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The Great White Shark Talks about Shootout, Presidents Cup & Rio Olympics Golf Course
On the eve of the Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout, tournament host Greg Norman met with reporters and chatted about the event and a variety of topics. Chief among them was his captaincy of the International team in the recent Presidents Cup and getting the bid to design the new golf course for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
For the second straight Presidents Cup, Norman was on the losing end of the biennial team competition. In 2009, his squad - consisting of the world's best players outside Europe - lost to the Americans at Harding Park in San Francisco 19˝ to 14˝. The result three weeks ago - 19-15 - wasn't much better, even though the Internationals were playing on their "home" turf at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia.
The only victory by the International squad came at Royal Melbourne in 1998, and many pundits thought it had an advantage this year. But it was not to be as the Americans - led by veterans Jim Furyk, David Toms and Phil Mickelson - handily defeated the local favorites.
Right after the awards ceremony Down Under, Norman called for format changes that he believes would level the playing field for the Internationals. His primary beef is that two of the five matches are foursomes (alternate-shot) and that his team isn't familiar with the format. Norman asserted that the Americans - which play foursomes against the Europeans in the Ryder Cup during the even-numbered years when the Presidents Cup isn't held - are more versed in the vagaries of that format, which he thinks is an unfair advantage.
Norman discussed a need for format changes with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in Australia but, due to other concerns, the two haven't found time to sit down for a more prolonged conversation about the issue.
"We do get our cage rattled a little bit in the foursome match," Norman said three weeks ago in Melbourne. "And it does rattle us because we don't like getting beaten; so maybe just getting our confidence level off. What's wrong with the host nation of having the choice of the format anyway? I think that's a pretty - you just add to the flavor of the event; creating and capitalizing on it, and the Americans do it every year. And once the Internationals get used to it, they might just revert back to it. It's a win/win for all. I don't see any negative at all."
During the following Q&A with reporters prior to the 24-man, 12-team Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout, which starts Thursday at Tiburon Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla., the Great White Shark expanded on his comments about the Presidents Cup as well as touching on other subjects - including the chances of his firm earning the bid to design the new course for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Here's what Norman had to tell the media.
MODERATOR: Greg, welcome to the 23rd annual Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout. Why don't you get us started. It's got to be gratifying, 11th year here, Franklin Templeton a sponsor, and returning over $11 million to charity. Maybe just talk about the event, and then we'll get some questions from the media here.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think obviously from my perspective it's a testament to the strength of the golf tournament itself to have a sponsorship like Franklin Templeton return after multiple years of being involved. Having the magnitude of a corporation like UBS. It's as testament to the golf tournament. It really is. The atmosphere that Naples has delivered here, we knew many, many years ago the game of golf was missed in this part of the world and there wasn't really a big golf event here. We knew if we brought it over to the Naples area it would be received extremely well. And it has been. We have been supported right across the board from the grassroots volunteers all the way up to corporations and charitable moneys going back. So at the end the day, whether it's $11 million or $18 million, whatever the number is out there, it's just an incredible performance by all of us.
I like this facility here. I think Tiburón, the fact that we never put a key in the ignition we walk out of our hotel, walk to the golf course, and walk back to the hotel makes the atmosphere very, very soothing and easy during the whole week. But all in all, the players love it, too. They want to keep coming back here. When you hear some of the players talk about how early in the year they're looking forward to try and get in The Shark Shootout, it means a lot to me, because obviously they're coming here to enjoy their week with their friends and their wives or significant others, but also playing three rounds with their best mates in a different type of format.
Q. Greg, you had some thoughts postmortem about the Presidents Cup and maybe some possible rules changes. A little more time has elapsed. Do you still feel the same about it? Is there anything else that you've thought of? Have you talked to the commissioner about these things?
GREG NORMAN: We had a conversation with the commissioner. It was only a fleeting one on Sunday night when he came into our team cabin. I thought it was important that he did come in. He did speak to a collective group of players and understood from the players' perspective what they felt. It's not just I'm just a captain relaying on an opinion. I'm a captain who over a period of four years has seen some obvious opportunities for them to improve on from our perspective. Quite honestly, all I care about is the international team and making that team the best team it can possibly be in the Presidents Cup.
