pushed myself to the highest I could possibly get to, whether it was shot by shot or whether it’s a tournament basis.
So, you know, no matter — and even now it’s amazing when I walk around the streets or I go and do an interview on TV with Fox News and stuff, 90 percent of the questions are about business and life and 10 percent are about golf. I like it like that, to tell you the truth. That means I’ve made that transitional step where life on the golf course is not the be-all and end-all, and you can go off the golf course and do something different and enjoy it just as much. My belief is the way I’ve es tablished my business and the credibility of my business, people look at me, you know, my recognition factor is still there but for different reasons now.
Q. A couple quick questions, please. You mentioned having surgery by Dr. Bradley. When was that and what was it for?
NORMAN: It was a few years ago and Dr. Bradley just worked on my left shoulder. I had to have my left shoulder redone again and I was up there at the UPMC, and I’ve had quite a few surgeries there. Actually Dr. Maroon did my back surgery up there and Dr. Bradley did my knee as well. So I’ve kind of left a few dollars at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Q. Okay. How do you stay in shape for golf if you’re not playing that much?
NORMAN: Well, I still enjoy working out. Actually, interesting question, I was out playing a round of golf with a friend of mine yesterday and he asked me that very question, how do you stay in shape? I said, well, it’s different. I work out nowadays because I enjoy working out. My workout program nowadays is different than when I was one of the top players in the world because I was targeting rotational exercises and golf exercises. I don’t do that as much anymore because I really don’t focus in on specifics of just maintaining my body to maintain my golf swing. But I do a little bit of combination of both, but there’s nowhere near the focus factor on just targeting golf-specific muscles and flexibility.
Q. Two more real quick ones, please. Give me an example of some of your businesses besides golf course design.
NORMAN: Well, I’m in the real estate business, I’m in the wine business, I’m in the beef business, I’m in the clothing business. You know, what else can I say? Starting up a new one now that, you know, I think it’s a very opportune moment. It’s a distressed asset fund we’re looking at starting up because a lot of small businesses in this country cannot get access to capital to keep their businesses going, and I’ve been investing in quite a few to date and the success of those investments have led me to believe that I’ll take a look at that opportunity, which I’m doing right now.
Q. Apart from whatever expectations the golf fans may have for you, what are your own expectations in this tournament?
NORMAN: Look, when I go to a golf tournament to play, I want to go to a golf tournament to play. You know, I do have a lot of pride in what I do and I want to get up to Pittsburgh and I want to get to Fox Chapel and I want to perform the best I could possibly perform. So what that is, you know, I’ll have to wait and see. I will be trying to get up there — I’m not going to go up there just to go up there. I’m going up there because I want to be front and center for Constellation and represent the game of golf the best I can and represent a corporation who’s committed to supporting senior golf or golf in general. So as far as I’m concerned, I need to put my best performance I can possibly put forward.
Q. Greg, you kind of touched on it there. I have two questions. One was when you’re talking about pride, and Arnold used to talk about this when he would continue to play. Granted, I know he was much older than you are, but he would talk about the pride thing. You don’t want to go out there because of other people’s expectations or your past history. You know, you have enough pride that you don’t want to, quote — I’m not going to say embarrass yourself, but for the sake of argument let’s use that word. How do you balance that, Greg, because of how everybody looks at you and what they think of you?
NORMAN: Quite honestly, I only do it for myself. Again, it’s a compliment when other people are looking in on you and wanting your expectations to be a little bit above everything, but I look at it for myself. My expectations within have always been the driving force within myself, and I do want to walk to that first tee and I do want to perform well, I do want to play well, and I want to make sure that the people who come out there to watch you play get a bit of a snapshot of your capabilities. I’m a realist, very much a realist, that my golf game today is not the golf game I had back in the ’80s and ’90s. I’m fine with that, I’m very fine with that, because age is a bit tough on the game of golf.
At the same time, it’s all relative. I don’t play a lot of golf, not like these other guys who play on the Senior Tour on a regular basis, so they do have an advantage. At the same time, I’m coming in there fairly fresh-minded and wanting to do well, too. I’m not burned out on the game of golf like some of them may be, so my attitude may be just a little bit different as well.
