“Greg has to go.”
Tiger Woods’ comments Tuesday morning in the Bahamas weren’t exactly surprising. Woods, an 82-time winner on the PGA Tour, has stood firm in his support of the PGA Tour as it relates to its ongoing battle with LIV Golf. But when he called for the removal of the Saudi-backed league’s CEO, Greg Norman, as a prerequisite for any peace talks between the squabbling tours, there was more to it.
After all, Woods and Norman have a good bit of history.
The two first met when Woods was 15 years old, and he and Norman played a round of golf together at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. Norman is also believed to be an influence in Woods working with instructor Butch Harmon. Later, Woods and Norman would play practice rounds together at the Masters, in 1995 and ’96.
In many senses, a friendship of sorts had formed between the two players, who are 21 years apart. But whatever bond there was, it was broken by the latter half of 1996.
That September, Woods listed Norman’s Shark Shootout on the remainder of his playing schedule, but tournament reps quickly responded, saying that Woods had yet to be invited. When a formal invitation did come, Woods declined it, opting instead to compete the following week in the Australian Open, which Norman also played.
Woods shot 79 to open that first start Down Under and ended up tied for fifth. Norman then told reporters, “We play very difficult courses here. He got a shock when he shot 79. Perhaps he will appreciate why Australians play so well when they leave home.”
Two years later, at the 1998 Presidents Cup, Woods requested to play Norman in singles.
“I wanted to play against him,” Woods recalled. “Jack [Nicklaus] and Peter [Thomson] had talked about what kind of pairings would be great for the tournament. We were getting blown out, and so that was one of the key matchups that I felt like I could handle and I could play, and I felt like I could earn a point for our U.S. side.”
Though the U.S. side was routed by nine points, Woods still got the better of Norman, 1 up.
The two were also matched up in 2011, Woods again as a player and Norman as the International captain. In the leadup to that Presidents Cup, Norman went on record saying that he wouldn’t have picked Woods to represent the American squad had he been in Fred Couples’ shoes.
“I can understand the name of a Tiger Woods and his history of what he's done on the golf course,” Norman said. “But I pick the guys who I think are ready to get in there and play and have performed to the highest levels leading up to it.”
Woods went on to earn the clinching point that year at Royal Melbourne.
Norman hasn’t been shy expressing his other opinions on Woods, especially when it comes to major championships. Multiple times in the past decade or so, Norman, a two-time major winner, proclaimed that Woods wouldn’t win another major following his personal scandal and injuries.
“Tiger, when he dominated, had a single-shot approach,” Norman said in 2011, when Woods was still stuck on 14 majors, having not won one since the 2008 U.S. Open. “It was only about the golf. Now there are so many distractions, and people are looking for things that are wrong with Tiger now, so he's got to deal with that on a day-to-day basis, like every other mortal has to do, right? In our lives, in our business, we all have to be responsible for our actions. It's very hard for him to have that focus. And the more he shuts people off, the worse it gets.”
Norman then added in 2015: “He will win again. He will win other tour events. But a major? I don’t see it.”
Woods, of course, would orchestrate one of the best comebacks in sport, capturing the 2019 Masters, a victory that led to one of the great Woods-Norman stories of all-time.
In an interview with Men’s Health in 2019, Norman told a story of how he had hand-written Woods a congratulatory letter following Woods’ landmark win at Augusta National and then delivered it to Woods’ home in Jupiter, Florida, himself. Norman never heard back.
Here's him telling it:
“Very few people know this: when Tiger won the Masters this year, I wrote him a handwritten note and drove down my road, maybe a quarter of a mile, and hand-delivered it to his guard at his gate. I said, 'Hey, this is Greg Norman here. I’ve got a note for Tiger – can you please hand-deliver it to him?' Well, I never heard a word back from the guy. When I won my first major championship, Jack Nicklaus was the first person to walk down out of the TV tower and congratulate me. I don’t know – maybe Tiger just dislikes me. I have no idea. I’ve never had a conversation with him about it.”
Where do Woods and Norman stand these days?
Well, Woods turning down an offer from Norman and LIV Golf "somewhere in the neighborhood," per Norman, of $700 to $800 million this year should tell us all we need to know.