The Shark returns to Augusta as a rock star

By Associated PressApril 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Throughout the course, it seemed like 1996 all over again.
 
Hey, wheres the Shark?
 
Do you know which hole Greg is on?
 
Has anyone seen Norman?
 
Greg Norman, the king of heartache at Augusta National, has returned for another try at that elusive green jacket. Hes 54 now, with plenty of gray mixed in with that trademark blond hair, but the Aussie still carries himself with the swagger of a rock star.
 
Which he is just what he is at this Masters.
 
On a blustery, frigid Tuesday that led Tiger Woods to skip his usual practice round, Norman was the main attraction. Never mind his 0-for-22 record at Augusta, or the fact he hasnt played here since 2002, or all those youngsters who can outdrive him by 45 yards.
 
The patrons remember an era ' lets call it B.T. (Before Tiger) ' when Norman dominated this place like no other golfer whos never actually won the event.
 
This is going to be a better tournament because hes here, fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy said. People forget, but he was the one that everybody went to see before Tiger came along. For that period of time, he was the charismatic guy who got the big crowds and was the exciting one to watch.
 
The Shark appeared done at Augusta after that appearance seven years ago, when he tied for 36th. But an age-defying performance at last summers British Open, where he led going to the final round before fading to third, earned him another invitation to golfs most exclusive major championship.
 
Just walking out on the driving range was a thrill. And, ohhh, how he would love to be in contention ' again ' come Sunday.
 
As a kid growing up, you have your favorite golf tournaments you always watch, Norman said. Mine were the British Open and the Masters.
 
Its amazing that he still has any affection for Augusta, a course that teased him with victory time and time again, only to rip his heart out. He finished second three times, third on two other occasions, and had eight top-10 six finishes in all, helping establish his reputation as a player who couldnt win the big events (two British Open titles notwithstanding).
 
But it wasnt just the staggering number of close calls; it was the way Norman lost. Jack Nicklaus shooting a 30 on the back nine to claim his sixth green jacket in 1986. Larry Mize chipping in from 140 feet during a playoff in 1987. And, of course, the coup de grace of collapses in 1996.
 
Norman went to the final round with a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo, only to throw it all away by shooting a final-round 78.
 
Some of the bad stuff was self-inflicted and some of it wasnt, Norman said. I would have loved to have won the golf tournament. I didnt win the golf tournament. But my name seems like its spoken about a lot of times when the Masters comes, which is as much a good thing as a bad thing.
 
Is he a contender? Or is this just a nostalgic farewell? Augusta has always been the kindest major to the geriatric set. Nicklaus won the last of his Masters titles at 46, and he was in the hunt one last time at 58. Norman sure knows his way around the hallowed layout, every little nook and cranny coming back to him as he played a practice round Monday.
 
All of the memories are absolutely, 100 percent there, said Norman, whose son, Gregory, is caddying for him. Even though the golf course has been lengthened 420 yards since I last played her, you are still hitting to very much the same place on the greens, the same type of putts.
 
Norman got in only four holes Tuesday before calling it a day. With the temperature struggling to reach 50 under thick gray clouds, and a whipping wind making it feel much colder, he played the first three holes, skipped over to No. 7, then headed for the clubhouse along with playing partner and rival Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples.
 
Freddie and I dont have great backs, the Shark said. It was just too cold out there.
 
Instead, Norman got in some extra swings at the driving range, worked on some chipping and finished up at the putting green. He didnt accept that Masters invitation just to shoot a couple of 85s and head home Friday. No, hes been honing his game over the past four to six weeks, working on all the little nuances that could make the difference at Augusta.
 
But its not all work. Norman is trying to enjoy the experience, the same sort of mind-set that worked so well at Birkdale until the final day. He is still gushing over his marriage to Chris Evert, the former tennis great, a relationship that brought much-needed balance to his life. It also gives him someone who can relate to the highs ' and lows ' of being a star athlete.
 
I talk about it with Chrissie a lot because we like to kind of lament what we have done and what we havent done, Norman said. I probably talk about the Masters more than anything else when we have those conversations.
 
Hes also relishing his status as a fan favorite, having been a much more polarizing figure in his prime. Some fans cheered Norman, some rooted against him, but rarely was anyone on the fence when it came to the Shark. This time, it seems like everyone is pulling for him ' even his fellow players.
 
Its great to have Greg back here, Woods said. Hes been such a fixture here at the Masters for so many years, and hes been playing well. Obviously, he played well at the British Open last year to get in, but hes been playing a lot better than he has. I think hes been playing more, too, which helps. Hes starting to get his feel back for the game. Hopefully he has a great week.
 
While Norman is doing his best to win, he wont be crushed if someone else is wearing the green jacket Sunday evening. His relaxed state was apparent on the putting green, where he bantered with patrons who crowded up against the rope, snapping photos of his every move.
 
Where are you from? Minnesota? Norman asked a man who showed up wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
 
No, California, the fan replied.
 
Well, it must be Northern California, Norman quipped.
 
Someone else pitched Norman a tube of lotion to rub on his hands, which were chapped by the cold and his constant blowing in a futile attempt to get warm. The Shark rewarded him with an autographed ball.
 
But Norman can never escape his checkered history at Augusta.
 
Hed like to become a member, but they wont let him in, one fan said while Norman putted, out of earshot.
 
His friend replied, Youve gotta win, man. Youve gotta win.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Masters Tournament
  • Getty Images

    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

    Getty Images

    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

    Getty Images

    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

    Getty Images

    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.