Originally created 03/01/01

Norman puts his mind back on golf



MIAMI -- The vast enterprises of Greg Norman never are hard to find at Doral.

In a corner store behind the first tee is a shop devoted to the Greg Norman collection of clothing. In a glass case outside the pro shop are two bottles of wines from the Greg Norman Estates. Go past the driving range and you'll find the Great White Course at Doral, recently redesigned by Norman.

The Genuity Championship, which starts Thursday, features another of his interests.

Greg Norman, the golfer.

He feels younger than his 46 years. He feels as fit as ever, despite going through major surgery on his shoulder and hip the past three years. Most importantly, Norman feels like playing again.

"Even though I'm a year older, I'm still keen to play," Norman said. "I'm feeling fitter and stronger than what I was this time last year. I'm actually looking forward to this season, believe it or not, for the first in three, four, five years. The whole season."

Don't believe him? Check out the Shark's itinerary.

He is playing Bay Hill for the first time in years, meaning he will be playing four of the next five tournaments going into the Masters. Norman doesn't plan to stop there, either. He has Hilton Head on his list, and wants to play the next week in Houston.

"That's a lot of golf for me," Norman said. "I just enjoy it again. I feel like I have missed a couple of years of my career for certain reasons, and I'd like to see if I can play a little bit on a consistent basis. You have to play tournaments, week in and week out, to get your competitive feel back again."

The Genuity Championship is a good place to start, and not just because of the $4.5 million purse that makes it the richest in golf behind the majors and the World Golf Championships.

While Tiger Woods is collecting a $2 million appearance fee in the Arabian desert, Doral has brought together a collection of top players. Ernie Els is back from South Africa, Davis Love III is coming off a successful West Coast Swing and David Duval is trying to get his season on track and his mind off his lawsuit with Titleist.

Norman isn't the only golden oldie who wants to see how his game sizes up as the Florida Swing works its way north to the Masters.

Jack Nicklaus has dropped nearly 20 pounds since late last year, is feeling fit enough to play tennis and is leaning strongly toward a return to Augusta.

"I felt like if I'm going to play Augusta - which is pretty difficult for me not to play - I need to play one or two tournaments to feel like I've played some good golf against these guys on tough golf courses," Nicklaus said.

Norman hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 1997, and his last victory of any kind was three years ago at the Greg Norman Holden International in Australia, yet another of his enterprises.

He missed seven months in 1998 after surgery on his left shoulder, than had to skip the British Open last year after surgery on his hip.

Norman worked hard in the final two months of the season and performed well in Australia. He can practice six hours a day and wake up the next morning without any lingering pain, which has given him a little more enthusiasm about the season.

"Look at Greg Norman. He's in as good a shape as any kid out there," Nicklaus said. "I still believe Greg has all the ability in the world to win whatever he wants to win at his age. I don't think he has any limitation on what his ability is to play."

Norman is a three-time champion at Doral and still owns a share of the tournament record, a 265 matched by Jim Furyk last year. He has not played a full PGA Tour schedule - a minimum of 15 tournaments - since 1997, which was also the last year he won.

And it's not lost on Norman that Nicklaus won the Masters when he was 46.

"Come a week before Augusta you think, 'Well, Jack won this when he was 46. How old are you? Forty-six. Hey, pull your finger out, let's go win,"' Norman said. "I'll be reminding myself of that as we get closer."