Too often lately golf has seemed less a sport than a business, with every precinct of the professional game consumed by news, gossip, threats and intrigue about rival leagues and red lines. Thursday at Southern Hills promised a welcome return to the good ol’ days, when the game’s reference dictionary entries for ‘B’ included birdies and bogeys, but not bonesaws: a major championship, a sublime venue, a blockbuster group, a wealth of storylines—in short, golf as it used to be. That promise was delivered upon, and even the brief intrusion of the aforementioned corporate chicanery was positive.Continue reading “Thursday a good day for golf, but a lousy one for Greg Norman.”
Thirteen years after he last competed in one, major championships are still proving a reliable source of disappointment for Greg Norman. At last month’s Masters, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley clearly signaled his support for golf’s existing world order, thereby tacitly rejecting Norman’s Saudi-funded effort to carve off the top of the professional game. On Tuesday at the PGA Championship, the Great White Pilot Fish was served even less nourishment.Continue reading “Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman getting a cool reception at the major they’re not attending.”
It’s performance review season in corporate America, when employees are either congratulated on jobs well done or held to account for shortcomings. If Greg Norman were disposed toward self-reflection (stay with me), he might feel relief that his Saudi-backed outfit isn’t held to such conventional standards on performance, or for that matter on commercial viability, ROI or morality.Continue reading “As Greg Norman’s clown show rolls on, his Saudi bosses can’t be laughing”
The true scale of a huckster’s toxicity is never apparent in the cost to his reputation—by definition, he has little to defend—but rather in how easily he imperils the honor of anyone who associates with him. After two years of speculation and rumor-mongering, the day is near when we’ll finally learn who among the world’s best golfers is willing to sacrifice his standing on Greg Norman’s amoral altar.Continue reading “Greg Norman’s Saudi schedule may force shameless pros from the shadows”
It’s unlikely that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will ever respond to the letter he received this week from Greg Norman, for much the same reason that he probably wouldn’t engage someone wearing a tinfoil hat and shrieking in the street. But if he did reply, Monahan could do worse than to heed the example of James Bailey, a former general counsel for the Cleveland Browns.
In 1974, an Akron, Ohio, lawyer named Dale Cox angrily threatened to sue the Browns over the dangers posed by fans launching paper airplanes around him in the stadium. Bailey returned the complainant’s letter with a famously terse response that has been widely circulated over the years.
“Dear Mr. Cox,” he wrote, “I feel that you should be aware that some asshole is signing your name to stupid letters.”Continue reading “Just like his Super League idea, Greg Norman’s war against the PGA Tour only exists on paper.”
An old adage—often wrongly attributed to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”—holds that if you wait by the riverbank long enough, the bodies of your enemies will eventually float by. That’s as good a metaphor as any for how some golf industry executives must have felt in the wake of recent comments by Phil Mickelson that incinerated his reputation, alienated most every constituency in the game, exposed him to disciplinary action, and otherwise cast him in a light so unflatteringly amoral that even Greg Norman might hesitate to be seen in his company.Continue reading “Phil Mickelson’s mouth has brought him — and his greedy Saudi scheme — to the brink of ruin”
“Obvious lies serve a purpose for an administration,” wrote Garry Kasparov, the chess great and courageous critic of Vladimir Putin. “They watch who challenges them and who loyally repeats them. The people must watch, too.”
We are entering a week in which golf fans will be inundated with obvious lies from the Saudi International, peddled by players exhibiting all the sincerity of $20 hustlers trying to say it like they mean it.
“I’m trying to grow the game.”
“They are trying to change here.”
“I’m just here to play golf.”
“I want to compete against the best.”
“I’m not a politician.”
The ashamed might at least look uneasy in their prevarications. The shameless will be all thumbs-up and duplicitous grins. And everyone will depart the Kingdom richer, but only in cash terms. This effort to launder the Saudi regime’s grotesque reputation will soil that of many others.Continue reading “The Saudis Aren’t Paying Players To Be Silent. We Must Listen For the Lies.”
Golf has long been burdened with clichés that are more heavily trafficked than the 405 at rush hour, and yet the sport’s lingua franca manages to grow still more insipid and hollow by the day.
To our catalog of greatest hits—‘One shot at a time,’ ‘Take dead aim,’ and ‘Growing the game’—we can now add ‘Not a politician,’ the deflection of choice among professional golfers competing at next month’s Saudi International.Continue reading “Saudi-Bound Golfers Brush Off Politics, But Stain Of Being Stooges Will Be Harder To Shake.”
As a working rule, press conferences by PGA Tour players are seldom fertile ground for philosophical treatises, but even against that beggarly standard Bubba Watson managed to produce a veritable bingo card of bullshit in which no box went unchecked.
