Featured Golf News
'Great White Shark' Speaks about his Shootout
Though it's had different names over the years, with sponsors including Merrill-Lynch and Franklin Templeton - tournament host Greg Norman has been a constant presence ever since his Shark Shootout was first played in 1989.
The three-day, $3 million best-ball team event starts Friday Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. It's been held at the Norman-designed, 36-hole facility since 2000.
Norman plays every year in the tournament; his only victory - with fellow Aussie Steve Elkington as his partner - came in 1998, three years after "Elk" won the PGA Championship. This year Norman will be paired with his friend Fredrik Jacobsen of Sweden.
The field includes eight major champions, including Norman, and seven members of the 2012 U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams. Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele return to defend their title.
On Thursday, Norman sat down with reporters and discussed his years hosting the popular event, which will be broadcast on the Golf Channel Friday, with weekend coverage by NBC. He touched on the tournament as well as issues such as the proposed ban by golf's ruling bodies on anchoring the putter, a move he supports but believes will hurt average golfers, and thus the popularity of the game.
Here's what golf's "Great White Shark" had to say during the following Q&A.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the host of the Franklin Templeton Shootout Mr. Greg Norman. Mr. Norman, this event has been here for 12 years now. You want to talk about the significance of that and what it means to this area and your thoughts on this year's event, and then we'll go ahead and take some questions.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think the significance is the fact that the area had really been looking forward to an event 13 years ago, basically PGA Tour stars to some degree. So when we made the decision to come over here, we were accepted very much with open arms. The golf course was built probably a couple years earlier than that. Even though it was a resort style golf course, all the components from the hotel to the golf course to the driving range, everything made it very compatible to have an event here. The community has embraced it, no doubt about it.
From my perspective and what I've heard from the players, they love coming here and they love playing here. So it's very easy for us to put it on. And then quite honestly, the support we have gathered from the local community every year seems like it ratchets up a little bit more. I think the real barometer of that is the 5k run on Saturday morning. We started the first year with maybe a couple hundred, if not 150, 200, and now we're up around 600, 700 and gong through close to 1000. So I think that's a testament to the community getting involved not just with the 5k run, but the 5k run benefits the whole tournament and they have access to the golf course tournament as well. So you can see this is a pretty good indicator.
MODERATOR: Questions. We've got a microphone right here. Raise your hand and we'll make sure it gets around.
Q. How is your golf game going into this? I know you said on media day you were getting ready to start practicing and get ready.
GREG NORMAN: I wish I could answer that question in a positive fashion. It's okay. That's all it is. I mean, I did hit a few balls after that, and that was it. I actually came from the driving range now, which is a pretty positive sign. So I'm trying to find some semblance of a game, because I really haven't put any true effort into it since August. And that's fair enough. I mean, I've said consistently over the last year or two that I don't enjoy practicing, and I still don't enjoy practicing. It's a matter of concentrating, and if you concentrate on certain shots you can still do it. But it's hard work now.
Q. Your thoughts on the field now that the guys are here and there has been some time since the field was announced and more tournaments played?
GREG NORMAN: I think the field last year was very, very strong. Great field. Mixture of European players and U.S. players and respective Ryder Cup teams. I know we don't have the European players here this year because we have a very conflicting schedule with overseas events. But all in all, I think the field this year is equal to last year's. The depth of the players is very, very strong. The quality of players is extremely strong. I like the balance we have from the younger generation, the Bud Cauleys and the Rickie Fowlers all the way out to the Vijay Singhs for being a rookie here. I think that's it's a pretty good. It's a testament that people talk about it away from this tournament during the year. They talk to their friend thinking about playing in The Shootout. This year has shown that because Vijay wanted to play and he's here.
Q. I'm working on a story about swing changes at the highest level of the game. Did you ever make a significant change during your career?
GREG NORMAN: What is significant? We can make a change by a quarter of an inch and it feels significant to us. To your naked eye you probably wouldn't see it. Swing changes, I think, are a norm in our game. You always try to elevate yourself to a better and better level. No matter how well we swing at the golf ball, inside we feel like we can do better. I can tell you when I was leading the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, and Butch Harmon, I left him on I think Friday or Saturday afternoon. I said, I really don't feel good about my golf swing. We've got to make some changes.
