Actually my wife suggested I should take six months off. In hindsight she was probably right, but I have commitments, and I feel an obligation to the game.
SI: You haven't won a tournament this year, coming off a year in which you were the PGA Tour's leading money-winner.
GN: Everybody goes through a slump. I had one in 1980, and I've had my ups and downs since then in 11 years of hard golf.
The thing with golf is, it's like a cat chasing its tail. You're never going to catch it. The day you think you've got your swing down pat, something goes awry and you've got to go back to the driving range, back to square one. That's one reason why I love the game so much. It's the soul-searching and the never-ending search for the perfect swing. Nobody's ever going to achieve the perfect swing, but you get those moments where you can put a golf ball within a foot from 180 yards away. That's a very unique time.
SI: How would you describe that feeling?
GN: There's this inner calm you get. Nobody's going to break your concentration, and it's like you're flowing along—you don't feel the ground. You pick up the golf club and it feels like you're milking it. The swing feels like it takes five seconds, when it really takes 1.2. That's what the game is all about, that feeling.
SI: How long can you sustain that feeling?
GN: One shot, maybe. Yeah, 'cause the next shot is a different situation. You might have a bad lie, the wind might have changed direction. See, every shot's a game, and that's why you have to treat the day one shot at a time. If you go out there and try to shoot a 66, you're never going to achieve it.
SI: There are times this season when you've seemed to be in that "zone." But you haven't been able to lock in long enough to win.
GN: That's right. It looked like I was going to win the Western Open [in July] and I didn't. [Norman was five shots ahead with eight holes to play but finished second behind Russ Cochran.] If somebody had told me when I made the turn on Sunday, "In two hours' time, you aren't going to win this golf tournament," I would have called him a liar. I'd have said, "There's no way I'm not going to win this golf tournament." But life's a humbling experience. I made a major blunder there, and I didn't win.