I love Norman. This has always been his most persistent trait, this supreme self-confidence. Recently, though, things have been a little worrisome. Not since 1997 has he won a tournament. That was originally because of various injuries and surgeries; lately well, Im not sure why. But he finished in a fourth-place tie at The International, and some signs of life are regularly beginning to pop up.
Normans averages say it all about whats happened this year. He doesnt have membership in the tour since he only played in 11 events last year and he was required to play in 12. But his driving average of 275.8 is bettered by 128 players. His greens in regulation figure of 60.7 percent would put him at 183rd. His putting average would be 138th.
But Norman has been pretty consistent, in spite of those numbers. Hes made eight of 10 cuts. He finished in a tie for 59th at the U.S. Open, where you had to be a super-gorilla to play the course, but his worst finish in the rest of the events is a tie for 36th. He finished tied for 13th in the Kemper, and just two outings ago, he tied for 18th in the British Open.
I could smell it, Norman said of his disappointment at Muirfield. It was the first time Ive smelled it in a few years. He got off to a very good start the last round, but then agonized as two or three bad holes did him in.
The putting once again was the problem at The International. He doesnt want to try anything radically different. I dont think theres a lot to look for, he said. Make some putts on the front nine, he was saying, and that will lead to confidence the back nine.
I havent got my full confidence that I had a couple of years ago when I was playing a lot of golf, said Norman. Its just a matter of building it up and getting it there, and when I know its there, I know my ball-striking, it wont let me down.
There goes that confidence again. Remember, this is a 47-year-old Norman, not a 35-year-old Norman. But that is for us to say. Normans big job is believing that he is as good as he says he is. If he still has it, then he will win another tournament. If he is as old as the calendar says he is, it will be considerably more difficult.
Quite honestly, I think Im probably fitter than most of those young guys, which it a pretty good, positive step, he was saying, ever the optimistic twist shining through.
Norman will always be criticized for having a life that is too busily involved with everything but just playing golf. He hears questions about it every week, he says. Of course, he believes such criticisms are baseless. Norman is by nature a busy personality, and the wines, clothes, grasses, golf course designs, etc., are just a manifestation of that. Can you imagine Norman going home and just lying in the hammock?
No, he wouldnt do it. He has fast cars, big boats and the latest aircraft. He loves the ocean, loves diving, fishing and snorkeling. His businesses make him a Fortune 500 conglomerate. A wife, a son and a daughter, and every spare moment accounted for in his day. He was in his office at 6 a.m. Monday. And this guy has time for golf?
Well, yes, he says, he does. Do you believe him? He is supremely self-confident, but hes making sounds of late that back up that confidence. If you dont believe, take a look at the record books. Greg Norman is wonderfully alive for a person who was presumed dead not long ago.