Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Norman Anticipates Next Masters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Norman Anticipates Next Masters

Article excerpt

Greg Norman wants no one's sympathy, only respect for coming back from shoulder surgery at the age of 44 to contend in a major championship.

He has got it, from fans, fellow players and the media.

Norman had a chance to win another Masters Tournament last week, eventually losing by three shots to Jose Maria Olazabal, and finishing third. That much isn't new, since he has been in the top three six times at Augusta, without winning.

But Norman ended up with almost as much adulation as Olazabal. He was very much the gallery favorite on the weekend -- which Olazabal didn't begrudge -- and after the final round, the media kept Norman in the interview room longer than Olazabal.

Norman has often said in the past that he doesn't need golf any longer. He's proven to be the best combination golfer/businessman ever (his net worth and business successes far outweigh that of Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, according to one recent industry study) and his varied interests, such as aviation, keep him busy.

But here he was, at the venue where he has met with some of the most tragic failures in golf history, trying to win again. He said he'll keep coming back, into his late 40s, if need be, as long as he's eligible to play.

"Why not?" Norman said after his final-round 73. "I'm physically strong, mentally strong and I love to play."

Norman's peers are openly rooting for him to eventually win a green jacket. And Olazabal will long be remembered for his gallantry in insisting that Norman walk to the 18th green with him when it was obvious he had the tournament wrapped up.

"He's a great gentleman," Olazabal said. "He's a great player. Walking with him those last few yards was the right thing to do."

"I have the utmost respect for Greg," said David Duval of Jacksonville. "It's great to see him up there again. I don't think anybody's ever owed anything, but with all the heartache he's had here, if I can't win, it wouldn't kill me to see him do it."

By the way, no matter what Norman does the rest of the year, he'll be back for another go at Augusta in 2000, by finishing among the top 16.

WINNING NOT A TICKET -- Beginning with this week's MCI Classic, PGA Tour winners aren't guaranteed spots in The Masters, according to the new eligibility requirements announced last November.

Invitations to the 2000 Masters will be extended to the top 40 Tour money winners, the top 50 on the World Golf Rankings, the top 16 in the previous year's Masters, the top eight from the U.S. Open and the top four from the British Open and the PGA Championship.

Also, The Players Championship winner gets a three-year exemption, and the British, U.S. Open and PGA winners receive five-year exemptions.

ANOTHER CADDIE OUT -- Mark O'Meara fired caddie Jerry Higginbotham last week after finishing in a tie for 31st in defense of his Masters title. …

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