Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tour Notebook

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tour Notebook

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits, Times-Union sports writer

SHARK-LESS MASTERS

Greg Norman's streak of 22 consecutive appearances in the Masters Tournament will end this year, unless he can find a way to rise 71 spots in the world golf rankings.

The 48-year-old Australian, whose Masters collapses and heartbreaks are as memorable as any of his 86 worldwide victories, will not receive a special invitation to the Masters by chairman Hootie Johnson. Norman received a letter from Johnson to that effect last week.

"Hootie wrote explaining the decision, and I think it is the right decision," Norman said. "I support him 100 percent and respect him for that."

Norman failed to qualify for the tournament last year for the first time since his streak began in 1981, but played through a special invitational and finished in a tie for 36th. Norman has finished second at Augusta three times and among the top 10 nine times. His last, best chance was in 1996, when he entered the final round six shots ahead of Nick Faldo, but shot 78 to Faldo's 67, and lost by five.

Norman lost to Larry Mize in a playoff in 1987, when Mize chipped in for birdie on the 11th hole from 140 feet away, and in 1986, Norman bogeyed the 18th hole and lost to Jack Nicklaus by one shot. In 1999, Norman was tied with Jose Maria Olazabal with five holes to play, but lost by three.

Norman has three ways he can make the Masters field: finishing 50th or better in the world golf rankings (he's currently 121st), be among the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list through The Players Championship, or win The Players. Norman said he plans to compete in four Tour events before the Masters.

AT HOME IN THE DESERT

Vijay Singh's victory last week in the Phoenix Open was the latest in a string of strong performances by area residents in the two PGA Tour "desert" events. …

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