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What Off Season

Maybe Bubba and The Shark in a shootout in Florida would have sounded a little too much like a Bert Reynolds stock car movie out of the '70s with Sally Field as the obligatory eye candy.
Instead Woody Austin drained a 35-foot putt on the last hole Sunday to win $350,000 for himself and partner Mark Calcavecchia at Merrill Lynchs favorite golf tournament. Greg Norman and Bubba Watson, who entered the last hole of this team event tied with Austin and Calcavecchia, will have to wait for another day.
And so it went for another week deep into the 2007 calendar in the kingdom of golf. Once again there were more developments worthy of note and comment.
To be sure, Fred Couples and John Daly were a bit of an odd pairing at the event hosted by Norman. These two always attract huge galleries. But for different reasons.
Everybody who loves golf but somehow feels disenfranchised from the game because he or she isnt a golf blueblood, is a John Daly fan.
Couples falls more into the category of how Arnold Palmer used to woo crowds without even having to try. It was once said of Palmer that men wanted to be like him and women wanted to be with him. And it was true. The same can be said of Couples.
Sadly, for the fans of Daly and Couples, the probability that both will be able to play a full schedule in 2008 is small. Daly has a separated shoulder that is wont to pop in and out like a loose peg on a cribbage board. Couples has a dodgy back that has dogged him for years and shows no signs of ever healing permanently.
Daly and Couples showed flashes but wound up ninth in a 12-team field at Normans party. And depending upon how you view the world of famous golfers, there was perhaps another odd couple on display at Normans tournament.
That would be Norman himself and his Florida neighbor/icon Chris Evert. In case you havent been reading the tabs, Norman and Evert are an item. And its now official.
It wasnt that long ago that Norman and wife Laura and daughter Morgan Leigh and son Gregory were the model family. Now Normans divorce has gotten messy and public. These things happen. They are not always nice.
But there was Greg Norman submitting to a nationally televised interview late Saturday with Evert at his side. Norman made no secret of his affection for Evert. I love her to death, he said.
Turns out, Norman said unabashedly, they have been friends since the '70s. Now they are closer and Norman says he is in a very good place in his life. If you are a Greg Norman fan, you are happy for him.
For her part, Evert teased that she thinks Norman is too good of an athlete to be a golfer. Evert gushed about his legs. He can run, she said.
Everts remark was made in good spirit. But somewhere Sam Snead, one of the great athletes of all time, was spinning in his grave. And Ill put Tiger Woods workout regimen, as described to me by those inside his camp, up there with any tennis player who ever lived.
Meanwhile in South Africa, native son Ernie Els had everybody there scratching their heads when he made an 8 on the 72nd hole to hand the Alfred Dunhill Championship to little-known John Bickerton by a shot.
Els was looking for his 25th Euro win, his 55th victory worldwide and his fifth triumph in this event. And when he bombed his drive down the middle on the final hole, the drama appeared to be over.
Instead, Els fanned his iron second into the water right of the green. Then he overclubbed his fourth from the drop area into the water long. And when the 8-footer for 7 missed to the right, he had made a ghastly snowman and Bickerton had received an early Christmas present.
It was all downright frosty. Unless you were the startled Bickerton. Thats golf, Bickerton said. Thats what golf is. Im in shock.
Els was left wondering what this will mean for his preparations for 2008 which, until Sunday, were proceeding quite nicely for the worlds No. 5.
But that is golf. It is unpredictable. Like Freddie and J.D. together. Like Greg and Chrissie together.
Golf, like life, doesnt offer sure things. Unless, of course, your first name is Tiger and you are leading a major after 54 holes.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Merrill Lynch Shootout
  • Full Coverage - Els' Colossal Collapse