Q. The other question I wanted to ask you, you mentioned Dr. Bradley and you touched on UPMC, but I’m just wondering if your decision to come here was because of your connections you have here, at UPMC, to the Hillmans, the whole bit?
NORMAN: You touched on the Hillmans; I was going to mention them. Look, I do have close ties with people up in Pittsburgh. I’m a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so it’s a team I pull for every year. It’s amazing how my connections have developed over the years. Pete Draovitch, my trainer for 10, 12 years on the PGA Tour, he traveled everywhere I went and now lives in Pittsburgh. So there’s a lot of attractions up there. When the tournament was there, when I knew the tournament was there and I discussed it my friends, of course there’s a very strong magnetic pull to get me there because I do miss those guys. I see them on a not-so-often basis and I want to just catch up with them, which I really am looking forward to.
Q. You had the fantastic run at Birkdale in ’08, and then Tom Watson followed the next year with an incredible chance of winning the championship. Like you say, even now you come out only occasionally and play, but there’s a chance that a player like you can have a magical week even. What do you think it is that players can recall what they once did into their 50s and even their 60s? Are you just able to regain the focus there? Do you have any thoughts on that?
NORMAN: Oh, absolutely I do. It’s all that muscle memory and mental training you’ve done for 35 years, you know? It’s ingrained, it’s in your system, it never leaves you. Your mind is still as sharp as what it was before, but physically, as I mentioned, you’re not as capable of doing the things you did before. Your body speed’s not as fast, and obviously you don’t have the smoothness, I guess, in your putting stroke because that’s age, that’s time, that’s just the natural course of the older you get.
But it is all deep down inside, there’s no question about it. When you put yourself in a position like Tom and I did a few years ago, those things come flooding back very, very quickly. It’s amazing the sense of calmness and the sense of remembrance and the sense of competitive spirit, how quickly it comes flooding back. It’s actually a joy because I don’t know too many other sports in the world that you can walk away from the game, come back to it, put yourself in a position, you know, up to 40 years or whatever it is playing the game of golf and say wow, I can still compete with the best of the best, you know? I don’t know any other sport. You can throw in tennis, any sport, whatever you want, I don’t think there’s any out there that allows you to do that. And it’s up to the athlete. Once the athlete’s done it once, he can do it again, I’m truly a big believer in that. Just to touch on ’08, ’09, I am a huge believer that somebody in their 50s will definitely win a major championship in the very near future because technology helps them, their fitness and flexibility’s always there, their mental prowess is there. They just have to marry all that up to the right golf course, like Birkdale was for me and like Turnberry was for Tom.
Q. One quick followup. Were you tempted at all after that week at Birkdale to playmore given how you had shown that you still had it?
NORMAN: No. Sorry for the brutally short answer, but look, I touched on it before, my whole game plan in life is not to just hang around to hang around. I already established and continue to establish the way my business life and what I enjoy about it and developing and growing and going off into new ventures. That entices me now, that excites me now, just like hitting a 1-iron off the cart path at TPC at the 16th hole and hooking it around over the water, you know? Doing some deals now and looking into the future about the abilities of those deals is that exciting.
Q. Firstly, if you were able to pull off a victory next week, are we likely to see you at the 2013 Players Championship?
NORMAN: I didn’t know whether — look, to answer the question, I don’t know if the champion gets into TPC and I’ll just leave it at that. Mark would be able to answer that question.
MODERATOR: That’s correct, the winner of the Constellation Senior Players Championship does get an invitation to the Players Championship. That’s happened since I think 2007 was the first time that happened.
NORMAN: There you go. That would be good incentive for me because I wouldn’t mind getting back to that golf course. I enjoyed playing TPC, I played it well, and obviously it’s got a sweet spot in my heart, so that’s a pretty good incentive.
Q. And if I can take a little bit of liberty, it’s now been six years since Australians have won a major, and it’s been one in just the last 17 years. Given the talent that we have now and in that last 17 years, do you think this is an acceptable strike rate and do you think the guys will get one done soon?
NORMAN: Look, the simple answer to that is no, it’s not an acceptable strike rate considering the talent and the capabilities of the Australian players we have out there. There’s a slew of them, but you can look at other countries, too, that haven’t really done it. Sweden, you probably have more players on a global basis of that caliber than any outside of the United States and they haven’t done it. Then you look at Northern Ireland where you have back-to-back years with two guys.
