Greg Norman is like no other

By Randall MellOctober 8, 2009, 2:30 am
Presidents Cup

SAN FRANCISCO – There’s nobody like Greg Norman in golf.

You can’t really compare him with any other player who ever lived, and there may never be another like him.

Tiger Woods is compared with Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and even Bobby Jones. If Woods surpasses Nicklaus’ mark of 18 professional major championship titles, he will be remembered as the greatest player who ever lived.

But if major championships are the true measure of greatness, nobody has reached the level Norman has, though Norman’s greatness is of a nature nobody cares to know.

Nobody knows the great misfortune, great disappointment, great heartache and great joy Norman has experienced in golf’s grandest events.

Greg Norman
Greg Norman will have his hands full at Harding Park. (Getty Images)

Norman, 54, brings spectacular success and spectacular scars to the Presidents Cup as captain of the International squad.

So much is being made of Michael Jordan’s presence on the American side, the confidence and swagger the NBA Hall of Famer brings. Norman, though, brings just as much Hall of Fame fight and ambition, just not as many glorious triumphs.

Golf fans know the Aussie’s story, his rise to fame as the Shark, winner of 70 international titles and 20 PGA Tour titles but just two major championships. They know all his monumental losses, so stunning in nature they almost overshadow his enormous success.

As driven as Norman has been, we’ll remember most how that ambition was denied, how the golf gods denied him what he wanted most.

We’ll remember him flat on his back off Augusta National’s 15th green after nearly holing out, his hands over his hat after blowing a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo at the ’96 Masters. We’ll remember that he never won the championship he most wanted to win, how Larry Mize beat him in a playoff, chipping in at Augusta National in ‘87. And we will remember how golf didn’t reserve its cruelest blows for only the Masters. Norman is the guy who led all four majors after 54 holes in the “Saturday Slam” of 1986 and yet only won the British Open that year. He’s the only player to lose all four majors in playoffs.

All of those losses left scars.

With the Presidents Cup about to begin, Norman sports a new scar, we suspect, something deeper than the one that came with his recent shoulder surgery.

As usual, Norman’s heart is the story in another big event.

If he arrived with it broken again, he isn’t showing us. Norman isn’t talking about his separation from his wife, tennis’ great Chris Evert, after 15 months of marriage. He announced the split last week, and he isn’t talking about it this week.

“I’m not going to make any comment on that,” Norman said.

It’s human to want to know what happened. Norman, after all, made a big deal about how much Evert meant to his re-emergence at last year’s British Open, where he nearly became the oldest winner of a major championship with his new wife as his inspiration. It’s completely understandable that he doesn’t want private problems to become public issues this week. It’s even noble that he’s determined not to let them interfere with a world-class event.

Norman is in control this week. That’s the message his players are getting on the eve of the Presidents Cup.

“He's in a good frame of mind,” said fellow Aussie Adam Scott, one of Norman’s players. “He's got his arm in a sling, but it's been really good. I think he's genuinely enjoying the experience, which is great for us to see. I think he's bringing a lot of energy to the team, as well. His approach to the game was always so aggressive, and he's bringing that out in us. He's here to win, and he's trying to get us to feel the exact same way.”

Norman is a control freak.

Whether it’s his game, golf course architecture, turf grass, wine-making, club making, clothing or any of the other businesses in his empire, he’s no figurehead. He’s always been smart about his business, inquisitive and demanding and in charge of details.

If a captain’s personality rubs off on his team, it will be interesting to see what rubs off on the Internationals this week.

Which element of Norman’s personality will win the day? The man whose thorough preparation and intense attention to detail pushed him to so much success? Or the man who wanted it all too much, whose ambition sometimes got in the way?

Norman is emphasizing the importance of sportsmanship this week, but he wants to win. He hates that the Internationals have been so awful in foursomes and revealed Wednesday that he sent out questionnaires to his players in an effort to find a winning foursomes formula.

“I e-mailed all my team members confidentially,” Norman said. “I’m the only one who got the response. I asked six very pointed questions.”

Norman wouldn’t divulge what those questions are, but . . .

“The answers to these questions helped me formulate and understand the mindset of this eclectic group of international players,” Norman said.

Frank Nobilo, Norman’s assistant captain, says there’s a specific formula in the works.

“There’s a couple of things that maybe we will reveal at the end of the week if we are successful,” Nobilo said. “It’s attention to detail more than anything.”

The Internationals didn’t win a single foursomes match at the last Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal. They were 0-10-1 in foursomes.

Like most captains, Norman will be a genius when it’s all over, or a dunce. There seems to be nothing in between at these international team events.

If the Internationals win and Scott plays well, Norman will be remembered for a smart and gutsy move naming the slumping Aussie as a captain’s pick. The same applies to Norman’s naming 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan as his other pick despite Ishikawa’s limited international professional experience. If Norman’s foursomes plan works, it will be remembered as brilliant strategy.

They are all bold moves, but we expect nothing less of Norman.

Win or lose, Norman will put up an ambitious and memorable Hall-of-Fame fight. Nobody, after all, knows greatness quite like Norman.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.