Norman Looking Towards 50th Birthday
Back in Australia for the Heineken Classic, Norman said Tuesday he will play six or seven Champions Tour events this year after finally escaping that 'five-year period in your golfing career between 46 and 50 when you are wallowing around in a no man's zone.'
'You like to compete as a regular but are you as sharp as the younger players? No,' Norman said. 'I should not speak for other players, but I found it a bit of a void.'
Norman, whose birthday is Feb. 10, said he had dinner with Raymond Floyd two weeks ago in Palm Beach, Florida, to check out the Champions Tour.
'I asked him, 'What if I went here, what if I went there? What are the hotels and airports like?'' Norman said. 'These were the things you would do when you were a rookie coming out at 18 years old in the United States or Europe or Australia.'
Norman looked fit as ever Thursday at Royal Melbourne, where he'll begin play Thursday with Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo, Adam Scott and Stuart Appleby, trying to prevent Els from winning the event for the fourth year in a row.
It should be a busy 2005 for Norman, who has his longtime back problems in check. He'll play the first week of March at the Dubai Desert Classic, then back to the United States for the TPC Championship, Bell South and Hilton Head tournaments.
His first Champions Tour event likely will be the Senior PGA Championship at Laurel Valley, outside Pittsburgh.
'Then I will play, with a bit of luck if I am exempt, all the senior major championships,' Norman said. 'They run pretty tight between the end of June to the middle of August.
'It is a weird schedule for me, playing in a couple of other major championships. I will be playing eight out of 10 weeks . . . six major championships almost in a row.'
Included in that schedule is the British Open at St. Andrews from July 14-17 - Norman's best chance to capture his third career major.
'I like St. Andrews, I have never won but I have performed well there over 25 years,' Norman said. 'That type of venue would suit me. Going to a long golf course like Pinehurst (site of this year's U.S. Open), probably not. I'm not saying I am hitting it short but I am definitely not hitting it as far as the longer hitters. From a venue perspective, and if my game is sharp, I would have a chance.'
Norman said he is 'not 100 percent in my back and I never will be, even with surgery.'
'I've opted not to have surgery, just work out through physical therapy and training. That is why I am a lot more happy with myself because I really have a lot of things under control.'
He said his zest for life and the game gives him the confidence to even consider winning at St. Andrews.
'I have never felt more at peace with myself, where I am in the world and all that,' Norman said. 'It is the balance I have in my life right now. If I feel this great at 50, I have plenty more great years ahead of me.'
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy
Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.
But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.
"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."
Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.
"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.
Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.
"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."
Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup
Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.
Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.
But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.
"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."
It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.
"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."
Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two
SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.
Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.
''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''
Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).
Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.
Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.
The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.
New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more
If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.
Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.
“You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."
In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)
And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.
But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.
Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.
He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.
“To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”
What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.
Who’s the best at their best?
In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.
It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.
But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.
And he’s far from done.
“For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”