Victories May Come and Go but Never Another Norman


I spoke recently with a friend who covers the U.S. tour for the Australian Associated Press. I happened to remark that Australian golf is on the rise with youths Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott playing so well. Maybe so, the friend replied, but there will never be as much interest in anyone in Australia as there was in Greg Norman.
'There will never be another like Norman,' said Andrew Both, who at times has been the subject of Norman's ire so he can't be dismissed as just another 'Greg Groupie.' 'I don't care how much they win. Norman has got something that no one else has. He wins - and loses - so spectacularly. He has a certain charisma that just can't be matched anywhere else.'
I had to agree with that remark. Norman has won 18 times on the PGA Tour, a fairly large number, though nowhere near what his reputation would suggest. He has won a couple of British Opens. But as much as he's won, he's much more famous for his losses.
His loss to Bob Tway's bunker shot at the '86 PGA, Larry Mize's 140-foot chip-in in the '87 Masters, Nick Faldo overcoming his six-shot lead on the final day to win the '96 Masters; the 140-yard hole-out by Robert Gamez to win the 1990 Bay Hill, David Frost's bunker hole-out to win New Orleans in 1990. Norman has lost playoffs for all four majors. I mean, that's losing in spectacular fashion.
A shot here, a shot there, and Norman could have won 30 tournaments and 10 majors. Easily. The tongue-wagging has been going on for years now. He's 46 now, starting yet another comeback, but no one outside of Eldrick T. Woods gets as much pub as him - still. The hair is no longer that silver blond, the face is marked now with a few senior-citizen lines - but he is still Norman.
Norman is recovering from hip surgery, which you may have heard about. This in addition to shoulder surgery, a problem back, I don't know what all. He hasn't been right the last four years. But - he's still Norman.
He says he feels great now. Okay. But with all the other businesses he has going, with all the balls he has in the air, winning at age 46 may be difficult. Indeed, getting out there and playing may be difficult.
'That is very true,' Norman said last week at Doral. 'To get back and be the competitor is the hardest part.
'Because you remember how well you played at certain times when you were at your peak, and you sometimes push yourself to get back there too quickly, because you know what you can do.'
The other aspect of coming back is his family. He has an 18-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son. His daughter is about to go to college. His son is in the prime of his school years. Norman has had three years to basically stay home and watch them grow up. Though the doctor says he can now resume a regular playing schedule, I'm not so sure he will want to do that.
'When you get away from it and you spend time with your family and kids, you go, 'Whoa, I really don't want to go back in it,'' he said. 'Now you get this split in your emotions and feelings because of your family. As much as your family supports you, they'd rather have you home because they enjoy you being home.
'If you look at (Mark) O'Meara and those guys who feel that way, their kids are getting to that age where they are growing. Nick Price is another one. We talk about it, when your kids enjoy starting to do things that you enjoy doing and they go with you, whether it's fishing, diving, skiing or whatever it is. You want to spend more time with them. So it gets harder and harder to get away from them.'
He is talking about playing five weeks in a row starting with Bay Hill, but you wonder how long he will hold out. 'Hotels - I hate them,' he said emphatically. 'I don't care whether you are staying in the best in the world or renting a house, they are all the same. That to me is the grind, getting on an airplane and flying to Australia. It doesn't excite me the way it did three or four years ago.'
And yet, he is STILL Norman. Yeah, there's a little bit of swagger, a little bit of ego, a little self-belief. There's a part of him that will forever be in the middle of the fairway, forever be coming down 18 with the crowd's applause ringing in the ears.
'I have talked it over with my family,' he said. 'They have accepted the fact that I am excited again, and they like to see me get out there and play. They know this is pretty much the decision factor. How what happens over the next couple of years will determine my mindset for the last couple of years before I am 50.
'If it all goes well, you never know. If it goes good, you do know. So .'
So that's it. He's got more wealth than he ever could have dreamed. He's got a jet. He's about to take delivery on a 250-foot yacht - that's only 50 feet short of a football field. He has Ferraris and motorcycles and SUVs. He's got a sod business, a wine business, a clothing business, and a golf course design business. Everything you could possibly dream of, he possesses.
Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott may indeed win more golf tournaments, especially if Norman finds that this home life suits him just fine. But never again will there be such an icon who has won so sparingly.
Though he did win his share, he did lose spectacularly, and at the biggest events in golf. He will be the object of conversations long after he sinks his last putt. He is - truly - one of a kind.