Watson was speaking at the QBE Shootout, the title of which is now off-brand since its host, Greg Norman, went to work for a regime that prefers bonesaws to bullets (the “QBE Dismemberment” would be a tough hospitality sell). The two-time Masters champion—Watson, obviously, not Norman—was addressing his intent to compete at February’s Saudi International. More out of credulousness than chicanery, I suspect, Bubba delivered as upbeat and varied an explanation as seems possible from a man abetting the normalization of a merciless regime.
He cited his love of travel (a revelation to those who recall his previously voiced disinterest in France and the British Isles), the Saudi financing for women’s golf, helping tourism in the region, the beautiful beaches, a desire to see God’s (his, not theirs) creation and charity.
“They’re trying to change,” he said earnestly of his hosts. It was, he added, all about “trying to grow the game.”Continue reading “Let Golf’s Catch-All Cliché—’Grow The Game’—Die Of Shame In Saudi Arabia.”
Since it took the Saudis almost 10 years to sign a player to their global golf ambitions, we might have expected someone more compelling than a 66-year-old retiree a quarter-century beyond his prime, whose unquenchable thirst for relevance has been laid (literally) bare-arsed on social media with an undignified frequency.Continue reading “Greg Norman’s Saudi Deal Says Nothing About The Future of Golf, But Plenty About Him.”
It’s been 25 years since Medalist Golf Club last appeared on national television, when Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf pitted then-world No. 1 Nick Price against Greg Norman, the world No. 2 and founder of the newly opened club.
On May 24, the exclusive Florida enclave hosts another made-for-TV affair with Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning taking on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady to raise funds for COVID-19 relief.
Just don’t expect to see Greg Norman anywhere.
In a week when we couldn’t make our way down a padlocked Magnolia Lane, homebound golf fans had to settle instead for memory lane.
Our guides were familiar broadcast voices, many of them — Pat Summerall, Ken Venturi — long stilled. Golf Channel re-aired the 1986 Masters, the Rosetta Stone of major championships that revealed the Sunday strengths of Jack Nicklaus and the comparative frailties even among Hall of Famers in the generation that followed him. Jack was winning too over on CBS, which gave us the epic ’75 Masters, in which he helped Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller add to what would ultimately be a combined seven silver salvers. More recent Masters tournaments were also dusted off: ’04, when Phil Mickelson broke his duck and Ernie Els’ heart, and ’19, when an approaching storm moved up tee times and saw Tiger Woods secure his fifth green jacket by Sunday lunchtime (his first jacket was pretty much sealed by Sunday lunchtime too, but that’s another story).
The retro weekend broadcasts — in addition to the Masters YouTube channel, which contains every final round dating back to 1968 — were a welcome fix for quarantined golf junkies who are otherwise denied until November by the COVID-19 crisis. But for me, two streams diverged in a locked down New York City apartment, and I took the one less clicked upon, at least in April. I opted for the only major tournament we know for certain won’t be played this year.
The Open Championship website has every official film since 1970 — Jack won that year too, of course — and it’s a delightful reservoir of the quaint and the quirky. In my quarantine viewing I elected to skip more recent Opens that remain reasonably fresh in the mind, despite the ample wine intake necessary to stomach small town British food those weeks. It’s earlier Opens, those from the ’70s and ’80s, that offer beguiling glimpses of a time when even major golf was less corporate, and pleasant reminders of players long forgotten because they’re either dead or just not brand-building on InstaGrift.
On the second Sunday in April every year, Augusta National feels less like a golf course than an operating table, upon which men are laid bare and probed for frailties not readily apparent to the naked eye. And no facility in the world does a more thorough job of diagnosing a faint heart, a deficit of intestinal fortitude, an absence of daring.
Those aren’t ailments that will appear on an X-ray or a doctor’s chart, but the final round of the Masters routinely exposes each and every one of them.
Of course, the recent vulnerabilities of Tiger Woods have been more obvious: physical injury, swing woes, personal turmoil — each a test more daunting than anything Amen Corner can pose. By comparison, the crucible of the back nine on Sunday afternoon at the Masters must have seemed a welcome relief.
This week’s port of call on the PGA Tour showcases what golf needs more of, as surely as last week’s stop represented what it has too much of.
The Zurich Classic went to a two-man team format in 2017, becoming the first team event on Tour since 1981. The innovations continue this week as each team selects first-tee walk-up music on the weekend. Assuming Kevin Na doesn’t need an entire symphony before actually hitting the ball, this further enhances the cool vibe in New Orleans.
Two things tend to blight sporting careers with a bleak predictability: unforeseen injury and untethered expectations. The psychological toxicity often comes not from the aspirations of the athlete – since those can be managed or adjusted – but from the expectations he cannot control: those of others, the insistent chorus that chirps today about his tremendous potential and tomorrow about his dismal underachieving.
That chorus must now be as familiar a feature of spring as the first birdsong for Rory McIlroy.