Why does it happen? Why is the void? I have no answer because it doesn’t make sense to me because the players are good enough to do it on a regular basis. But when you think about it, you’ve got all these great players around the world and there’s only four golf tournaments per year, so there’s only going to be four winners, so you can see the odds are getting harder and harder.
You can see that with Tiger Woods now; it’s getting harder and harder for him to win it because the older he gets, the younger everybody else gets, and the younger they get, the less intimidated they are by him. And the sharing of the spoils is going around more on a, I guess even — I am disappointed the Aussie guys have not stepped up to the plate and won more, not only just for the game of golf in Australia but for the players individually.
Q. Do you think, I guess, the fall of Tiger is probably the main contributor to the fact we’ve had nine first-timers in a row win majors and 15 different guys in the last 15?
NORMAN: I think it’s a credit to what’s happened to global golf. I think there was too many eggs put in one basket with everybody’s focus on Tiger Woods. Yes, he was producing the goods, but all these other great players were left sitting in the background and not talking about them. Now all of a sudden they’re producing, whether it’s from the United States or, like I said, Northern Ireland or other parts around the world, the global recognition of these young guys is rightfully where it should be. It should be — they should be spoken about more and written about more. And I’ve said this constantly now for quite a while, that I think — I’ve never seen the health of the game of golf as healthy as what it is today on a global basis. That’s why I think the spoils are being shared around equally and fairly.
Q. You mentioned Dr. Bradley and Dr. Maroon. They do a lot of wonderful things here in Pittsburgh, and part of their deal was they work for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just wondering how you got hooked up with Dr. Bradley to begin with. And also, the times you’ve been to Pittsburgh, have you had a chance to see the city at all and experience Pittsburgh?
NORMAN: Look, the times I’ve been to Pittsburgh have either been to see the Steelers go play or I’ve been on a gurney going into an operating room or playing Oakmont. Whenever you go to a city to play golf, you never get a chance to look at that city anyway because you’re going to the golf course for eight to 10 hours a day. So the simple answer to your question is no, I haven’t had a chance to experience Pittsburgh like a tourist would experience Pittsburgh. But on the other side of the coin, I’ve gone and done fundraisers for Henry and Elsie Hillman in Pittsburgh, met a lot of wonderful people. There’s deals, eye openers to me because your introduction chain is very broad and very deep. So that’s probably – going back to Dr. Bradley, you know, I just met him just through the process of going way back went, going through the process with my trainer then, Pete Draovitch, about finding a doctor to see about my ailments and we just became great mates along the way. He takes a lot of pride in his work, same with Dr. Maroon, same with every doctor. But the ones you deal with on a personal level when they’re doing surgery on you and they continue that personal level afterward, that means a lot to me.
Q. One more thing. Do you follow the PGA Tour very closely, and just your thoughts on the state of the Tour right now?
NORMAN: Quite honestly, no, I don’t. If I pick up a magazine and read when I’m on the plane, I’m only getting a snapshot for that week. I really don’t follow it on a regular basis. I’m sure from a corporate standpoint they had to work extremely hard in this economic climate that we’re in to shore up some sponsorship or title sponsorships going forward. I don’t see any holes in the calendar, so I think they’ve done a pretty good job of that. That’s about all I can say.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your clothing line and how you feel that sort of clothes make the golfer because it sort of tells a little bit about their personality, what they wear on the course?
NORMAN: Amen to that. Yes, I agree with you. Look, my clothing line has just been a reflection of myself. When I first started with Paul Fireman of Reebok way back in the late ’80s, Paul had a tremendous amount of trust in me as a brand and believed in me as a brand carrier and he wanted to do a Greg Norman Collection line of golf clothes. So fashion about clothes today is very fashion centric for golf. Our best performing line is our ladies line. Our sell-throughs on that are extremely high, but then again that’s all our lines, too. Our men’s line is doing extremely well, too. But we’ve had to hold our own. The retail market has been tough. We’ve done a tremendous job of penetrating a very high number of green grass accounts, I believe up around 2800 if my memory’s right. We really do hold extremely high by holding our market share in the domain that we’ve chosen, so we’re very, very proud of it.