So we had a very short dialog. It wasn't a pure sit down business meeting, but there were other players there of significant stature. And post that I have not had a conversation with him. I've been busy; he's been busy. I went on to another golf tournament. I came home. I'd been the road for over a month so I had to catch up with stuff at home. So I haven't had the chance, but it will happen. I am very confident that Tim will get together with either myself or maybe even a few other players. I highly recommended that to him, and he listened.
So, look, Tim wants to see the success of the Presidents Cup just as much as any other player. He's put a lot of time and effort into it. The PGA Tour has done a phenomenal job with it, but at the same time, I think there are opportunities, more opportunities, better opportunities to grow this tournament from our international perspective.
Q. Do you have any concerns that the results of been lopsided, the relevance of it, it's important that the internationals win the next one to make it relevant?
GREG NORMAN: Well, they were saying that going into 2011. I think the resounding success of the tournament was shown in Melbourne this year. I mean, it was a sell out crowd. The golf course was absolutely perfect. All 24 players to a tee just loved the event, loved the golf course the loved the atmosphere. So really the Presidents Cup won. That was most important thing. That's what we wanted. The international players, they're very hungry for it. They were hungry going into 2011 back a year ago wanting to win the Presidents Cup. There is no question about it that they want to win it.
The American players outplayed them at the right time. We came out of the gates very, very, fast we came out slow, and then we came out fast on Sunday. Slow meaning on Thursday. It's very difficult to play catch-up in that format when you're playing the quality of players the American team put up against the internationals. Look, there's no bones about it. The 12 internationals going into 2013 will be just as hungry as they were going into 2011. I don't think the stature of the event has lessened just because the international team has not won.
Q. Greg, in regards to this tournament here, there has been this year about 14 first time winners on the PGA Tour, and about a third of them are appearing in this tournament. As far as the pecking order, was that ever a big thing, to bring in some of the young talent to this event?
GREG NORMAN: Well, most of the time the guys qualify in the top ten and the top five, and then we have nine invitations. It was just interesting the last three months, like it has been in the last few years. Where we'll get calls about, Hey, how do I get in? Can I get in? I haven't qualified, but do you think I might be able to get an invitations to play? I think that speaks volumes for the event, like i touched on in the beginning. The strength of the field this year I think on paper is not as strong as what it was last year, but in reality I think it's stronger given the sequence of events and the tournaments leading up to the where we are here today.
The guys were in Shanghai, then Singapore, then down in Australia, then they were in California, and now they're here. That's really a huge statement to make, that the players are willing to transition all around the world to end up here at The Shark Shootout ready to play. They're going to have a couple weeks off and go to Hawaii. So it tells that you these young guys want to play a lot of golf. I got to tell you that the young kids and I call them the kids because they're 22 years old. My kids are older than those boys winning PGA championships, right?
The humility of these guys, they're extremely humble and very grateful. I think professional golf now is in such good hands with these young boys because they appreciate it. They really do appreciate the opportunity of coming out here and playing in an event like this. That means a lot to the event and the game golf. I don't care whether Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, the Keegan Bradleys, Brenden Steeles, the Webb Simpsons, all these young boys got so much stature and they carry themselves extremely really well, but they truly appreciate where they are in life.
Q. Have you found with first year players I mean, this is almost like a working vacation. You can make $70,000 to $375,000 this weekend. Do you think this really helps motivate some of these young guys to realize how nice staying on the Tour is?
GREG NORMAN: To be honest and this is only my opinion I never played the game of golf for money. I played for the enjoyment of playing the game. Maybe it's the same for some of these guys; maybe not. Maybe money is an issue. I don't know. But I do know when they come here they all go, Wow what a great golf course. For a resort golf course I had two guys today already say, Man, I came in here and wasn't expecting much out of this golf course, and they go, Wow, this is a pretty good golf course. So they enjoy the golf course, they enjoy the atmosphere, and the fact that they're playing with their mates makes it kind of stress free in a lot of ways. I think it's wonderful that they do feel that way about it.