He says, You want to make some changes? You're leading the golf tournament and you're going into Saturday. It was Friday night. I said, Well, I feel the club is a little bit behind me. We've got to go fix it. Butch couldn't see it; I could feel it. That's what I mean. It was something significant to me, so we went out and worked on something that night. Friday night I felt better; I played well Saturday. And that was a significant change I made, even though it was fairly minute. I adjusted and played fairly well the next day. Same thing at the British Open. There has been times when I've made a significant change. So it's all relative in the terms of the word "significant." But I think if you look at everybody's golf swing over the history, there is some minor adjustments we've made.
Q. Have you ever done anything like Nick Faldo when he rebuilt his swing?
GREG NORMAN: No, I've never gone along those lines. I've never done a Faldo or a Tiger Woods type move where you've completely striped it down and started all over again. That's their choice and decision to do it. If you're changing coaches, obviously the coach is going to inject his belief on how the golf club should be swung during the motion and the player is gonna listen. Obviously he wouldn't change coaches if he wasn't going to listen to that coach.
So you expect it, and you have to work together. It takes time, two to three months to really make a change, just one change. So if you're making three or four changes, it may take a year. It's a big effort. You can pretty much write off a year if you're going to make a significant change and build into the future.
Q. One more: Tiger Woods obviously has made three. Seems maybe unprecedented in the sport. Your thoughts on the three?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I really don't know the reasons why. Maybe injury is a significant reason. I thought the way he swung the golf club in 2000 was the purest I've ever seen him swing a golf club technically. So why he wanted to change, maybe there was some ailment in his body that he was protecting from. He put a lot load and torque on his lower joints, and maybe there was some strain starting to show up then so maybe he was just trying to alleviate that. We all do that. I've done that. I've done that with Butch Harmon trying to alleviate the pain on my back when you play just to make sure your spine stays a little bit straighter through impact. So that's really making an adjustment for your health reasons more than significantly for the way you want hit the golf ball. So it's difficult to make comments on what Tiger's decisions were to make those changes, those three changes.
Q. But you can see the difference between looking at his swing now versus, say, 2002?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Like I say, I like the way he swung the golf club in 2000 - at any stage of his career. He was technically correct. To me, he was a better middle iron player and controlled his distance better then than he was or is today. Right now, from what I read - and that's all I can say, is what I read is he's just trying to take one side of the golf course out of play, which is hitting the ball left. I think he's worked pretty hard on doing that.
Q. Being a Hall of Famer, I'm curious to learn your opinions on the proposed change, rules change to the no longer having anchoring with the putter. I know you are a traditionalist at heart.
GREG NORMAN: I've been very consistent since the mid '80s, early '80s. I've always been against it since day one. I've always said over this period of 30 years or 25 years, whatever it is, that nerves and the tingling in your fingertips are part of the game of golf. And how you control those is an art in itself. Some people can and some people can't. Sometimes you get twitches and sometimes you don't. But you can change that. Golf can test you more mentally than it does physically. I always thought the ability to go to an anchored stroke was a cop out. It made it easy for you not to push through and make yourself work on something so hard to try and change, whether it was mental. So if the rule is in my favor, okay, use it. If it's a benefit for you, why not?
I just don't believe in anchoring. It's not a stroke. So I completely applaud what the R&A and the USGA have done. But that having been said, I will also say this: I think our rules should be bifurcated. I really do. When we go back to 1996 when the specification of the golf ball was changed and the golf ball started going further instantly with the specification change, we made a lot of golf courses obsolete for about 40 players, 50 players, right?
But we also could've saved a lot of money in changing the golf courses. We could've saved a lot of money in the way we build golf courses for tournament play by just putting the specifications on there for professionals. Makes no difference what the masses use, quite honestly. You still got to shoot 130. I don't know whether you shoot that bad, but you still going to play and hit it in the rough and in the water. But the restrictions on that for us, I really don't see the reason why we don't do it. The European Tour, the local rule over there is specific to the European Tour. So there are bits and pieces to it. Why not get it all together and do it?
I do compliment the R&A and the USGA for getting together. It's a big effort for two ruling bodies to jointly stand side by side. They are the rule makers, and they do set the rules for the masses. Sometimes I think the rules for the masses are really the rules that they focus on for the professionals. Obviously the long putter wouldn't have made a big impact if no PGA Tour player used it and no PGA Tour ever one a major. If the amateurs played it, they probably wouldn't have changed the rule. It's just because there are a few guys that get out there and do it and play extremely well, and they probably don't have nerves because they're too young anyway, right? But they grew up with it because it's not illegal.
