by Jeff Skinner
Playing professional golf is a pretty lucrative profession. Even an average pro can earn millions and live a lifestyle of the “one per centers.” But there are only a handful of golfers that transcend the game and stay in the public view on a daily basis after their playing days. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player not only hold a significant place in golf history but have also earned “elder statesmen” status.
Tiger Woods has a world wide popularity that no one in his generation can come close to, not even Phil Mickelson. Besides tremendous skill with the clubs all these men also had full size egos. Each of them believed they were the best and could beat any opponent, anywhere, anytime.
But each of them also displayed a bit of humility…to some degree. Now I know some may think that Tiger Woods doesn’t have a humble bone in his body but he also never went around calling people out. When poked and prodded he would show his ego but much like Jack he let his clubs do the bragging.
The prevailing though for Nicklaus’ opponents was this: Jack knew he was going to beat you. You knew he was going to beat you. And he knew that you knew he was going to beat you. It was much the same with Woods in his heyday.
Greg Norman certainly has a place among the greats in golf history. He dominated world wide during his reign as the best golfer in the world. But unlike the Big Three of Jack, Arnie and Gary he hasn’t been able to control that huge ego of his since he spends more time in the boardroom than on the golf course.
Norman had an amazing career: 88 worldwide wins, 20 PGA Tour wins, 331 weeks as world number one and a swashbuckling game that overpowered courses and players alike. But his struggles in major championships include some of the most painful and famous meltdowns in the history of golf. He still managed two Open Championships but could easily have finished with a half dozen.
Norman’s ego continues to go unchecked and once again he has taken a shot at his favorite target Tiger Woods. In Golf Magazines January issue the Great White Shark is at his self-absorbed, egotistical best.
David DeNunzio’s piece once again shows that Norman’s ego is as big as his bank account. “Tiger, when he dominated, had a single-shot approach. It was only about the golf. Everything else was taken care of. I mean he was put up on this pedestal, and he enjoyed it, likely so, because he did what he did. But now there are so many other distractions, and people are looking for things that are wrong with Tiger now, so he’s got to deal with that on a day-to-day basis, like every other mortal has to do, right? In our lives, in our business, we all have to be responsible for our actions. It’s very hard for him to have that focus. And the more he shuts people off, the worse it gets.”
Tiger wasn’t the only one on a pedestal during his heyday but Norman goes further: “I never feared anything or anyone on the course, and I wasn’t afraid to fail,” said Norman. “So I think I’d do pretty well against Snead, Hogan, Tiger and Phil — whoever. Tiger’s a tough guy, but I was a tough guy on the course, too. I probably would have beat him.”
I’m reminded of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.” Norman must be also.
Norman is right, he may have beaten Tiger, on occasion. But let’s help Greg see the reality of their situations. Both had significant competition and arguments could be made for both eras as being very competitive. As far as technology goes it’s a draw. Norman and Tiger played the equipment they had and Norman was a feared driver of the ball. But it nets out like this.
Tiger has spent 661 weeks at number one and counting. Woods has 79 PGA wins and another 12 worldwide. And of course that definitive number of 14 major championships. 14 trumps 2 no matter how big an ego carries those two. Isn’t that the number we use to measure the greatest golfer. We call Jack Nicklaus the Greatest of All Time because of his 18 majors.
Greg Norman has gone onto a life of unthinkable success off the course. Few men create an empire like Norman has. He has made some very savvy business moves but he when it comes to his playing days and Tiger Woods he is still living in his glory days. Sorry Greg, we know you don’t like him and maybe for good reasons but when it comes down to it: Tiger kicked your ass.