GREG NORMAN rang and congratulated Webb Simpson on his US Open golf win this week but he would obviously have preferred to have had an Australian voice on the other end of the line.
Australia hasn’t won a golf major since Geoff Ogilvy took the 2006 US Open and that’s the only one in the last 17 years.
“It’s not an acceptable strike rate considering the talent and the capabilities of the Australian players we have out there,” Norman said this week.
In the previous 17 years Australia golfers won six majors – Norman twice, David Graham, Norman twice, Wayne Grady, Ian Baker-Finch and Steve Elkington.
“Why does it happen? Why is the void? I have no answer because it doesn’t make sense to me because the players are good enough to do it on a regular basis,” the Shark said.
Norman was giving a media conference organised by the US Champions Tour a week out from a rare appearance on the tour.
“But when you think about it, you’ve got all these great players around the world and there’s only four golf tournaments per year, so there’s only going to be four winners, so you can see the odds are getting harder and harder,” he said.
“You can see that with Tiger Woods now; it’s getting harder and harder for him to win it because the older he gets, the younger everybody else gets, and the younger they get, the less intimidated they are by him. And the sharing of the spoils is going around more on a, I guess, even [basis but] I am disappointed the Aussie guys have not stepped up to the plate and won more, not only just for the game of golf in Australia but for the players individually.”
Norman acknowledged that the loss of form by Woods was probably the main contributor to the fact we’ve had nine first time major winners in a row and 15 different golfers in the last 15.
“I think it’s a credit to what’s happened to global golf. I think there was too many eggs put in one basket with everybody’s focus on Tiger Woods. Yes, he was producing the goods, but all these other great players were left sitting in the background and not talking about them. Now all of a sudden they’re producing, whether it’s from the United States or, like I said, Northern Ireland or other parts around the world, the global recognition of these young guys is rightfully where it should be.”
Norman said he had never seen the game of golf as healthy on a global basis.
His own health was holding up well too and ironically it was one of the doctors who did surgery on his shoulder who helped convince him to play in the Constellation Senior Players Championship next week.
The doctor is a member of the Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh which will host the Champion Tour’s third major of the year. Norman will attempt to join Fred Couples, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd as the only winners of both the Players Championship and the Senior Players Championship.
Given his sparse golfing schedule these days – he says he’s happy to spend the majority of his time on his many business interests – Norman wasn’t too confident about his own chances, but he did have some interesting things to say about the competitiveness of older golfers. And he had a bold prediction for the over 50’s professional brigade.
[quote]I am a huge believer that somebody in their 50s will definitely win a major championship in the very near future[/quote]
Norman was asked about his “fantastic run” in the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and Tom Watson the following year when he was an eight iron bounce away from winning.
“Like you say,” an American golf writer asked, “even now you come out only occasionally and play, but there’s a chance that a player like you can have a magical week even. What do you think it is that players can recall what they once did into their 50s and even their 60s? Are you just able to regain the focus there? Do you have any thoughts on that?
“Oh, absolutely I do,” Norman responded. “It’s all that muscle memory and mental training you’ve done for 35 years, you know? It’s ingrained, it’s in your system. It never leaves you. Your mind is still as sharp as what it was before, but physically, as I mentioned, you’re not as capable of doing the things you did before. Your body speed’s not as fast, and obviously you don’t have the smoothness, I guess, in your putting stroke because that’s age, that’s time, that’s just the natural course of the older you get.
“But it is all deep down inside, there’s no question about it. When you put yourself in a position like Tom and I did a few years ago, those things come flooding back very, very quickly. It’s amazing the sense of calmness and the sense of remembrance and the sense of competitive spirit, how quickly it comes flooding back. It’s actually a joy because I don’t know too many other sports in the world that you can walk away from the game, come back to it, put yourself in a position, you know, up to 40 years or whatever it is playing the game of golf and say wow, I can still compete with the best of the best, you know? I don’t know any other sport. You can throw in tennis, any sport, whatever you want, I don’t think there’s any out there that allows you to do that. And it’s up to the athlete. Once the athlete’s done it once, he can do it again, I’m truly a big believer in that. Just to touch on ’08, ’09, I am a huge believer that somebody in their 50s will definitely win a major championship in the very near future because technology helps them, their fitness and flexibility’s always there, their mental prowess is there. They just have to marry all that up to the right golf course, like Birkdale was for me and like Turnberry was for Tom.”