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Norman Australian Golf Was Humiliated

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COOLUM, Australia -- Greg Norman believes golf Down Under was humiliated by the first-round cancellation of last week's Australian Open due to unplayable greens, and that it may take years to repair the damage.
 
Returning to Australia for this week's Australian PGA, Norman said Tuesday that players in the United States were 'laughing'' over the situation at the Australian Open, where last Thursday's first round had to be called off.
 
Despite warnings from players and Australasian Tour staff as early as three days before, officials at Melbourne's Victoria Golf Club, under direction from the Australian Golf Union, cut the greens hours before the first round and did not water them the night before.
 
That compounded the impact of the close-cut surface and dry, drought conditions in the region. Players' putts were returning to their feet after snaking toward the hole and then coming back as much as 20 feet.
 
'Certainly I do feel embarrassed, it is the last thing we wanted,'' AGU executive director Colin Phillips said after the round was canceled, making it a 54-hole tournament. 'The buck stops with me. I accept full responsibility for it.''
 
Norman said that regardless of who takes the blame, the situation was embarrassing.
 
'It was sad, a bit of a humiliation to the game of golf in Australia,'' Norman said after arriving from Florida, where he hosted the Franklin Templeton Shootout last weekend. 'Players were talking about it on a regular basis. It was 10,000 miles away and they were basically laughing at us.''
 
It isn't the first time a tournament has been affected by unplayable greens in Australia. At the 1987 Australian Open at Royal Melbourne, Scotland's Sandy Lyle led a walkout under similar circumstances on the last scheduled day. That round was replayed, and Norman returned the next day to win the tournament.
 
In 1974, Lee Trevino stormed off Royal Melbourne's fast greens and vowed never to return.
 
Norman has criticized the AGU in the past over the condition of the greens at other Australian Opens.
 
'It really doesn't hold a whole lot of credibility the way they structure the game over here,'' he said. 'They've got a long way to go to repair the damage to say the least.''
 
Norman said he had trouble believing reports that the Victoria Golf Club greens were near 17 on the stimpmeter, a wooden device used to measure the speed of greens.
 
The greens at Augusta for the U.S. Masters usually are cut to about 12 and are recognized as the fastest of any tournament in the world.
 
'The players do have a sense of what is going on, we do play a lot of golf courses around the world,'' Norman said. 'When I heard that the greens were rolling about 17, that is unputtable.
 
'Somebody's head should roll in this deal. Colin Phillips fell on his sword, which he should do. They've got to sit back and reflect on this. They have a big bridge to repair in the world of golf.''
 
Norman will play with American John Daly and Australian Craig Parry in the opening two rounds of the Australian PGA on the par-72 Coolum course.
 
'I've never played here, but I've heard a lot of good things about the layout,'' Norman said. 'I played pretty well last week in Florida but didn't score well.''
 
Defending champion Robert Allenby of Australia will skip the Coolum event to play at Sun City in South Africa.