Normans Best Days Seem Far Back
Norman, who not so long ago was the greatest golfer on the planet, was giving a clinic for kids this week at his Franklin Templeton Shootout in Naples, Fla. A youngster had a typical ' if somewhat bizarre - childs question: is Norman as good as Happy Gilmore, the fictional character in a movie of the same name? Happys particular gimmick was that he was a big hockey fan, and he would hit the ball with the same run-up and wristy slap-shot style as a hockey player.
Norman was somewhat startled. No, he confessed, he hadnt seen the movie. But then instructor Rick Smith, who was participating in the clinic also, talked Norman into trying a shot or two. Smith teed the ball up on a three-inch tee, then stepped back to let Norman have a go.
Norman tried once, running up to the ball ' and missed. Smith teed the ball up higher. Norman approached again ' and missed. Finally the third time, after Smith teed it higher still, Norman carefully approached and got a piece of the ball, dribbling it 100 yards down the fairway with his driver.
You know, theres only twice in real tournaments (in some 35 years as a professional) that Ive had back-to-back air swings, Norman said later with a laugh. I think I just tied my record! Thats probably why I didnt get picked for the Happy Gilmore movie.
Norman has been one big mass of injuries since about the time Tiger Woods came on the scene. Hes had shoulder injuries, hip surgery ' and untold back problems. Hes 48 years old, too young to be such a walking M.A.S.H. unit, but truth be told, his best golf is long behind him. The latest injury ' the one that will be with him the remainder of his life ' is his back.
This year has been a bad year ' my back has been probably the worst its been, he said. I hope thats not a bad sign. I hope I can find a relief for it ' I dont think I can find an actual cure. I am not going to go and have surgery. Ive just got to find my comfort zone ' I dont know how much I can go out there and play.
Greg was able to play only six times this year. He was forced to withdraw after the first round of The Players Championship, and his inactivity resulted in missed cuts at the PGA Championship and the John Deere Classic. But when he is right, he can still perform at a pretty high standard ' witness his tie for 18th at the British Open.
The lack of good, worthwhile practice is the killer. Normans back just wont stand up to the constant pressure. There was a time that golf was an eight-hour job, even when he was home. Now, its considerably less.
I can probably practice about two to three hours in the morning and then play 18 holes ' if Im lucky, he said.
At times, I just hit balls for about 30 minutes and then go out and play. There are times when the most I can do is chip and putt for two or three hours. Its not the schedule I used to have - but then again, I have to adapt to what Ive got.
If he had it to do over again, would he change the swing, maybe attack the ball with a little less vigor, in order to get a little more functionality out of the spine?
No, he said without hesitation, I dont think so. Its just rotation, thats all it is, and its just a degeneration with it. Some people get it, some people dont. Its just flat-out wear and tear - thats all it is.
He says it without regret. He is a very wealthy man, and ' at least at the moment ' he is ready to move on.
Where am I right now? Probably the best place Ive been in my life, he said. Im very lucky that I have a lot of other things going on in my life.
His businesses include golf course design, apparel, wines, and many others. He just purchased a yacht over 200 feet in length, and a jet and a helicopter await his beck and call. Life has been very good ' and so have the various businesses.
Before long, though, he will have to face reality. How much can he play next season?
Ill probably go through that process over the next couple-three months, he says. Im going on a week-to-week basis - I really cant set a schedule. Its not like Im going to play five weeks in a row. I couldnt commit to five weeks in a row. I will just take it week to week. If I get 10-12 in, Ill be extremely happy.
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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.
Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back
Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.
At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.
Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.
Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.
“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”
In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.
“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."
Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.