Tour and News

Greg Norman on why his Presidents Cup team is dangerous, and why Tiger will never win another major

Photo: Angus Murray

Norman will captain the International team in the 2011 Presidents Cup.

Give me your pitch for why you and former LPGA star Lorena Ochoa should win the contract to build a course in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Games.
Her roots are in South America, number one. Her penetration into golf in that part of the world, what she's done and brought to the table, is far superior to anybody else. And the credibility of the design jobs that I've done around the world — environmentally sensitive, hosting Tour events. We're also very good spokesmen. We like to talk about the game. Having golf back in the Olympics is not a given forever. We have to produce the goods in 2016 for the IOC to vote on it in 2020.

 

Why are you two a better choice than Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, who are also lobbying for the job?
They're iconic in their own rights, but Lorena and I are young enough where we can actually — we want to carry that baton and really push forward. That's a platform that I've been very open about. You have to have the credibility in order to do it, number one, but you also need to have the responsibility that comes with that.

Where are you building courses these days? Mostly in China?
All over. We're in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, China, Australia, Vietnam, the Middle East, Russia. We have 27 courses under construction or just getting ready to go.

How much attention do you pay to the state of the U.S. economy?
It has a direct effect on my business. I believe you lead from the top down, and if I ran my business like the guy in the White House runs his business now, whether it's your debt-to-GDP, or your inflows to your outflows, basically — I'd be bankrupt. If I didn't show the confidence to my staff from 2007 to where we are today, making a change to the business model, making adjustments within human resources, moving people out, which you don't like to do, to consolidate — you have to do that. And I haven't seen that [from President Obama]. And I've got no confidence. It's nothing personal, but the president has killed the entrepreneurial spirit that made America so fantastic post-World War II.

If you had five minutes with President Obama, what would you tell him?
Balance your budget. It's as simple as that. Implement a policy instead of implementing politics. He's introduced 600 new regulations since he's been president — 600 new regulations have to be understood, implemented and executed. And they're handcuffing this country. So what happens? Companies like GE go overseas and make money overseas and don't pay tax in America. At the end of the day it's not working.

The PGA Tour seems to be weathering the storm, though its ratings have dipped. Do you suppose that's more because of Obama's fiscal policies or Tiger's demise?
It's a combination of things. Specifically everybody fell in the trap of what [the NBA] did with Michael Jordan. They put all their eggs in Michael Jordan's basket, and justifiably so, the greatest basketball player ever. You should do that. But at the end of the day, when the run comes to an end, you haven't got a backup plan. People say the ratings are dependent on Tiger, but you have to give credit to these young guys — they're so good. I've never seen professional golf look as healthy as it does today, and these kids are not getting the recognition.

The Tour recently signed another long-term TV deal, though the terms were not disclosed, not to the public at least. Do you think the players also feel cut off, like they're not in the loop?
Look, when I played I always felt that I was cut off as the top guy out there. I really felt like I didn't have all the information to go on.

You and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem have had a contentious relationship since the mid-90s, when you tried to form a rival tour. Has it been awkward for you being a Presidents Cup captain given it's a PGA Tour production and Finchem's baby?
No. He and I have got on great. We really have. I complimented the PGA Tour the other day. They've been a huge ally with our Shark Shootout. We've been together for 22 years, and it's been a tough economic time and the PGA Tour has stepped up to the plate. They really, really have been fantastic.

Would you ever be bold enough to be a playing captain?
No.

What is your greatest strength as captain?
Taking all the outside distractions away from my team so they can go do what they do best: play golf, and win.

And your greatest weakness?
You'll have to ask others for this answer. I hope none.

What do you admire most about U.S. captain Fred Couples?
The connection he has with the members of his team.

One of your most exciting players is your countryman Jason Day. Why might he end up being better than all the other so-called young guns?
He's got time on his side. He's got an extra 10 years on Adam Scott. I like his demeanor and I like his background. He didn't come from an easy past, so he's hungry. He understands, and he's respectful about where he is and where he wants to go. I think he's the next new star on the horizon, for sure.

Has it been fun to watch Scott thrive with the long putter?
I love the guy. He's like my younger brother in a lot of ways. He worked with the long putter the early part of this year on my backyard green at the Medalist [in Hobe Sound, Fla.], when he stayed with me for tournaments in Florida, and I said to him, "Adam, you look more relaxed with this putter." He had a lot of pressure on his short game because he was trying to chip it to two feet instead of to four or five.

Does it bother you that the Ryder Cup outshines the Presidents Cup?
You've got to give it time. You've got to generate that rivalry. The fact that the Internationals haven't won since 1998 is not good for the event. These guys are good. I printed out three sheets of paper, with the top 15 potential players for the International team, the top 15 for the Americans, and the top 15 Ryder Cup guys since 2009. My guys have outperformed the United States and Europe in number-one, top-two, top-three and top-10 finishes around the world.

Plus you'll be playing a home game, or some of your players will.
Well, I also made columns on those sheets for how these guys have performed in Australia, Japan, Europe, South Africa. In two of those columns, there was only one American player who finished in the top 10 in two years. I said, "Look at this, guys: They do great in America, but when you take them out of America they're not doing that great. Why? What is the deal? Why? Why?" It's an amazing stat.

Was Tiger on the list of Americans?
No, he wasn't in the top 15.

