Norman playing in first Champions event since 2009

By Associated PressJune 27, 2012, 11:52 pm

PITTSBURGH – Back when Greg Norman was the top-ranked golfer in the world, he'd practice by playing a transposed, almost-torturous version of ''best ball.''

''I'd play two golf balls, and you always had to hit the worst shot,'' Norman said Wednesday after a playing in the pro-am for the Senior Players Championship. ''So if you hit a great drive, you had to hit the next drive great, too.''

That was when Norman's golf game was a priority in his life. Nowadays, with a burgeoning portfolio of business interests, the 57-year-old isn't nearly as maniacal about his swing.

''The best score I remember playing ('worst ball') was 72. So, it really makes you concentrate,'' Norman said in his familiar Australian accent.

''Now ... I'm not worried about that anymore.''

Secure with his legacy and a realist enough to know his best golf is behind him, Norman plays tournaments sparingly these days. He will make his first start on the Champions Tour in almost three years Thursday at the Fox Chapel Golf Club.

The two-time British Open winner will be making only his 12th Champions Tour start over more than seven years of eligibility at what is the third of five majors this season. He hasn't played on the tour since Pebble Beach in September 2009.

''I don't think your competitive juices ever go away,'' Norman said. ''Do I have the passion to play? I enjoy playing. I don't enjoy practicing. There's a big difference now. When I go out to play, I don't go out to try and shoot 65 because everybody expects you to shoot 65, even in a practice round or playing with your friends. When I go out to play now, I just go out to play, to have fun and not to worry about my score.

''Preparing for a golf tournament, you have to practice for a score, you have to push yourself, you have to train yourself to focus.''

For a Wednesday practice round at a Champions Tour event, a larger-than-expected gallery followed him around the 93-year-old course.

This despite – or, perhaps, because of – the fact he rarely plays in the U.S. anymore. This year, Norman made two early-season starts on the PGA Tour, and one of those was in Cancun, Mexico. Norman has plans to play only two more tournaments this year (the Senior British Open and the European Masters).

He said he was drawn to the Senior Players not so much by the $2.7 million purse, but by his ties to Pittsburgh. Norman has become friends with Dr. Jim Bradley, the Pittsburgh Steelers team physician who has performed two surgeries on him.

Norman also has helped assist in biomechanical research on the golf swing at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

As recently as 2008, Norman was the leader heading into the final round of the British Open. Still, his age and lack of dedication to practice time would seem to make contention this weekend unlikely. Less than 10 percent of winners in the 32-year history of the Champions Tour have been as old as Norman is now.

''I don't have a target score in mind,'' Norman said. ''Whatever game I brought here is the game I've got.''

Norman played Fox Chapel for the first time Wednesday in the pro-am. Many of the pros came away gushing about the ''unique'' old-style 1919 Seth Raynor-designed course.

''The course is in the best shape possible,'' said Mark Calcavecchia, who won the tour event last weekend in Montreal. ''I won't say ever. But it's close to being the best ever. It's just perfect.''

The tournament has its fourth different home in as many years and has been staged at five courses since a 16-year run at TPC Michigan in Dearborn ended in 2006.

''I hope they keep it here forever,'' Tom Watson said. ''It's a wonderful golf course. I am so impressed with it here at Fox Chapel.

''(Corey Pavin) made the comment, and I agreed with him 100 percent, he said 'When I finished the 18th hole, I wanted to go start playing again.' That's the true measure of a great golf course.''

Watson is making his first start since he withdrew from a tournament in April due to a wrist injury.

Defending champion Fred Couples plays in the third group to tee off Thursday along with Calcavecchia and Jay Haas. Norman, Watson and Tom Lehman are in the following group.

The only two-time winner on the tour this year, Michael Allen, tees off with the sixth group. He retook the series points lead by tying for fifth in Montreal.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."