Norman started the tournament at Bay Hill in Orlando 16 years ago to benefit children's cancer research. At that time there were only three players plus Norman competing.
This year there will be 24 players paired up into 12 two-man teams. Ten are in the top 50 in the world golf rankings. Seven were in the field of the Tour Championship just completed.
Jay Haas, Chad Campbell, Chris Riley, Fred Funk and Kenny Perry were on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Peter Jacobsen is coming off an outstanding rookie season on the Champions Tour. And Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo are coming off their official debuts as part of ABC's announcing team.
'We're having more and more high-profile players wanting to play,' Norman told the Naples News. 'It's probably as strong as it's ever been.'
Example: when Mark O'Meara withdrew with a nagging wrist injury, another two-time major winner, Lee Janzen, stepped in. Janzen had been a regular Shootout competitor and teamed with Rocco Mediate to win in 2002.
Actually, the off-season began Monday, the day after the final putt of the Tour Championship. Six golfers who will play in the Shootout will be jetting back across the country late Tuesday after appearing at made-for-TV events that will be shown at later dates. Peter Jacobsen, Jay Haas and John Daly are in Las Vegas on Monday and Tuesday for the Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge. Haas, Daly and Fred Couples are on the PGA Tour team; Jacobsen joins Tom Kite and Craig Stadler on the Champions Tour team. Cristie Kerr, Meg Mallon and Grace Park represent the LPGA. The event won't be shown until Dec. 18-19 on ABC.
And Shootout co-defending champion Hank Kuehne, Chad Campbell and Chris Riley will be playing in the Tommy Bahama Challenge in Scottsdale, Ariz. The new made-for-TV event pits four 30-or-younger Americans (Zach Johnson is the fourth member) against four International players. Paul Casey, David Howell, Kevin Na and Ian Poulter are on that team.
Kuehne, Campbell and Riley won't be the only ones traveling back for the Shootout. CBS golf analysts Gary McCord and David Feherty are the captains for the Tommy Bahama event, and both will tee it up in Naples Friday.
The dizzy schedule contines Monday following the Shootout. Jacobsen, Norman, Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger will head across the state to tape the ADT Golf Skills Challenge at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla. That will air Dec. 25-26. Rory Sabbatini will be heading all the way to Spain to represent South Africa in the WGC-World Cup beginning Nov. 16, and Haas, Fred Funk and Scott Hoch will be competing in the UBS Cup starting on Nov. 18 in South Carolina.
'I couldn't pass them up,' Haas wrote in a diary he's been doing this past week on PGATour.com. He plans on grabbing the goodies while he can, playing in several of the so-called silly season events.
'I'm coming from the old school when my first-year earnings were $31,000, he said. I've got to take advantage of these opportunities. '(His wife) Jan and I talked about it, and she knew and I knew that I was going to be gone more than I ever have before, but there's just something that told me it was the right thing. It's going to be busy, but it's going to be fun.'
The teams for the Franklin Templeton Shootout:
Greg Norman-Scott McCarron, Jeff Sluman-Hank Kuehne, John Daly-Rory Sabbatini, Justin Leonard-Steve Flesch, Chris Riley-Chad Campbell, Lee Janzen-Charles Howell III, Fred Funk-Nick Faldo, Jay Haas-Bill Haas, Kenny Perry-Scott Hoch, Steve Elkington-Peter Jacobsen, Mark Calcavecchia-Loren Roberts, Olin Browne-Paul Azinger.