SYDNEY – Greg Norman is laying it on the line for next week’s Presidents Cup, saying he won’t let television dictate his pairings and he won’t be afraid to send Adam Scott out against Tiger Woods.
He also said he’s going to be an assertive captain and give more advice than he takes.
After Norman finished his final round at the Australian Open on Sunday with a 3-over 75, he hobbled into the media center on his blistered feet to say he learned from his losing experience as Presidents Cup captain in San Francisco two years ago.
“At the end of the day, I am going to say this is who you are going to play,” he said of the team event which starts Thursday at Royal Melbourne. “I’m going to be a little bit more assertive, more of a captain instead of seeking advice.”
The potential Woods vs. Scott pairing, whether in the foursomes or fourball events or the singles next Sunday, is a delicate one. Scott’s caddie, Steve Williams, was formerly on Woods’ bag. They have had a fractious relationship since Woods fired Williams in July, and Williams made a racial slur against Woods at a caddie function last week in Shanghai.
“If it happens, it happens, it’s not going to be premeditated,” Norman said. “I talked to Adam about it, asked him if it works out that way, do you have a problem, and he said, ‘No, not at all.”’
“He might end up playing with him every day, who knows. I’d expect the two of them (Woods and Williams) to meet up face to face from Thursday onward,” he added.
Norman said he remembers being told by then-captain Peter Thomson at the Presidents Cup in 1998 that he was going to play Woods in a singles match on Sunday. The International team had a big lead going into the singles - and eventually won for the only time in the history of the competition - and Norman wasn’t happy with the decision, figuring it was something orchestrated for television.
“Peter and (Jack) Nicklaus (the U.S. captain that year) came up to me and said you are going to play Tiger tomorrow,” Norman said. “I said I didn’t want to make it a Norman-Woods show, and I rebelled against it. But Peter said, ‘You’re going to play him.”’
“In a situation like that, I learned if I am going to be the captain, the draw is going to be this way tomorrow and that’s what you are going to do.”
Asked if he felt whether television has that much effect on the pairings, Norman replied: “That was my assumption.”
Norman said one of his biggest dilemmas is the realization that that many of the American and International team members are good friends on and off the course.
All five Australian players on the International team play on the PGA Tour and own homes in the United States. Bubba Watson of the U.S. team and the International team’s Aaron Baddeley are best friends.
Norman said he was close friends with Seve Ballesteros when the two were young, with the Spaniard even staying at his house in Florida. The two often exchanged advice on the practice range, but their friendship soon waned.
“He became No. 1 and I came knocking on his door and I became No. 1, all of a sudden there was too much pressure, and the friendship suffered,” Norman said. “I always believed in the world of individual sport, everyone was your enemy. You focus on the job at hand.”
He’ll expect the same from his International players at Royal Melbourne.
“Curtis Strange was probably the toughest one I’ve ever played against who had that ability to cut your heart out on the first tee and hand it back to you on the 18th hole,” Norman said. “I loved playing guys like that.
“I’ll tell my guys to forget all the other stuff that is going on around you, you’ve got to win that point. Instilling that in their heads is the way to go.”
As a parting shot, Norman reiterated how his approach to leading the team has changed since the defeat in San Francisco.
“I am going to be more a captain instead of seeking advice and other people’s opinions and trying to make everybody happy,” he said. “At the end of the day you’ve got to make the decisions. The guys will realize that this is the captain speaking, this is what he wants us to do.”
Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel beginning Monday at 6PM. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Wednesday 9PM-2AM, Thursday 7:30PM-2AM, Friday 3PM-2AM and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)