Heartache happiness in Normans Masters return

By Rich LernerApril 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' For years there was an explanation floating around as to why Greg Norman was subjected to so much punishment from the golfing gods, or whatever forces conspire to produce the outcomes of major championships. It said that you will have the good looks, the vast fortune, the life, but in return you must suffer in some way.
That suffering was both painful and poignant at the Masters, the one major, above all, he seemed so well-suited to win.
I reflect on the fact I havent won it, he said. I talk to Chrissie about it a lot. This golf course really suits my game and I went there every year feeling great about it.
Hale Irwin, who ran down a charging Shark to win the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah, added, With Greg as long as he was, as well as he played, youd have to bet hed win a Masters.
He should have won all of them, Raymond Floyd stated flatly.
It came out like sand just dropping through my hand, Norman said. Its hard to explain. I dont know how to grasp it sometimes. You just put it down to the golf and I made some mistakes and others made some great shots.
Lee Trevino offered another explanation.
The only thing that bothered me about Norman, he told me, is that I thought he had gears and I thought he an A game, B game, C game and when you get to a major and your A game is not working, you got to go to your C game. The hell with the full 8-iron, lets take a 6 and punch it. Or lets take a 7 instead of an 8 or whatever. He always had a foot on the pedal and if its not working thats what happened, it didnt work for him.
I told Norman what Trevino said.
Would I go back and change my game, the way I used to play now that I know how I played? Yes I would have, he said in a rather stunning admission. But in that moment my psyche never allowed me to do that. You know, Im an Aussie, a go get em Aussie. Whatever it is, we gotta get you.
And yet in the next breath, Norman reveals that lack of conviction, in his own game, not lack of restraint hurt him, in 1986 with a chance to tie or even beat Jack on the final hole.
There you go, I wasnt aggressive, he said. I went conservative. I hit a 4-iron when my first thought was 'hit a high 5-iron.' I had 183 yards, I think, uphill. Just smash a 5-iron and I said 'no just back off and try to hit a 4-iron in there.' '
Norman blew it wider than wide right. The legend of Jack in 86 was cemented.
I mean, he made these great birdies coming down the stretch, recalls Jack. And then he hit the worst iron that Im sure hes ever hit in his life on 18. Greg should have won more. Some of it was because of him. Some of it was because of other people.
Like Larry Mize who in 1987 at the Masters became the first in a long line of Greg Norman tormenters.
In 1996, Norman beat himself. Holding a six-shot lead heading to the final round, he shot 78 ' as sad a Sunday as Augustas ever seen. It sparked an outpouring of sympathy and respect.
Suddenly hundreds of thousands of e-mails and letters poured in from people saying you changed my approach about what Im going to teach my kid about winning, about losing, the way you handled yourself, I got a huge lift out of that, he said.
To me, I won a tournament of life in a lot of ways and my public perception from that Monday onwards was different than that Sunday before. Augusta did some unique and weird things for me over my life and it probably will continue to do so.
In 1999 Norman again threatened to push aside all those ignominious moments, but fell just short of Jose Maria Olazabal.
Then last summer at the British Open, Norman created the rarest of later in life chances, the chance to dynamite a legacy without doing something unsavory as Roger Clemens, Pete Rose and Marion Jones did. Birkdale would be proper payback for all the cruel lashings he endured.
And though he didnt win, Norman did burnish his reputation as a baby boomer icon, a symbol for a generation and its quest for youth.
Everywhere I go, he said with obvious excitement, people tell me that I did it for the 50-plus year-olds. They tell me I rejuvenated them and proved theres no mountain too high to climb. And given the financial climate were in right now, people are looking for a happy hook to hang their hat on. Baby boomers are getting killed and their retirement funds are disappearing, so when you hear that Ive given them happiness I feel like I have to go back and work hard and I have to go fight for it.
Just how did he do it? First, Normans no ordinary 54-year-old ' he's in better shape than men half his age. Second, he was, and is, in love.
At Birkdale, he said, I just got off a wedding and a honeymoon and I was very relaxed.
We really had no expectations, Chris Evert told me last month. I think it was a testament to just how talented he really is.
And so at a time when most men are happy to be playing a friendly game of tennis ' and based on what I saw when he played with Chris at her academy in Florida, Greg can serve and volley very well ' hes attempting to again defy the odds. Could he win the Masters?
If I manage myself well and right and play like I did at the British Open, why not?
Raymond Floyd disagrees. Even if he plays like he did the first three days at the British Open, he wont win because the guys are just too good now. Someone will be better.
I also want to keep my expectations under control, Norman added. I really would love to just go through the whole four days and quietly get better each day.
Norman will not have the benefit of coming in under the radar as he did at the British Open. And hes insistent that hes returning to the Masters not for any payback because he knows it just doesnt work that way.
That hes back at all, trying again at the scene of so much heartbreak, is reward enough.
I reflect over Augusta and I still classify it as my favorite golf tournament of all time, he said.
Whether its Friday or Sunday, Norman will enjoy the walk up 18 to the applause of the patrons here. And while it may not carry the weight those moments did for Palmer and Nicklaus, the air figures to be thick with emotion.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.