Q. Greg, your design company is a finalist for the Olympic golf course. Can you talk about that process and how you feel about it.
GREG NORMAN: Well, the process has been an arduous one, to say the least. It's been a very, very short timeframe on the execution of an RFP. As team we got together and got a consortium of different companies we needed to get together, like a land planner and a lawyer in Brazil. Working with Lorena at the same time. We did a monumental task. Along with all the other final qualifiers that got there, we had to do a monumental task. Now you're in there. Unfortunately, I can't even go down because it's on Monday. All the information that's given to us on Monday, and then we have until the end of January to do it. You're only allowed to look at the piece of property probably one time, and then you have to go ahead and do your routing.
Then I'll go down and do the final presentation early part of January, early part of February. Lorena will probably go down with me, and we'll sit there and we'll do our we're allowed we have 45 minutes, and there is I think one other individual allowed to be in that presentation, or one other group of the eight, and then they roll onto another two and another two for the next day. So then the announcement comes right after that. So when you think about when we do design and build golf courses, for the timeframe we've worked on in this compared to most other projects, this is like a nanosecond of getting information, understanding environmental concerns, just putting things together. In a foreign country it's not an easy deal. I'm very, very proud of the way my company has performed and executed extremely well.
Q. You basically got a little more than a month to see the property and come up with routing?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, correct. We're working on golf courses down there anyway. I personally haven't seen the property. One of my guys who works for me, senior vice president, has seen the property, so I know he knows it. We get all the information the package is given to us on Monday. So from that position, we then have to do our routing and our submission, presentation in the end of January. So basically over Christmas, including Christmas. So you've got seven weeks to do this.
Q. Was that 45 minutes you said to make...
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, 45 minute presentation.
Q. Gosh. How much do you focus on the specifics of the golf course and how much just of governing philosophy? Must be challenging there.
GREG NORMAN: I just think at the end of day, the overriding thing as far as I'm concerned is the success of golf in the Olympics. You know, designing a golf courses, we can all design golf courses. We wouldn't be in the finals if we couldn't, right? But the overriding message is, How do we keep golf in the Olympics? The statement you make in 2016 is obviously the statement that's going to carry golf forward. I would hate to see the IOC or whatever the governing body is at the time and say, Well, it really didn't work in 2016; we're not going to do it in 2020.
It's crucial. Whoever is the final pick, it's crucial. They have to carry the banner for the game golf for years on. Not just 2016, but years into the future. We have this one opportunity now for the game golf. If we don't maximize that opportunity for the game of golf in the Olympics, then shame on all of us in a lot ways. Does that fall on the shoulders of whoever the eventual designer is? Maybe to a degree, because want to build a golf course that's the type ofgolf course you got to remember there are a lot of other things that are going to happen before and after.
I mean, there's got to be a tournament played on the golf course, I believe. So the responsibility of the designer is beyond 2016. It's crucial that we recognize that and we push that needle forward. I would hate to see it after all these years I've been playing the game of golf and sitting down with Severiano Ballesteros in the early '80s and him pushing really hard to get golf in the Olympics back then. He was one; I was two in the world, or vice versa, whatever the number was. He was so, so passionate about getting golf in.
So here we are 30 years later. We finally well, it's going to be 35 years later. We finally get it in. You know, we got to make sure it stays in. I'd do that for Seve any way. For him to know that we're there, for him to know that it got continued on would be everything. He was good friends with Samaranch at the time. It was his efforts in the early '80s to really push the game into the Olympics.
Q. We had Rickie and Camilo in here yesterday, and we were talking to them about this recent fresh wave of big name pros moving to the Jupiter area. Everybody is there now. Can you tell who or what it was that initially drew you to the area way back when all those years ago?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I grew up on the beach in Australia, and I wanted to get to the beach here. I was in Orlando at the time, and Orlando to me was very claustrophobic. I gravitated down to this part of the world, A, for the education system for my kids, and, B, for living on the ocean. It was just a lifestyle move. Jack Nicklaus was very instrumental. His wife, Barbara, enrolled my kids in the Benjamin School before we even thought about coming down here because she knew somewhere down the line you would have to think about an education for your kids.