Like I said, the art of controlling your nerves is part of it. There have been cases talked about where guys have taken beta blockers to calm your nerves down and slow everything down because they just can't do it. Ever since the drug testing came into play we put our stamp on that, so now that's out. Now you see the golf game back to technique and stroke and testing your nerves.
Q. You were part of the game of golf during the period of when the long putter started falling off in the early '80s. Why don't you think this happened sooner?
GREG NORMAN: I talk about it. I really don't know, to tell you the truth. I mean, I was the one who back in the mid '80s - you might have been there - when I would donate to drug testing, bring drug testing in. I volunteered to the R&A and said, I'll give a urine sample and start the process. I was the No. 1 player in the world, so I said, Let me start the process. I'll put my hand up and be the volunteer and you can test me every week if you want. To them it wasn't the right thing to do, even though we as players, we wanted to do it and make sure it was the right thing to do.
So when you look back at those things, you talk to 'em about it, and sometimes that's where I think the players, the top players should have a little bit more of a say and be involved. What you guys think? Take five or six of the best players in the world and get their collective feelings and talk to them. Because we are the best players in the world. We do know what we're talking about. We do know how the game is played and what happens out there. Why not sit back and listen to us a little bit?
Q. Last year Frederick was supposed to play with you, and obviously this year he will. Tell me a little bit about pairing with him. Tell me about that decision.
GREG NORMAN: Well, we was just honored the commitment we had last year. We're good friends; our wives are really good friends; the kids play together. So we spend a lot time. He comes out to my ranch. So we talk about it all the time. Last year he couldn't make it, so it's going to be a fun couple of days.
Q. I noticed also that with Ian and Dustin that you have paired them in the final group with the champs.
GREG NORMAN: We have two defending champions.
Q. Right. So pairing them together, how much fun do you think that will be for the crowd to see them go at it?
GREG NORMAN: I don't think it'll ever happen again. From Dustin's standpoint he was in a tough position because I think he had to go to a wedding, if my memory is right. So he honored the commitment to his friends. You respect that. Not much you can do about it. But I just thank him for coming back this year. Obviously with Ian, he's, to me, one of the great characters of the game and a good friend. It's logical that they would pair back up and come back and be the defending champions to some degree.
Q. But my question is pairing them with Brendan and Keegan, how much fun will that be to see them go at each other?
GREG NORMAN: Of course. I mean, Hey, may be fun watching Frederick and Norman playing against the two young guys. Their two ages don't even add up to mine. I think everybody has their favorites, but that's a great pairing to come and watch. Look, that group may be paired together the whole three days because they're such a strong group of four players, right? If they get rolling, pair of 63s, they'll be playing together the next day and the next day, so it could be very good.
Q. One of the other issues I wanted to ask you about in talking to some of the players is slow play. Want to see if that's been a topic when you talk to the players or when you watch the game.
GREG NORMAN: Look, this issue has been around for probably ever since the game of golf has been invented. Look, you can drive down I 96, I 70, or any freeway, and one slow driver can slow up every car on the road. Same with golf. One slow player can slow down everybody. I know for 35 years in the game of golf that I've played that we've tried to get players to speed up, the slow players to speed up. I don't know what the answer it is. It's tough on the players who like to play fast because it gets them completely out of rhythm. And the players, we all want to play at a fast, comfortable pace. We don't want to run around the golf course, but at the same time, I just don't like that a couple players can completely disrupt the field. The etiquette is gone because the respect and all you're just worrying about is yourself and not the game of golf, No. 1, and not the rest of the players on the field.
Q. The earlier point you made, what can be done, because somebody said fining is not going to be the answer. The feeling is to do a penalty stroke or two.
GREG NORMAN: I think they have tried everything from money to penalty strokes. It's actually applying them is probably the answer. Instead of giving a warning, just say, Hey, you gt a one stroke penalty. That'll get your attention very quickly. If you hit a bad shot and you go into the hazard, you get a one stroke penalty. So I really don't know what the answer is. It's basically infested itself in our game, in the professional and amateur game, because the amateurs watch what the pros do. I've played the AT&T where it's taken over six hours to play. It's filtered through the amateur game, too. I don't have a true, honest answer on how to get over it.
MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, Greg.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.