Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Giving Norman his props

At the risk of sounding hypocritical because I have taken the occasional cheap shot at Greg Norman for all his opulence and sometimes gaudy display of his wealth as well as his proclivity for finding disaster at the most inopportune times, I have to be fair.

Fairness dictates that we tip our tam to the man from down under for one of the most amazing feats in golf since maybe ever. In the space of three continuous weeks, Norman finished T3 in the British Open, T5 in the British Senior Open and a solo 4th in the U.S. senior Open.

For you naysayers out there and I know who you are (you’re people like me), who will criticize the now Great Gray Shark for not winning when he obviously had three chances, there were a lot of factors at work out there.

First, Norman is 53-years old and even if he was more than an occasional part time player, he should never venture onto the PGA Tour. He proved that in the three Tour events he played earlier in the year when he failed to make the cut at Pebble Beach, Atlanta and the Mexican event which was a minor tournament played opposite a WGC event.

Second, until the three aforementioned events, Norman hadn’t competed at all for almost to years. He’d spent more time on the operating table repaying the physical debt with surgery to his shoulder and hip. He also was very far removed from giving anymore than cursory attention to the playing of golf. He had morphed into the undoubtedly most successful professional golfer-turned businessman in history. He has the responsibility of running MacGregor, The Greg Norman apparel line, Greg Norman Estates winery, Greg Norman Golf Course Design and a few other companies as well. With all of this, when would he play golf?

Given the above schedule and let’s throw in an unpleasant divorce that was more public than he wanted and a recent wedding to Chris Evert, he somehow returned from total golf inactivity to have the mental strength and concentration to deal with three Majors in three weeks and compete so well.

The TV commentators, practicing amateur psychology as they usually do, credited Mrs. Norman, nee Evert for Norman’s calmer demeanor without sacrifice of concentration. If that’s the case, ladies I’m available. Maybe then I could tone it down to a Type B personality and people would marvel at my confidant stride instead of referring to my gait as a controlled stumble. Watch out golf world, Jack is coming back.

The truth is, for a wonderful three week stretch we were reminded of what a great player Greg Norman was. We were reminded that he is still one of the most charismatic golfers we’ve ever seen. We also were given a chance to wonder, could he? And we know that we haven’t received an answer. The best of all is we get to see him at the Masters again, the stage where he suffered so many tragedies. Could he? Can he? Would he? We’ll have the chance to find out and let’s face it, we can’t wait.


Let’s take a quick look at the PGA Championship. Phil Mickelson has spent a lot of time working on keeping his driver in play. Last week, he kept it in check until he needed it and blew it out of play on the last two holes. Perhaps a better strategy like using a 3-wood might have made a difference. Unfortunately, he’s let work on his short game suffer. However that will come back.
I like Lefty this week without the shadow of Tiger. His mistakes won’t be so damaging.

Vijay Singh won last week. The record shows he’s never won a Major using his belly putter. The greens at Oakland Hills are a lot more severe than at Firestone. I don’t like the Fijian this week. To be honest, I never like him any week.

Kenny Perry is the anti-Major man having refused to play both the US and British Opens. Some guys win championships, some win tournaments. He did come close to winning the PGA Championship when he lost the PGA Championship in a playoff to Mark Brooks. He’ll hang in, but win? I doubt it.

Lee Westwood has found his game again and has been a factor in majors this year. If gets over the hump and makes the big putt at the big time, the Wannamaker Trophy could be heading across the Atlantic.

Jim Furyk is always hanging around the top of the leader board in Majors. However, he has had an uncharacteristically poor putting year. If he can find the magic wand, he will be a threat.

Bartender, please poor me a large tumbler of whatever will get the taste of the milk of human kindness out of my mouth. I will then raise the glass and toast Greg for reminding me what a great golfer he has been for so long. Yecch, can we get to next week—fast.

See you on the first tee.


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