Greg Norman would love to bookend his winning ways on the PGA Tour with win No. 19 this week at the Tournament Players Club at Avenal.
The 47-year-old Australian, who won his first tour title in this event at Congressional 18 years ago, is the halfway leader in Potomac, Md. Norman shot a brilliant 6-under 65 to take a two-shot advantage over a quartet of others.
'I don't feel 47, to tell you the truth,' Norman said. 'I probably feel better than I did when I was 35.'
Bob Estes (69), Craig Barlow (67), Willie Wood (68) and Bob Burns (66) are tied for second at 8-under. Overnight leader Franklin Langham heads a group of six at 7-under following a 1-over 72.
Having Norman at the top of the leaderboard is a dream come true for tournament organizers. With only one of the top 20 ranked players (Chris DiMarco) in this weeks field, Norman is sure to draw favorable attention ' and a paying audience.
Normans last tour victory came at the 1997 NEC World Series of Golf. A lot has changed in those five years. Tiger Woods is challenging Normans record run atop the World Golf Ranking (331-straight weeks), while Norman is focusing on his off-course ventures.
Hes earned more money than a full field of players could spend in a lifetime. He is chairman of Great White Shark Enterprises, which ventures in everything from apparel to wine, makes his own grass ' the Super Bowl has used his Greg Norman Turf, and hes a highly successful course designer ' hes discussing plans for a $20 million venue that may one day host the Kemper Open.
In fact, the Hall of Famer (2001) isnt even a member of the PGA Tour, having relinquished his card by failing to compete in the required 12 tournaments a year ago.
But what he would trade for one more win.
It would be a reinforcement of the belief in myself that I can do it, he said after Thursdays promising 67.
Friday, Norman parred his first seven holes before recording back-to-back birdies on three occassions coming home.
Norman birdied eight and nine, 12 and 13, and 16 and 17. He hit 12 of 14 fairways, 12 of 18 greens in regulation and took just 24 putts. THe highlight of his round came when he stuck a 6-iron at the par-3 17th to two feet.
The 1986 and 93 British Open champion is competing in his seventh event of the season. As a non-member of the tour, he can play in up to 12 tournaments, including seven sponsors exemptions. He will try to qualify Monday for the U.S. Open and there is a debate as to whether or not that will count against his total, should he qualify.
Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said earlier in the week that he is reviewing the tours policy on that issue.
Regardless of what the future holds, Norman is enjoying the present. And he feels his past will help him over the weekend.
I believe if youve been there enough (in contention) in the past ' and 20 years is a long period of time ' and if youve been there and experienced it, you should be able to dig deep down inside yourself and bring out the necessary components that allow you to go back where you should be, he said.
I never played a lot of golf (on a yearly basis) in my whole career. I always took a lot of time off and came back and played well, he said, and then added, pointing to his heart and his head, its in here and its up here, and its how much you really want it.
Full-field scores from the Kemper Insurance Open