The Shark returns to Augusta as a rock star

By Associated PressApril 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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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.
 
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    Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.