 

 

Do you believe Tiger will win another major, given the state of his body, his mind, and his game?
No.

What's the biggest factor?
I think it's a combination of everything. Tiger, when he dominated, had a single-shot approach. It was only about the golf. Everything else was taken care of. I mean he was put up on this pedestal, and he enjoyed it, likely so, because he did what he did. But now there are so many other distractions, and people are looking for things that are wrong with Tiger now, so he's got to deal with that on a day-to-day basis, like every other mortal has to do, right? In our lives, in our business, we all have to be responsible for our actions. It's very hard for him to have that focus. And the more he shuts people off, the worse it gets.

How do you think Tiger should handle his situation differently?
I think he's reverted to a deeper hole. I think he's gone further and further away. I can't comment because I've never spoken to Tiger. I don't know what's in his head. I can only comment on what I see and what I hear. He seems more guarded. He's definitely guarded more with the media than anything else. When I was No. 1, I knew there would be a percentage of the media that didn't like me, whether it was because I was an international or just because I was Greg Norman. But I always knew that we were two professionals who had to do our respective jobs. I realized that what I needed to do was to go into the media room and act like it was a fireside chat, and let people draw whatever conclusions they wanted. That way I could tell myself I didn't push back. I was there. You've got to give a little.

It seems like Tiger has a hard time with that.
He has a hard time being a person. Happiness can only come from within, and he's the only one who can find that path to happiness. Do I think Tiger needs a mentor? Absolutely. I think everybody does. I looked up to my dad, I looked up to that guy right here. [Norman points to business partner Bart Collins.]

And now, after firing Steve Williams, Tiger doesn't even have a caddie to lean on. Have you reached out to Tiger?
I suggested he give Tony Navarro [Norman's former caddie] a look — I thought Tony would be a great asset for him — via his manager, but I never heard back.

Do you feel it fell on deaf ears?
I don't know. I spoke to Mark [Steinberg, Woods's longtime agent] but I never heard any more about it. I don't know him. I do know what it's like. I've been there. I know that in my position, I went to Jack Nicklaus many times, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Lee Trevino. I knew that if I was getting a little out of balance, I could go to one of those guys. Seve Ballesteros and I used to have heart-to-heart chats when we were rivals. Nobody's bigger than the game or anybody else.

If he'd have just given Williams a fat settlement, it might have diffused the tension.
Yeah, but that tells you there's a lot of underlying issues. I've known Steve Williams since he was 15 years old. I know the DNA of the guy, how morally and ethically straight down the middle he is with things. I think there's more to it. I told Steve, "Go do your job and keep your head high." I said, "Steve, you are part of the story to some degree no matter which way you look at it. You were on his bag, so whether it's guilt by association or whatever it is."

You've had some uncomfortable personal matters of your own reported by the press, most recently your brief marriage to Chris Evert.
Yeah. I mean I'd love to talk to Tiger about it, guy to guy. The president of the United States [Bill Clinton], when he came to my house, wanted to talk to me guy to guy. We all put our underpants on the same way, one leg at a time. So we sit down and have a chat until two o'clock in the morning. There are only a few people in the world that you can actually do that with without fear or favor, you know? Everybody's gone through these experiences. But I'm hearing things like, "Why didn't they pick on Jack, why didn't they pick on Arnold, why didn't they pick on Norman?" Don't talk s--t like that! It's got nothing to do with any of this, but I'm hearing [Tiger's] saying that. What's he running away from? And what's he pulling people into? All those guys with IMG — this is crazy s--t, you know? At the end of the day, I really do believe that a good chat with somebody who's lived life and had the experiences will help him. He might take one little bit away from it. And that one little bit will lead to something else. It's like inviting Adam Scott to the 2009 Presidents Cup, giving him that little bit of confidence to open him back up.

Which is exactly what Tiger seems to need.
Well, just look at his body language. He doesn't keep his head up anymore, he's got his eyes down, he's trying to keep his eyes away from the camera. Right? It's like I said to Steve: "Keep your head up, walk around proud of who you are." Tiger can still play, and I think he'll win again. But he's not going to do what he did before.

One of the reasons it's so hard to fathom what's going on is that Tiger seems in many ways to be a smart guy. He went to Stanford. And yet in other ways he seems to have some real blind spots.
Well, he's not street-smart, because he's been cocooned for his whole life. You can be a Harvard graduate, MIT, Yale, Stanford, but if you don't understand what the street is all about — most of the great CEOs and leaders of the world are street-smart. They get the temperature, they understand the heartbeat, and having your backup, smart people behind you, is the way to go. I've had great conversations with Jack Welch. Jack came up the hard way. And he took GE to one of the biggest companies in the world through being street-smart. You've got to have it.

And if you don't have it you've got to realize that you don't have it and seek it out.
Yeah, but sometimes you can't see the forest because of the trees. To him he doesn't have that problem, I think. He thinks everything's OK because his world is so cocooned.

Did you ever feel like you were forgotten about too quickly with the way Tiger erupted onto the scene?
No. I loved it. I enjoyed the quiet. I was the guy for so many years. There is a time when you've got to hand over the baton.

You don't worry about your legacy?
That s--t doesn't bother me. It really doesn't. Legacy is what other people's interpretations of you are, and in many cases they're incorrect. I do the best I can for the people around me and for the game of golf.

 

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