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Holding On Despite a major disaster, Greg Norman isn't ready to call it a career

April 23, 2001
April 23, 2001

Table of Contents
April 23, 2001

Pro Football
Allen Iverson

Holding On Despite a major disaster, Greg Norman isn't ready to call it a career

Greg Norman doesn't consider himself a wine connoisseur, but he
does believe he has good taste. So before launching a line of
wines in August 1999, he invited his partner, Mildara Blass
Limited, a 113-year-old Australian vintner, to bring its experts
to his home in Hobe Sound, Fla., where Norman keeps upward of
2,100 bottles in his cellar. He also participated in several
tastings and was granted the final say over which wines would
carry his name. The ensuing venture, Greg Norman Estates, has
been a huge success, reportedly grossing more than $17 million
wholesale in its first year. Norman expects the company to double
that in year two. "Paul Fireman [the CEO of Reebok] told me it's
the best case study of branding he has ever seen," Norman says.
"The quality of the wine is what has sold it more than anything
else."

This is an article from the April 23, 2001 issue Original Layout

While Norman continues to toast the good life in the business
world, life between the ropes has not been as sweet. Unlike fine
wine, golfers don't improve with age, and the 46-year-old Norman
hasn't won a Tour event in almost four years, the longest dry
spell in his 18-year Tour career. Norman has missed the cut in
six of the last nine majors, including this year's Masters, in
which he shot an 82 in the second round--his worst score in his 21
years at Augusta National. Norman has dropped to 55th in the
World Ranking. If he remains below 50th, he won't get an
automatic exemption for the U.S. Open or for next year's Masters.
"It's hard to think you'll never get another chance," he said
after this year's Masters disaster. "It's sad. This place may
have finally done me in."

Yet if Shark watchers were looking for signs that Norman is ready
to throw in the great white towel, few were to be found last week
on Hilton Head Island, S.C., where he shot a four-under 280 to
finish 38th in the WorldCom Classic at Harbour Town Golf Links,
seven strokes behind winner Jose Coceres. While Norman did not
exhibit the power that defined his game in the mid-'80s--he ranked
44th in driving distance (268 yards) for the tournament--he did
exude a grinder's intensity. After shooting an even-par 71 last
Friday, Norman got a practice-range tip from Vijay Singh on the
position of his hands at the top of his backswing, and then spent
2 1/2 hours whacking balls under a baking sun. The only time
Norman stopped was when he warily watched an eight-foot alligator
climb out of the water and lie down about 40 feet away.

Afterward, in his rented one-bedroom condo overlooking the
Harbour Town marina, Norman bristled at the suggestion that his
days as a contender are behind him, and his face flushed at the
mention of the Masters. "I'm getting sick and tired of everybody
asking me about Augusta," he said. "Of course I was
frustrated--everyone gets that way after missing a cut at a
major--but I wouldn't be out here hitting balls for 2 1/2 hours
at the end of a day if I didn't think I could be competitive
again. It's as simple as that."

To be fair, Norman's struggles in the past few years resulted
largely from injuries. Chronic tendinitis in his left shoulder
forced him to undergo surgery in April 1998, and that year he
played only three events. After going 17 over to miss the cut at
last year's U.S. Open, Norman had surgery on his right hip to
repair a torn labrum that had been bothering him for several
years. He was out for six weeks.

By his own admission, however, Norman's recent troubles have had
nothing to do with his physical condition. Last week he
proclaimed himself "totally pain free" and said his range of
motion has not been affected by the surgeries. "Everybody wants
to think there's something physically wrong with me, but there
isn't," he said. Norman tied for fourth at the Bay Hill
Invitational in March--his second top four finish since last
August, when he returned from the hip surgery--and he believes
similar successes await if he puts in the time. "Right now I'd
give my game a four or five out of 10," he says, "but that's
mostly from a lack of playing [in tournaments]."

Even if his body holds up, Norman must decide how devoutly he
wants to dedicate himself to golf at a stage of his life when
wins will be hard to come by no matter how many hours he spends
on the range. "Take any 25-year-old out here, and I guarantee you
Greg can match up with him from a fitness standpoint," says
44-year-old Nick Price, one of Norman's closest friends on Tour.
"The question for most of us when we get into our 40s is, Are you
prepared to put in all the work but only contend about 25 percent
of the time?"

Price's advice to Norman is to "play golf and enjoy it, and to
hell with what anyone else thinks." But the Shark's not taking
that bait. "I'm a realist," he says. "I don't want to play just
to play. If I can't do what I think I'm capable of doing, I'll
take my competitive juices somewhere else."

That somewhere else is the business world. In the last eight
years Norman has built his Great White Shark Enterprises into an
international conglomerate that includes, in addition to the wine
business, a clothing line, a turf company, a golf-events
production company and, most recently, a yacht dealership. Great
White Shark Enterprises' reported value of $142 million dwarfs
the $13.3 million Norman has earned playing golf, and running a
company has provided him with a surprisingly satisfying outlet
for those competitive juices. "The difference between my business
and my golf is that my business is private," he says. "I love
that aspect of it because my life isn't an open book. That's a
wonderful feeling.

"Success can be a nuisance," adds Norman. "You're under the
microscope for so long, and you have to be careful about who your
friends are. At the end of the day most of your best friends are
the people who work for you."

Starting next month Norman will begin preparing in earnest for
the June 14-17 U.S. Open at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.
If he's not ranked among the top 50 on May 27, he'll have to go
through sectional qualifying, although "that prospect doesn't
bother me," he says. "Lots of people have had to qualify,
including Arnold Palmer. If you're not in it and you want to
play, that's what you have to do."

Long term, Norman simply plans to cleave to his instincts and
trust his good taste, a process best articulated on a poster for
Foster's lager that carries his likeness: KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN,
MATE. Norman knows that the time to say when is approaching but
hasn't arrived. Not yet.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIM GUNDCOLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIM GUND Coceres, who hadn't made a cut in three previous events in the U.S., won a playoff on Monday.
Price says the question for a Tour pro in his 40s is, "Are you
prepared to put in all the work but only contend 25 percent of
the time?"