I recently had a chance to sit down with two-time Major winner, former world number one player, golf course architect, and soon-to-be analyst for Fox broadcasts of PGA Tour events, Greg Norman, and chat about everything from television and the state of golf in the U.S. to his design influences.
GM: What are you doing to get ready for the broadcast booth?
NORMAN: We are getting the team organized, getting compatible people. We have a great producer in Mark Lerness who has really pulled the team together. We are going through the technical aspect, what are we going to do differently to show golf because everybody has pretty much been doing it out of the same box, same style. Golf is really hard to televise because it is spread out over such a vast area with so many different cameras and so many different entities you can cover, but we think we have something new.
GM: Has Fox asked for your opinions, what you think could be done different and better?
NORMAN: They have, but I can’t go into any specifics yet for competitive reasons. Fox has been very proactive; they want me to do the yellow line, whatever that yellow line is? We throw out ideas and go to the technical department and see what’s possible. The technical department has looked at what they have done in all the other sports they cover and are working on possibilities for golf.
GM: You were always gracious in both winning and losing on the golf course. Will you be that way in the booth or will “call it like you see it?”
NORMAN: I have always called it like I’ve seen it with the media. I don’t see changing my nature because I am with Fox. One of the reasons Fox chose me is because of my open, forthright, no fear of favor approach. I’m not going to go crazy and be ridiculous about some of my comments. I’m just going to say how I see it. Take the Tiger Woods situation at The Masters where he took that wrong drop. I called it right there within two seconds of him dropping the ball. If I am on TV, I am going to call it because as a player I knew it was wrong. So in a situation like that, I’m not going to have my producer in my ear, saying it is Tiger Woods, don’t say anything because of the consequences. I am going to say what I see. You asked me to be the analyst; I am going to give you my opinion.
GM: How do you see yourself relating to younger players on Tour?
NORMAN: I do not see me having to necessarily relate directly to them. I think they would be aware of who I am, who I was. I will be very aware of who they are. All of them I will not know, of course. But then again I do not think you need to know them. I have some really great people in place right now to help me get prepared for the top 50 players in the world. I will have knowledge of every individual down to almost what color of underwear they are wearing.
GM: The audience wants to make a connection to a player so they know who to root for. As a player who has been there, do you want to help the audience read into things they may not be aware of and to connect to players that they may not be aware of?
NORMAN: As a commentator, it is not my job to root for one player over another, but to inform the audience and let them choose who to root for. My playing experience will help, absolutely. When I was a foreigner coming to America and beating the Americans, people’s opinion of me was pretty damn bad to tell you the truth and wrong. So once you start that wave it is very difficult to pull it back. With social media, you can now pull it back almost instantly. My job as a commentator is to never allow that somebody be judged by others’ opinions. You comment about what you see and explain to everybody who is watching it why you see it that way. I want to pull people through the TV screen and stimulate their thought process about things that might be going on.
GM: Sometimes it is hard to see the beauty of a course in photos or on television. Do you find that people sometimes prejudge your courses based on photos or what they see on TV?
NORMAN: Television can’t tell the story of a golf course because TV is not three-dimensional. You can not get the feel of any course through the TV. As an example, Oakmont, which does not look spectacular on TV, in three dimensions you would see that the first green has a 12 percent grade from front to back and if the viewer could see that they would be amazed that players could even putt that green!
GM: How is your golf game these days?
NORMAN: I have no interest in playing tournament golf again. I will play in China in a celebrity event because I am playing with a friend of mine and because we were involved with the inception of the tournament with mostly Chinese celebrities and it’s a fun event. I love doing a lot of other things. I love the business. We had to work really hard from 2008 to basically now, as everyone had to do in our industry. I don’t like being away on weekends anymore, I like being home. All my guys that work for me, I like them to be home on weekends. We all have reasons to be home on the weekends. I traveled 40 weeks a year and was away 40 weekends a year all over the world. So at the end of the day, I just enjoy not playing. Now if my guys want to go out and play, I will go play with them. But if I shoot 80, I don’t care. I don’t really shoot 80 but I wouldn’t care. It’s just not a priority for me. My business is a priority, seeing my guys be successful is a priority, things change in life. I like where I am developing golf courses as opposed to just playing them.