So Barbara and Jack were very instrumental, and I spoke to them a lot about it. They lived in the area. They told me about the great climate and the atmosphere of the golf clubs. They said, If you come down here, people, you know, they're pretty low key in this part of the world. The opportunity of practicing 52 weeks a year was another one. So here we are. Everybody seems to be coming down here. They're moving out of Orlando, too, which seems like the same wave. I don't think there were too many other guys moved out of Orlando. Jack was here, Raymond Floyd was down in Miami, and then myself. That was it, I think.
Q. There was no Medalist or Bear's Club at the time. What was the setup? Where you did you playing?
GREG NORMAN: I joined Lost Tree. I lived in Lost Tree Village. I was a member there and did a lot of practice there. I was a member at Old Marsh Golf Club. So I lived there and joined there. That was really it.
Q. How nice is it to see all the guys at the Medalist now? That's a nice compliment, isn't it?
GREG NORMAN: It is. The Medalist, the atmosphere of the golf club is perfect for that situation. I built the golf club with two other guys at the time because I wanted have to a small membership, a real not a men's club, but a real good, high quality, high end golf club where you had to be a good player to play it. I think the golf course is softer and has gotten easier over time. At the same time, I used to go out on the fairways and just hit a 150, 200 drivers, and the members would just keep driving around. They wouldn't bother you, right? And I think that's the feel of what it is there now. I'm not the president of the club there anymore, so I go there and see a lot of the players and it's pretty good. You feel like you're going to a PGA Tour event on the range except we're allowed to wear shorts and our shirts out of our pants and stuff like that, which is pretty cool. It is good to see it. Obviously the players like it or they wouldn't be there.
Q. You talked about Seve's passion. Listening to you talk about the Olympics last year and this year here, seems like you have a real passion. Where does this project rank? In your career, where does it rank in desire or goal?
GREG NORMAN: It would be high up. I'm not going to tell a lie about that. It would be a great honor if you could build the golf course for the Olympics in the 2016. What part of your what magnitude to your legacy would it be? I have in idea. I'm not even going to comment on it unless we get the project and we finish the job and then post 2016 either people will say it was great or it wasn't great. So it's hard for me to comment on that. For the Olympics, I'm extremely passionate about the Olympics. I've known a lot of great Australian Olympians and I've been good friends with them and I've been involved, I carried the torch across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2000.
I stood on the back of a big Shark float in the closing ceremony in 2000 and hitting Wiffle balls up into the people and people going crazy about it. Just to see when we're going around the closing ceremony and the seeing the thousands of athletes just walking around your float, it's amazing. They're all amateurs, and they were kind of looking up to you like, Wow, can I meet you? Can you sign this? Can you sign that? You go, I'm looking down on these guys idolizing then and they're looking up to me, so the whole from pure respect from one sportsman to another sportsman just oozed respect. I was involved with the Olympics trying to get the Olympics to Melbourne when it went to Sydney. And we tried in Melbourne when I think it went to Atlanta. What year was that? What was that, '96? Okay.
I was involved with that to some degree. Then I went to the Atlanta Olympics because I knew some of swimmers from Australia. Spent a couple days there with the guys and girls. I went to their training sessions and spoke to them. So from an Australian standpoint, we are tight as a nation. It's very easy for me to put whatever weight I could put behind trying to getting the Olympics into Australia and golf into the Olympics. I just thought if I could give a small piece of success to it and it works, that is fantastic.
Q. Did you get the bug to play more after being in Australia and playing those two events?
GREG NORMAN: Not really, Tim. I really can't wait it's been a hectic month and a half, to tell you the truth. I haven't had a chance to get my feet back. I feel like I'm a little out of sync with a lot of things, business being one. I've got to have breakfast meetings with my guys because I haven't even seen them for a month now. Trying to catch up on all this Olympic stuff is one, and there are a lot of other things we're doing, too. So just feel like I'm just completely out of whack from the way I'm very good at compartmentalizing my life; I'm not there. I feel it this week. I'm completely estranged from my normal way of doing things. So looking forward to couple weeks off. I'm definitely going to play next year. I'm going to play in February. I'm thinking about a couple other tournaments I might play, but I'm not going to make any commitment to any of 'em until I know exactly how I feel. But I do plan on playing some golf.
