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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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry