Norman Whistles While He Works Even If Its Dirty Work
But there he was, and it seemed for all the world like the Norman of old. He birdied the first two holes at Firestone Country Club. He chipped in at the seventh. On the backside it was his putter doing the work. And he finished with a 65. Heads whipped around in a hurry at such a report.
Dont forget that this was the man who held down the top spot on the World Rankings longer than any creature alive, save one Tiger Woods. But this also was the same man who has missed the cut already four times this season. A man who has shot 82 twice this year, who has failed to break par 11 times. He hasnt played enough this season to place in the official rankings (10 times prior to the NEC), but his driving average wouldnt have placed him the top 125. He was one of the worlds most dangerous putters, yet his putting wouldnt have been in the top 150. He was lost, a man 46 years old who looked like all the rest of the mid-40 guys save Scott Hoch. He looked like a boxer who was just hanging on with one hand clutching the ring, just trying to tread water until the Senior Tour.
Then ' this.
One thing about Norman, he has never for a minute lacked confidence. Talk about a man whistling on his way to the gallows! But one reason he has been such a giant in the game is because he was supremely confident, and he was just as much as ever at the NEC.
It doesnt matter the golf course you are playing, he was saying. Youve fixed up a technique in your golf game. I could go play a links course right now and still feel great about it. Its just the fact that I see and feel comfortable again with a golf club in my hand.
One round, or one tournament, doesnt end a slump which has gripped Norman since his last big year in 1997. But this certainly was a headlight peering through the darkness of the tunnel.
Right now, its as confident and good as Ive felt in probably two or three years on the golf course, Norman said. It just feels comfortable again. I still hit the ball long enough and I still have a lot of mental attitude, and so I want to keep on going.
In addition to the shoulder and hip surgeries, both of which sidelined him for about a year, he has been branching out in business. He designs a lot of golf courses. He has a wine business. He has a clothing business. Some whisper that he doesnt have time for practice anymore, not at the age of 46.
Not so, says Norman, who insists his practice hasnt been hampered one bit by his outside businesses.
Ive always been a practicer, he said. Ive always worked out. Ive always practiced at home. Just because I dont play tournament golf doesnt mean I am not practicing. I still play a lot.
Yeah, theres times when I take it off, but I bet I havent gone ' oh, six, seven days without hitting a golf ball this year. Even if I go to the back of my house and hit 150 balls in the river at the end of the day after doing other work, I still do it.
Norman loves the game, after 30 years. He hasnt played enough to get burned out ' a full season for him is 15 events in the U.S., two or three in his native Australia, maybe three or four elsewhere around the world. The last three years, thanks to the surgeries, he has played even less ' he has teed it up in the U.S. a total of 20 times. So he is definitely not over-golfed.
I get just as much satisfaction today as I did back when I was 25, 30, playing the game, he says. But on the other side of the coin, Ive established myself in the business world, where if I ever did decide to stop ' goodbye! And its not going to be a hard goodbye.
Then, he reversed himself a little. It WILL be a hard goodbye when he decides to chunk the clubs in the closet for the final time. He came very close to saying that he will continue playing at least some of the time when he is 55 or 60.
I dont think you can ever retire from this game of golf, he said in a particularly weak moment.
I read about Fred Couples saying hes ready to retire. I said to him on the driving range, You cant retire! How can you retire from the game of golf?
You can retire from hockey, you can retire from the NBA, you can retire from being a quarterback on a football team, you can retire from being a professional tennis player because you cant compete again. But in golf, you can still compete.
Now, if Freddie is ready to retire, he might only play eight tournaments a year, he might enjoy doing that. I would not even call that semi-retirement, because hes still got to practice and hes still got to play. Its an interesting phraseology to try explaining, I suppose.
So the man they call The Shark was back again himself, and he said there isnt anything about the past he would change. Nor is there anything about the future.
You know, if you ever sat down and tried to second-guess your past, then you would be in big trouble, he said at Akron. This means you havent done a good job with it.
I can turn around and look over my shoulder and say Ive done a great job in the past, no matter what the circumstances My past has been a phenomenal past. And I know my future is going to be a very good future, too.
Spoken like a true Greg Norman. In good times, or in what would seem to the rest of us to be bad times, hes always whistling a happy tune.
Ive always felt that when you feel a little bit down, take a look in the rear-view mirror and take a look at whats happened back there. And man, I tell you what, theres a lot of great things and positive things in my life that I would never change for anybody, anybody in this world.
So, Im happy.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."