Diplomacy with a Democrat

By Rich LernerJanuary 16, 2012, 7:40 pm

Greg Norman still fits comfortably into the Hugo Boss Stovepipe jeans he bought more than 30 years ago. At age 56, Norman sports the same 32-inch waist. When he revealed this during a recent Golf Channel Academy taping at his Medalist Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., I thought, 'This is the point in the show where wives turn to their husbands, pat their bellies and say, ‘I still love you honey.’'

When Norman tees it up this week at the Humana Challenge, fans will likely remark, as they often do, that he looks the same as he did when he first arrived in the U.S. It was 1976, in the California desert at Mission Hills. Greg teamed with Bob Shearer to play the World Cup.

He fondly recalled his first, first-class flight on Pan Am from Sydney to Los Angeles. From Palm Springs he traveled north to Carmel to play Pebble Beach and Spyglass for the first time. He hung out at Sadie’s, a local watering hole in Carmel and later went to Pasadena to see the Raiders beat the Vikings in the Super Bowl. That’s a strong introductory to the United States.

Norman always knew how to mix a good time with hard work. “I estimate that I’ve hit between 800 and a 1,000 balls a day in my prime so I’m guessing it’s about 4 1/2 million balls that I’ve hit in my lifetime,” he said.

They were hit with purpose. “When I practiced at Royal Queensland Golf Club, growing up there was a tree right in the middle of the driving range,” he said. “And I used to practice trimming up the branches and that taught me ball flight. It was my way of having fun, avoiding boredom.”

As an assistant pro at Royal Queensland, Norman also learned how to make a driver out of a block of wood, to mill a laminated piece of wood, put on the face and sole plates, insert the shaft in and then whip it all up. The knowledge proved useful. “About every month I’d have to repair my driver,” he explained. “I’ll never forget when I went to Palm Springs in ’76 to play that World Cup, my club head speed was measured at 128. So my persimmon driver was getting a pounding, always falling apart.”

Jeff Sluman, in the grill room at Medalist days before he’d leave to start his Champions Tour season in Hawaii, said of Norman, “He’s the greatest driver of the ball with a wooden club ever.”

Nearby, Olin Browne added that “Hogan was pretty good, Nicklaus was pretty good and Greg was certainly in that echelon.”

This week, while his contemporaries will be in Hawaii, Norman will rekindle the good memories of that first trip to Palm Springs 35 years ago when he wielded that old persimmon MacGregor M-83.

Still a box-office draw in the titanium era, Norman answered the call to play in La Quinta from President Bill Clinton, the maestro of the second act now spearheading one for the Humana Challenge, formerly the Bob Hope Classic.

Norman and the former President forged a lasting though unlikely friendship during Mr. Clinton’s first term in the 1990s.

“I received a call from the White House saying the President is going to be in Australia,” he said. “Would you be interested in playing golf with him? This is where I learned a huge lesson in life, that you never pre-judge someone from what they say or your views of what that person represents.”

Norman concedes he did not like the Democratic direction. “I’m a Republican through and through and believe in free market enterprise. So I called up President Bush (41) and I said, ‘Mr. President, I’ve been asked by the White House  to play with President Clinton. To be honest, I don’t like his political standing.’ And President Bush said, ‘Greg, I’m going to give you one piece of advice. You respect the office of the President of the United States. If he asked you to play you go play golf.’”

Norman heeded the advice and set up a round at his favorite course in Australia, New South Wales. “All of a sudden my guard’s down,” he recounted. “And this conversation on life opened up and all of a sudden I see the President of the United States as I would you and I sitting down and talking. And I said, ‘Greg, don’t ever again pre-judge.’” 

“I truly believe this tournament will be resurrected because of his passion for the game. You don’t find many people like him in the world.” Norman and President Clinton are expected to be paired together this Saturday.

After the Humana Challenge, Norman will head to Rio for his January 31st presentation to the Olympic Committee. He’s one of eight design finalists, saying that “whoever gets the nod will do a great job with the routing.”

“Of course, if you win the bid it’s not just winning the bid to build and design the golf course. You’re actually carrying the baton for the game of golf for years because golf is only in for 2016. It’s not yet guaranteed for 2020. So there’s great responsibility, whichever designer is chosen. You’re not just an architect, you’re an ambassador.”

Norman’s ready to take his swing, full bore, as he’s always done, the waistline and the ambition unchanged.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)