A couple of years ago, Norman was roundly criticized for saying that the Sony Opens decision to invite Michelle Wie was a marketing ploy. Was this an indication that he feels no women should play in any mens event? No way, says Greg.
He tackled the subject last week at his own personal event, the Franklin-Templeton Shootout. Had Norman and the tournament organizers ever thought about inviting a woman ' or women ' to be among the 24 players included in the field?
Norman was quite exuberant about the issue ' We have, actually. Weve talked about it. And Im all for that, he said.
The Franklin-Templeton has room for nine exemptions in its field, along with the three top available players from the current money list, the top 10 players available from the career money list, and the defending pair. Greg was unclear whether he would use one of his nine exemptions to invite a woman. And thats where this issue gets a little tricky.
Norman, you see, believes women should get to play with the men only when they qualify, either by getting a Q-School card or qualifying for the event. He doesnt specify what should happen to an event where there are such a large number of exemptions ' his own, by the way. But the fact that he feels women should be allowed to play at all is eye-opening.
Ive always been consistent in saying Im not a big fan of handing out special exemptions, Greg explained. And why not? Its a bit of a PR marketing deal - I think thats unfair on the membership of organizations. Because youve got to look out for your constituents. And thats priority Number 1.
And so Im being consistent in saying Im not a supporter of it (inviting women) that way. But Ive always been consistent saying if they could qualify, come on out there and play with us.
Normans event, naturally, is not a tour event. Greg would like for it to become one some day, though Tim Finchems actions last week led Norman to believe that his event has slipped further and further away from that goal.
But - Norman believes a woman has every right to come try to qualify for a tour event. And she has every right to play if she qualifies.
If they qualify ' like whats happening at the British Open ' if they want to come and qualify through the regular routine and regular system, if theyre good enough to play against us through qualifying, great! he said. I think what the R&A has done is fantastic ' it is an open championship.
But Michelle Wie? I hope she does do it. Because we need to put a little bit of life back into the game of golf on a global basis. And if its Michelle Wie pulling in the golfers, great! And if she has the ability to go qualify on the PGA Tour or the British Open or qualify for whatever ' great!
It sounds a little confusing, admittedly. But Norman being so enthusiastic about a woman teeing it up is huge ' even if he places a rather large asterisk in front of it.
We have talked about it, he reiterates.
But you have to make sure again the right steps are put in place. Youve got to make sure the sponsors are happy with it. Its not just me saying, OK, thats a great idea. Its a domino effect all the way through. And youve got to make sure that doesnt happen, a ripple effect somewhere else.
So we make sure we canvass everybody. It is an open conversation point. And it is something we have discussed in the past. And well continue discussing it as well.
I predict that Norman will extend an invitation to Wie, Annika Sorenstam or Paula Creamer. And I think he will do so in the next couple of years. Sorenstam is averaging only 264 yards per drive, good enough for third on the LPGA, very short by mens standards but long enough to at least be in the ball game at Gregs event if she can stay in the fairway. Wie would probably average around 270.
And Franklin-Templeton? The sponsor would undoubtedly be overjoyed. If Greg gives his OK ' and thats still a rather large if at the moment ' expect to see a female in the near future.
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