Shark casting large shadow
Greg Norman was always going to cast a very large shadow at this week’s Presidents Cup. Here’s why, says Mark Garrod.
However much he wanted the attention to be on his team and not on himself, Greg Norman was always going to cast a very large shadow at this week’s Presidents Cup.
And, following Friday’s shock announcement that he and tennis great Chris Evert have split after a mere 15 months of marriage, Norman will occupy even more of the limelight.
Hours before the announcement, Norman had taken part in a press conference about his Shark Shootout event, although it was down a telephone line rather than in person.
“Good morning, everybody. I apologise for not being there – unforeseen circumstances,” he said in his opening remarks.
Most people would have taken that to refer to the shoulder surgery he had had two days before.
And he did not give any hint about the statement that was to follow later in the day when he was asked about the pair of them watching events together.
“No, we aren’t really armchair critics,” said the Australian. “I’ve enjoyed going to the US Open (tennis) – that’s been a great deal.
“I’ve been a big tennis nut for my whole life. You meet the players over a period of time anyway, but going to the event and meeting them back in the locker room is a pretty neat experience.”
Apart from that it was all golf talk, but clearly things were going on behind the scenes.
At Birkdale last year, of course, the couple were still newlyweds when he stunned the sporting world by leading The Open with nine holes to play.
It does not seem quite so sensational now that 59-year-old Tom Watson has come even closer to winning, but the 53-year-old Norman was playing more tennis than golf at the time and his performance was partly attributed to the power of love – and Evert’s ability to use her own Grand Slam experiences to help him.
At Turnberry this July Norman was asked if life was still as good and whether it was still putting a spring in his game.
“We still have the spring in our step, still play tennis every day,” he replied. “I’m actually getting better, she’s probably getting slower!
“No, it’s all great. We’ve had a great 12 months. It’s gone by so fast and you just appreciate what you’ve got while you’ve got it.”
They were married less than a year after Norman divorced his first wife Laura – that was reported to have cost him over £50million – and she has already commented about his latest break-up.
“They say opposites attract. Here were two people very much alike, high-profile and narcissistic people, and that would make a relationship difficult,” she told an Australian newspaper.
“It didn’t come as a surprise – so soon was the surprise.”
Evert was married to Britain’s current Davis Cup captain John Lloyd from 1979 to 1987, then to Olympic skier Andy Mill from 1988 until 2006.
She and Norman recently launched a sports venture together in the Dominican Republic, where he planned to design a golf course and she a tennis centre, while he has also been renovating his Florida home, including the installation of tennis courts.
International team member Robert Allenby has said he does not expect the separation to affect Norman at this week’s match in San Francisco.
“I don’t think it will be a distraction,” he said. “That’s just not the way Norman is.
“His whole focus will be purely on what we have to do as a team and how we have to come together. He’ll be right behind us.”
Norman talked last Friday about juggling all his responsibilities.
“I’m a kind of ‘DIN’ and ‘DIP’ guy,” he stated. “We call it ‘Do It Now’ and ‘Do It Properly’, so whenever there was a task at hand needed for the Presidents Cup or the Shootout I just got on it and did it.”
He has a number of businesses as well, of course, and now he has personal matters to sort out as well.
With all that is happening his decision to give Adam Scott a wild card seems almost inconsequential.
But it continues to baffle people.
Down from third in the world to outside the top 60 in little more than a year, Scott has missed 10 out of his last 16 cuts, including a near last place in the USPGA Championship.
“All I know is every athlete goes through a bit of a tough time in their careers, whether it’s on the golf course or in the outside world,” said Norman.
“I know Adam is a great player. I know Adam has got a great head on his shoulders. I know Adam is very determined to move ahead.
“All I know is he deserves a spot. It’s a captain’s choice – that’s why we have two picks. Some people are going to agree with you, some people don’t agree with you.
“We’ll see what happens.”
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