• 7.30 Report With Greg Norman

    Australian sporting legend Greg Norman speaks to Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Leigh Sales about his friendship with US President Donald Trump.

    • Greg Norman
    To watch a video clip of the interview, please click here.

    Among Australian sports legends, Greg Norman is right up there.

    The 'Shark' was one of the world's greatest golfers for much of the '80s and '90s, and more recently has had tremendous success as an entrepreneur as well.

    His life has had him brushing shoulders with the world's serious movers and shakers, including current US President Donald Trump. In fact, Greg Norman's probably done as much as anybody to give Australia a foot in the door with the Trump administration - and he's an unapologetic Trump fan.

    With the Australian Prime Minister due at the White House this week, the 'Shark' joined me from his office in Palm Beach in Florida.

    Greg Norman, welcome to the program. How did you come to meet Donald Trump?

    It was when I was a professional golfer. I played with Donald - the President, excuse me. (Laughs) I played with him quite a few times.

    And look, he's very, very passionate about it. He loves his golf. You know, you've seen what he'd done prior to being the President of the United States: he was acquiring golf courses all around the world. And during that timeframe he did acquire a couple of golf courses that I designed. So we have always stayed in touch in some way, shape or form. But golf has been the connector for us.

    And when he became President, you know, there was an opportunity for me to try and put our Prime Minister Turnbull in touch with President Trump, because our Prime Minister wanted to reach out and congratulate him. And that's how I got involved in this relationship that's now taking place today.

    Tell us a bit more about that. What happened?

    The ambassador, Joe Hockey - the ambassador of Washington DC, who's a good friend of mine, known him a long time - he reached out to me and said that the Prime Minister would like to reach out to President Trump and congratulate him. "And do you have his cell phone number?"

    As simple as that. And I don't normally give out cell phone numbers of people in my database but, considering it was for the Prime Minister to call the President of the United States, I thought that would be the right thing to do.

    And fortunately, you know, it has turned out to be an incredible relationship. I can tell you that, looking down the lens right now.

    It started off a little bit rocky, but their relationship now - Prime Minister to President of the United States - is extremely strong.

    And when you think about where we are today - well, think about the past and where we are today with what Australia's doing with the military and what we're working with the United States in the presence around the world - little brother and big brother relationship and bond is stronger than it's ever been.

    Tell our viewers about the sorts of things that you've been trying to do to help Donald Trump and his team understand the importance of the US-Australia alliance?

    Well, look, all it is is just trying to put the right people together. Because I've been around for a long period of time with relationships I've known - like I said before, former prime ministers of Australia, all the way through to, you know, presidents of the United States - I'm not afraid to reach out.

    The Aussie spirit that we have in Australia flows deeply through my blood; and I think the Americans would kind of be the benefactors if they understood a little bit more of that Aussie spirit.

    There's no question he is disruptive. But why is he disruptive? Because, I mentioned before, he's got stars and stripes flowing through his blood, to the thickest I ever seen anything in life. And so he's going to be disruptive with the judicial branch. He's going to be disruptive with the executive branch. He's going to be disruptive with the public branch, who voted him in there.

    So the public love what they see - his base love what they see - and then over here, there's a lot of public that don't like what they see.

    But at the end of the day, let's just see how this all flushes out over the period of four years, or maybe eight years or whatever the cycle is with his presidency. Let it all flush out a little bit and then make your assessment and judgement on how good or bad he was.

    You mentioned a lot of Americans don't like Donald Trump. A lot of Australians feel pretty nervous about his presidency. Is there anything you can say to reassure them?

    My only reassurance is this: is the fact that President Trump is trying to make America a better place to be.

    At the end of the day, you know: "You can please some of the people some of the time," I guess, is a cliché you can throw out there. But I truly believe he's very, very passionate about making this country a better, stronger place.

    And not only just domestically, but look what he's doing around the world. He's going after the bad guys. And going after the bad guys is a daunting task, considering what you find out when you're in there.

    And by doing that, he's rattling the cage around the world. Now, like I said, some people like it, some people don't like it. But at the end of the day, if his number one priority is to make America a safer place, then God bless him, quite honestly.

    What's your advice for Malcolm Turnbull in dealing with Donald Trump?

    Look, I mean, they're both intelligent guys. What I do admire about both of them: they both came up through business.

    Malcolm Turnbull: the same way. He understands what business is all about. He understands creating opportunities for businesses to grow and develop, which creates more jobs, like I said.

    And Trump's the same way. He builds things. He understands, too, when you go out there: it's like building a golf course. You have a budget. You have a timeline, you have to deliver both on budget and on time to be successful.

    So he's done that in the past and that's what he's trying to do here. Look, like I said, he's been disruptive to the political system, the status quo political system that's been in place for aeons in this country.

    But that disruption can be a good thing if you sit back and you take stock of it. I think he's better today than what he was three months ago; than what he was, obviously, when he was in the inauguration.

    You've played golf with a few presidents and world leaders. Who's got the best game?

    Oh, boy. Hawky (Bob Hawke) had a good game, actually. I enjoyed playing with him a lot. He was very, very passionate about it.

    I would say, out of the presidents I've played with, the guy who plays the fastest was President Bush 41 (President George H.W. Bush). He would get 18 holes in, in about an hour and a half, an hour and forty minutes. He just was: "Hit when you're ready and just go."

    I haven't played with Trump since he's been President of the United States, but he does have a good game. He swings well. His rotation for a guy of his age is pretty good.

    President Clinton: oh, equally as passionate. He couldn't get enough time on the golf course.

    When he was there, he was a sponge for information. He would try to pick your brain as much as he possibly could - not only just from physically hitting the golf ball, but stretching routines and what got your mind into the game and how would you stay calm and stuff like that.

    So those conversations I had with him were just very much in-depth about the game.

    Just one other question: how surprised were you when that recent Instagram shot of you went viral?

    (Photograph of Greg Norman, naked, about to dive into a lake)

    Hey, look: what you see is what you get with me. I wish I had social media when I was playing golf in the height of my career. I would have really engaged extremely well with my fanbase.

    And that was just, ah... you know, my wife approved it, number one. She took the photograph, number two. And she said, "Send it out there. This is you. This is who you are."

    So you know, it wasn't anything else other than just being really natural - in many ways. (Laughs)

    Greg Norman, thank you very much for taking time to speak to us.

    You're welcome, Leigh. Thank you.

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