Diplomacy with a Democrat

By Rich LernerJanuary 16, 2012, 7:40 pm

Greg Norman still fits comfortably into the Hugo Boss Stovepipe jeans he bought more than 30 years ago. At age 56, Norman sports the same 32-inch waist. When he revealed this during a recent Golf Channel Academy taping at his Medalist Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., I thought, 'This is the point in the show where wives turn to their husbands, pat their bellies and say, ‘I still love you honey.’'

When Norman tees it up this week at the Humana Challenge, fans will likely remark, as they often do, that he looks the same as he did when he first arrived in the U.S. It was 1976, in the California desert at Mission Hills. Greg teamed with Bob Shearer to play the World Cup.

He fondly recalled his first, first-class flight on Pan Am from Sydney to Los Angeles. From Palm Springs he traveled north to Carmel to play Pebble Beach and Spyglass for the first time. He hung out at Sadie’s, a local watering hole in Carmel and later went to Pasadena to see the Raiders beat the Vikings in the Super Bowl. That’s a strong introductory to the United States.

Norman always knew how to mix a good time with hard work. “I estimate that I’ve hit between 800 and a 1,000 balls a day in my prime so I’m guessing it’s about 4 1/2 million balls that I’ve hit in my lifetime,” he said.

They were hit with purpose. “When I practiced at Royal Queensland Golf Club, growing up there was a tree right in the middle of the driving range,” he said. “And I used to practice trimming up the branches and that taught me ball flight. It was my way of having fun, avoiding boredom.”

As an assistant pro at Royal Queensland, Norman also learned how to make a driver out of a block of wood, to mill a laminated piece of wood, put on the face and sole plates, insert the shaft in and then whip it all up. The knowledge proved useful. “About every month I’d have to repair my driver,” he explained. “I’ll never forget when I went to Palm Springs in ’76 to play that World Cup, my club head speed was measured at 128. So my persimmon driver was getting a pounding, always falling apart.”

Jeff Sluman, in the grill room at Medalist days before he’d leave to start his Champions Tour season in Hawaii, said of Norman, “He’s the greatest driver of the ball with a wooden club ever.”

Nearby, Olin Browne added that “Hogan was pretty good, Nicklaus was pretty good and Greg was certainly in that echelon.”

This week, while his contemporaries will be in Hawaii, Norman will rekindle the good memories of that first trip to Palm Springs 35 years ago when he wielded that old persimmon MacGregor M-83.

Still a box-office draw in the titanium era, Norman answered the call to play in La Quinta from President Bill Clinton, the maestro of the second act now spearheading one for the Humana Challenge, formerly the Bob Hope Classic.

Norman and the former President forged a lasting though unlikely friendship during Mr. Clinton’s first term in the 1990s.

“I received a call from the White House saying the President is going to be in Australia,” he said. “Would you be interested in playing golf with him? This is where I learned a huge lesson in life, that you never pre-judge someone from what they say or your views of what that person represents.”

Norman concedes he did not like the Democratic direction. “I’m a Republican through and through and believe in free market enterprise. So I called up President Bush (41) and I said, ‘Mr. President, I’ve been asked by the White House  to play with President Clinton. To be honest, I don’t like his political standing.’ And President Bush said, ‘Greg, I’m going to give you one piece of advice. You respect the office of the President of the United States. If he asked you to play you go play golf.’”

Norman heeded the advice and set up a round at his favorite course in Australia, New South Wales. “All of a sudden my guard’s down,” he recounted. “And this conversation on life opened up and all of a sudden I see the President of the United States as I would you and I sitting down and talking. And I said, ‘Greg, don’t ever again pre-judge.’” 

“I truly believe this tournament will be resurrected because of his passion for the game. You don’t find many people like him in the world.” Norman and President Clinton are expected to be paired together this Saturday.

After the Humana Challenge, Norman will head to Rio for his January 31st presentation to the Olympic Committee. He’s one of eight design finalists, saying that “whoever gets the nod will do a great job with the routing.”

“Of course, if you win the bid it’s not just winning the bid to build and design the golf course. You’re actually carrying the baton for the game of golf for years because golf is only in for 2016. It’s not yet guaranteed for 2020. So there’s great responsibility, whichever designer is chosen. You’re not just an architect, you’re an ambassador.”

Norman’s ready to take his swing, full bore, as he’s always done, the waistline and the ambition unchanged.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.