Shark Sighting at the Beach

By Mercer BaggsMarch 26, 2003, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- When you think about Greg Norman, what comes to mind first? Is it his success? Is it his failure? Or is it his 228-foot yacht?
 
Greg Norman has always been about more than golf. Hes a family man. Hes businessman. Hes a mans man.
 
As Father Time creeps closer in the rearview mirror, Normans off-course interests have exceeded his on-course appearances. His Great White Shark Enterprises includes a golf design company that has created 35 courses in 10 different countries; a turf-grass company that has surfaced two Super Bowls and Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia; an apparel company; a real estate venture, and a winery.
 
And lest we forget he also offers a luxury series aboard the largest private aluminum motor yacht in the world (built at an estimated $70 million).
 
He was even ranked No. 68 on the Forbes Power List in 2001.
 
But in between counting and spending his millions, Norman finds time to play the game that made him.
 
Everything changes as life goes on. My life has changed dramatically in the last five to 10 years with the way business has gone and what Ive found that I enjoy doing off the golf course, said the 48-year-old.
 
Norman is in the field for this weeks Players Championship. Hes played in one event in his native Australia, but this will be his first event of the year on the PGA Tour.
 
He said he spent Spring Break, for the first time, with his family. Its just one of those things where family priority comes first and golf comes second, he said.
 
And though rusty, he expects it will wear off quickly.
 
Ive always been a believer coming off a break sometimes is better for you because youre mentally ready and you want to go play. If you can get everything in sync to where you can get your competitive juices flowing youll be fine, he said.
 
Norman won on the Stadium Course in 1994, the closest thing hes come to capturing a major championship in the U.S.
 
Of course, he has a pair of Claret Jugs to his credit. The PGA Tour recently recognized the British Open as an official tour victory, upping Normans total to 20.
 
Translation: he is now a lifetime tour member. He had given up his membership in 2001 when he played in only 11 events, one less that the minimum.
 
But Normans exemption doesnt mean he can play in every event in which he wants. He cant even compete in the one tournament he most wants to win.
 
Norman did not qualify for this years Masters Tournament, and did not receive a special invitation either. He will be skipping the seasons first major ' where he has six-career top-3 finishes without a victory ' for the first time since 1980.
 
I wont be watching any golf; Ive actually scheduled a few other things outside the country, Norman said of his plans Masters week. Ive got some business to do, and Id rather do that than sit at home and pine away and whine away about not being there.
 
Not that he wouldnt rather be in Augusta, Ga., in two weeks time.
 
Id be telling a lie if I said I wasnt disappointed, he said. To me, its my favorite golf tournament Ive ever played in. Ive had some great moments; Ive had some pretty bad moments, too. But overall Ive enjoyed it and I think its the best golf championship in the world.
 
And his thoughts on what will be transpiring in the tournaments periphery?
 
There will be a little bit of a different atmosphere there with all the hoopla going on the outside perimeter,' he said. 'But once you get inside the gate and on the first tee, the guys who go there to play golf, theyll do what they need to do to win.
 
Norman hasnt won on tour since the 1997 NEC World Series of Golf. He played in only three events the following year due to shoulder surgery, and hasnt played in more than 13 tournaments in a single campaign in the four seasons since.
 
Hes nearly six years removed from when his 97-week reign at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking ended. Hes now No. 144.
 
Still, Norman believes he can win. If he didnt, it's not like he doesn't have several other things to occupy his time.
 
Youre priorities do change, but your goals are still there. If you come out here to play, your goal is to perform the best you can with the attitude to win, he said. If you dont have that goal in mind then dont come out here to play, dont take up a spot on the golf course.
 
I still enjoy playing, I still enjoy competing. I still want to win.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”