Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Money Can't Buy It All; Norman Driven by Masters Question

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Money Can't Buy It All; Norman Driven by Masters Question

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SMITH

IF A PERSON is given cause to consider a great irony, then best do it on the upper deck of a gin palace. Thus, donning a pair of shades and smothering himself with sunblock, Greg Norman can reflect that while he can afford to splash out an estimated u45 million for an ocean-going motor yacht so big that it requires a crew of 14, no amount of money can buy him an entry to the tournament with which his career as a professional golfer is most associated.

Norman last week took formal command of his new plaything, the super-yacht Aussie Rules - and at the same time opened a letter from Augusta National Golf Club informing the Australian that, unlike last year, he will not be receiving a special invitation to compete in the 2003 Masters.

Unless Norman manages to qualify by right for the season's first Major - unlikely considering his current ranking is well outside the world's top 100 - that heartbreaking news means he will be absent from the Masters field for the first time in 23 years.

For all his other successes - they include two wins in The Open, over 80 other tournament victories, Order of Merit titles on both sides of the Atlantic, a record 331 weeks as world No1, and induction into golf 's Hall of Fame - Norman will always be haunted by the knowledge that he doesn't have a green jacket hanging in one of the lockers at Augusta National, reserved exclusively for the use of Masters champions.

It hasn't been for want of opportunity. Self-hyped as 'The Great White Shark', he could have won in both 1986 and 1987, and he should have won in 1996 when he conceded a final-round lead of six shots to Nick Faldo.

Even though his 48th birthday looms next month, it was possible Norman still had a Masters in him. But in April, when Tiger Woods chases a hat-trick of victories at Augusta, Norman could be far away on the high seas. "I'll miss the place, no question," he said. But contemplating this on Aussie Rules will be no bad consolation.

Norman is used to travelling in style. He flies in a u5m Bell 430 helicopter, or a u6m top-of-the-range Gulfstream G5 private jet.

He once even ordered a u20m Boeing 737 airliner, but had to cancel it when he discovered it was too big to land at a lot of the airfields he frequents - and can take to the road in one of his u150,000 Ferrari sports cars, or a u12,000 Harley-Davidson motor bike.

But the latest addition to Norman's personal transport collection is something special.

A spokesman for Oceanfast, the Australian company which built the craft, explained: "This yacht will allow Greg to explore virtually any navigable ocean or sea, he can go from watching piranhas feed in the Amazon to whales mating in the Antarctic."

Norman said: "Any yacht is only as good as its specs, and Aussie Rules is spec'd out better than any other yacht on the water. …

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