Q. February, as in Champions Tour or regular Tour?
GREG NORMAN: No. February like Mayakoba Classic, yeah, my tournament down there.
Q. I know you played pretty well on the PGA. How is your health? Did you feel like, Hey, I still got it? I can still do it with these kids?
GREG NORMAN: No, I didn't feel that. (Laughter.) I felt that I felt you never lose the art of playing the game. I didn't feel like I played particularly well, but I knew how to play the game. I figured out how to get ball around the golf course, and that put me in a position. I enjoyed it, no question about it. I enjoyed putting myself up there and playing against the younger guys and actually doing better. No question. I have so many flaws in my golf swing because I haven't seen a coach in two years. I haven't spent quality time on the range. I know there are a lot of flaws in my golf swing. Just the mental approach for me to go out there and say, Greg, you've got to spend the next two months working on your game every day kind of takes the air of my system. I will do some, but I won't do it on a heavy, heavy schedule basis. I would like to get to see a coach and see what they think and just zero down on two or three fundamental things. Just pick my game up just a little bit.
Q. More Champions Tour's stuff? Maybe majors again? Or are you not willing to go that far?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I'll give one major championship I will play, and that's Senior British Open at Turnberry. I'm going to be at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. So irrespective of what's going on, I have an invitation to go there and I am going to go there. I think it's one of the great spectacles of sporting life, and it will be interesting to see how London puts it on. The senior British Open is a week before.
Q. Of the various suggestions that you've discussed with Commissioner Finchem about the Presidents Cup, if there was one that was more important to put in, would it be the format change or something else?
GREG NORMAN: I think I broached two points with him. I would say if I only had one pick, I would say that the captain of the international team should be allowed have to four picks. The top eight are the top eight anyway. He's probably going to pick nine and ten anyway, right? But the opportunity and the ability to build a bigger and better team, a stronger team, will be so much easier when you have four, two more picks. So if we had to say one, that would be one I would go for big time. These guys can play alternate shot. There is no question about it. We say, Okay, format change, host country should have a pick of which way the format goes. Nothing wrong with that.
They do that in the Ryder cup. So no big deal for that. These guys are good enough to play alternate shot. It's just right now we have it in our head that we can't alternate shot. I can go out and any one of you guys and we can hit it around and we can figure out how to play it. So at the end of the day it would be good. I think the host nation the other one we talked about three of them there was now was the right to defer. I think the host nation should have the right or opportunity to defer. That's a huge advantage, no question about it. When you go into Sunday and you have the opportunity to I have to put a name out, and going against me, you know, you can see how you're playing your hand. So it's really a big advantage to be going second.
Q. Obviously the Medalist stands on its own merits, but how meaningful was it, if at all, that Tiger chose the Medalist?
GREG NORMAN: I wasn't involved with that at all. That was his decision. Obviously peace and quiet of the golf club allows him to do what he likes to do there. That was his decision purely.
Q. Just your reaction to Tiger winning on Sunday. What do you think that will do for him?
GREG NORMAN: I think it's great for Tiger. I think it's what he's been searching for the last couple years. He putted well, too, but he put the combination of hitting the ball well I notice he played very conservative coming down the stretch. He laid up on a par 5, which is interesting twice. He got the job done, which he needed to do. It was good for Tiger.
Q. Did you see anything at the Presidents Cup that would lead to something like that?
GREG NORMAN: Not really. I didn't watch much of Tiger. I was spreading myself around all 12 of my team members. If he was playing somebody, yeah, I would see how he's swinging the golf club. It's different playing head to head than it is playing stroke play. He played very well on Sunday and putted extremely well, so obviously his confidence coming out of Royal Melbourne as super-fast greens to Sherwood's super-fast greens boded well for him.
