Insider: Competitive spirit still stuck inside 'The Shark'

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Greg Norman, 57, is making his first Champions Tour appearance since 2009 this week.
June 26, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

There is an enduring quality in the life and times of Greg Norman. He's always been his own man and he's never hesitated to put the cards face-up on the table.


Norman never has cloaked his sentiments, good or bad. It's never been necessary to guess where he stands on issues because he will tell you.

And this may not be what his adoring legions want to hear but, hey, this is Greg Norman and you're going to get it straight.

Norman, 57, is returning to competitive golf this week at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. It's his first appearance on the Champions Tour since 2009 and it won't be his last. But if you're thinking it's a sign that The Shark is entertaining thoughts of playing more golf on a regular basis, a comeback of sorts, that's not going to happen.

His appearances at Fox Chapel Golf Club this week and the Senior British Open at his beloved Turnberry next month in Scotland are what they are, nothing more. At Fox Chapel, he'll be doing a favor for a close friend. At Turnberry, he'll be celebrating the past more than the future. Norman won his first major championship at the 1986 Open Championship on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry.

For the most part, Norman's return to competitive golf might well fall into the category of a cameo appearance. Yes, he still enjoys the competition and he'll be trying to win every time he tees it up, whether or not there's history attached to it -- like Turnberry. And, yes, he's happy to play in front of the crowds that have so admired him over the years.

But if Norman continues to move the needle as an attraction, as some suggest, the lure of competitive golf doesn't necessarily move the needle for him. At the moment, more golf isn't in his playbook.

"I'm very happy and content where I am in life right now," he said. "I don't play a lot of golf for a specific reason, because I enjoy doing a lot of other things in the world of business that I'm in. Studying a few new opportunities right now, which will consume a bit more of my time going forward. I'm happy building in that regard.

"Do I enjoy practicing and getting ready for golf tournaments? I'm going to be brutally honest and say no, I do not. Do I enjoy going out there and playing golf with my son and playing golf with friends? Yes, I do. But my expectations are totally different today than what they were many years ago when I was at the peak of my game. Life is a little different and it's different for good reasons, not bad reasons. I approach things with a different philosophy and outlook going forward."

Norman has some history with Fox Chapel, too. He played there years ago and has fond memories.

"I know it's a fairly tight golf course, old style, classic old greens," he said. "That's my style, I love that type of look when I play the game of golf.

"One of the reasons why I'm going back there, one of my dear friends and doctor who did surgery on me, Dr. Jim Bradley, is a member there, and we've been talking about it for quite a long time now. It just worked out with my schedule. If I know far enough in advance, I can kind of keep time available where it doesn't get blocked out. That's how it played out this year."

Norman has taken a minimalist approach in his preparations. He's played "very little, to tell you the truth." That translates to a couple of rounds of golf and hitting a few balls. He was hoping to get out and play some more in the days leading up to the SENIOR PLAYERS with the goal of being "somewhat sharper" with his game.

If the competitive instincts don't quite burn with the same passion as they once did, being Greg Norman means always aspiring to play well.

"I do love to play the game," he said. "No matter where I played, I just loved to play, and I always competed at the highest of possible levels. If I couldn't win, I wanted to finish second. If I couldn't finish second, I wanted to finish third. I was never content on just saying 'OK, I made the cut and that's it.' I really pushed myself to the highest I could possibly get to."

Norman continues to work out regularly but it's not necessarily golf-related.

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"I work out nowadays because I enjoy working out," he said. "My program is different than when I was one of the top players in the world because I was targeting rotational exercises and golf exercises. I don't do that as much anymore because I really don't focus in on specifics of just maintaining my body to maintain my golf swing. But I do a little bit of combination of both, but there's nowhere near the focus factor on just targeting golf specific muscles and flexibility."

But this fact resonates. For Norman, it's not about the expectation of others.

"Quite honestly, I only do it for myself," he said. "It's a compliment when other people are looking in on you and wanting your expectations to be a little bit above everything, but I look at it for myself. My expectations within have always been the driving force, and I do want to walk to that first tee and I do want to perform well, I do want to play well, and I want to make sure that the people who come out there to watch you play get a bit of a snapshot of your capabilities.

"I'm a realist - very much a realist - that my golf game today is not the golf game I had back in the '80s and '90s. I'm fine with that. I'm very fine with that, because age is a bit tough on the game of golf. At the same time, it's all relative. I don't play a lot of golf, not like these other guys who play on the (Champions) Tour on a regular basis, so they do have an advantage. I'm coming in there fairly fresh minded and wanting to do well, too. I'm not burned out on the game of golf like some of them may be, so my attitude may be just a little bit different as well."

Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at []