Q. Frank told me that on Sunday night after it was over the guys I'm not sure if I got this right they basically asked you to come back as captain. I know your friend Nick is waiting. What's your position on this as it relates to taking that on again? Have you talked to Nick or anybody about it?
GREG NORMAN: No, I haven't spoken to Nick Price. I know the PGA Tour makes the announcement in March like every year. Nobody's discussed it with me outside the 12 players who all asked me to come back on that Sunday night. I just got to sit back and wait and see before we can even have a conversation about it. There's going to be a lot of thought process, and I'll just have to wait and see. Pretty sure that the Tour will consult some of the team members. I think that's only right. I think the international team and the American team should have a right to have a say on who their captain should be. Whether it plays out that way, we'll see. A lot of water is going go over the dam from the Presidents Cup to March.
Q. Were you touched by that though when the guys came back and said, Hey, we didn't get the Ws, but we like the way you ran the team and we want you back?
GREG NORMAN: I think that was the overwhelming message. We loved our clothing. We loved the atmosphere. We loved everything you did. We know you put your heart and soul into it. But at the same time, one of the comments that came out of it was, Hey, you got all the great ideas how to make the Presidents Cup better. You should be part of a victory because of those ideas. Why give it to somebody else? That was the comments. You know, of course it makes you feel good when you have that type of support from the 12 players. But we'll see how it all plays out.
Q. I'm in no way saying that the Presidents Cup ranks as a huge loss in your career and you've had great victories all over the world but I think something people will always remember about you is how you handle defeat. What perspective did you gain over the years and how did you come to terms with some of the stinging blows versus the great victories?
GREG NORMAN: To me it's just sport. That's just the way the game goes. You know, I'm not trying to lose golf tournaments, I can tell you that. Presidents Cup I actually felt more for my guys than me. I know how much they wanted to win it. I'm their spokesperson, so I have to get up there and do and say all the right things. But at the end of the day, I know how bad they felt. It meant a lot to me because of that. These guys were trying very, very hard to win. I said, It's all about you guys. It's not about anybody else except you as a team to win it. As far as I'm concerned, everything I do in life I approach it like I'm giving it my best shot, doing the best I possibly can do. If my best is not good enough at a given time, that means someone else's was better. Why were they better than me?
In my whole year career I tried to I tried to figure out why a certain player was better at a certain element of his game than I was, and then I would try to implement, Okay, what are my weaknesses? I've got to improve on those so I can get better and better and better. That's no different from what I do in life now. I've just been fortunate. Things don't bother me. I don't get hung up and drawn out over losses and stuff like that. Of course at the moment the impact of it gets you. Once it's over and done with, Hey, move on with life. You got to be philosophical enough about it whether it's on or off the golf course. That's life. At the end of the day, I think failure is good for you. You learn more from failure than you do from success. I think that's part of my success in life.
Q. There's an LPGA event moving to Naples next year three weeks before The Shootout. What are your thoughts on that and any effect it could have?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I don't think it'll have any effect. Probably a reflection of the success of what the Naples area has done for The Shark Shootout. People see that and they recognize that there is an opportunity to do that, so I think there is enough room for it. At the same time, I think it's a compliment to us that they have come. You got to be careful about not getting too close. No question about it. Is three weeks too close? I don't know. We'll see.
Q. This week you had a partner change at the last minute and you get to play with Scott. Tell me about playing with him and if you guys are going to show the young guys a few things out there.
GREG NORMAN: I feel for Freddy Jacobson, number one. Tearing all the ligaments in his left thumb is not a good thing, especially with the season only three or four weeks away for him. He was going to go Hawaii. So most important thing with him was, Hey, you get your thumb ready for the regular PGA Tour. You've had a great finish to the season. Momentum was really good for him. Now he's been sidetracked for I don't know what the time period. It may be six to eight weeks. So I was concerned for him. As for Scotty, we've been great friends. He comes to my ranch and hunts with me every year. We've just been really good buddies for 20 years out here on the Tour. It was easy. He was here anyway. There wasn't much drama getting him in from some other part of the world. I just asked him if he would do it, and obviously he jumped all over it. As for beating the young guys? Check with us Sunday night. We'll see how that goes.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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