SI Vault
Edited by Alexander Wolf and Richard O'Brien
November 28, 1994
Greg Norman's Grand Gambit
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November 28, 1994


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Greg Norman's Grand Gambit

The usually decorous world of golf got a disorienting dose of confrontation last week when Greg Norman bared his Aussie shark teeth. Norman announced plans to start something early next year called the World Golf Tour, a series of eight $3 million tournaments, to be held in the U.S. and at least four other countries. Each event would feature a field of 30 to 40 elite golfers, and the new tour would be backed by television money from those mischief-makers at Fox.

The PGA Tour reacted immediately and defiantly. Commissioner Tim Finchem issued a terse vow to enforce his Tour's strict qualifying rules, including those that can prohibit PGA cardholders from playing in events staged on the same dates as stops on the regular Tour. It all sounded like golf Armageddon—until Friday evening, when Norman and Finchem emerged from a two-hour tête-à-tête suddenly sounding willing to work together. "I really admire Tim as a person," said Norman. "Deane Beman [the previous PGA Tour commissioner] never would have met with me." For his part, Finchem said that though he doubted the PGA Tour could squeeze in a World Tour schedule as early as next year, there might be a way to accommodate a rival circuit in 1996 if the two chose to work together.

What had happened in those intervening few days? Finchem no doubt realized that the rules with which he could put the kibosh on the World Tour are precisely the features of the PGA Tour that trouble the Federal Trade Commission, which is currently investigating the Tour for possible restraint of trade. Finchem, by nature more of a conciliator than Beman, may be trying to co-opt the competition and in the process persuade the Feds that his organization isn't really the anticompetitive ogre they apparently think it is.

Meanwhile, Norman surely sensed skepticism among his fellow pros toward a global tour. Golfers are by nature a conservative lot, jealous of their reputation for being free from labor-management bickering. They're also wary of a plan that might eventually relegate the PGA Tour to minor league status, put the Tour's $82 million in sponsorship money at risk and turn golf into—horrors!—something like boxing, where stars sell themselves to the highest bidder. Norman must have listened last Friday when Arnold Palmer put his face inches from the Shark's and said, "Greg, slow down."

Golf sorely needs some sort of world tour. This year, for the first time ever, golfers from countries other than the U.S. won all four majors, yet the PGA Tour still has protectionist policies that discriminate against non-Americans like Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, José María Olazábal and Nick Price, who are among the game's biggest draws. Golf's best moments have historically come when a Hogan met a Snead or a Palmer met a Nicklaus, yet as the sport stands now, the best players simply don't play one another often enough. Anything that would bring the stars out, whether at Doral or Dornoch, would be welcome.

Accept No Substitutes
According to the college basketball agate in one newspaper we checked last week, Austin Peay beat Croatia 97-63 on Thursday night. Before fans of last season's Ohio Valley Conference also-rans conclude that their Govs are suddenly 34 points better than the silver medalists at the Barcelona Olympics, they might want to scroll down that same agate page, where they would discover that Florida State beat Croatia, too, and Minnesota rolled past the Croatian Nationals—all on the same night. Like the so-called Latvian National Team that lost to Bowling Green last week and the Team Slovakia that took it from mighty St. Joseph's of Indiana, the many Croatias are in fact among the sundry B, junior or club teams that cross the Atlantic to help U.S. colleges tune up for the forthcoming season. The real Croatian Nationals played less than 24 hours earlier in Munich, where they whupped Sweden 88-65 in qualifying for next year's European Championships.

One Wacky Guy
According to The Times of London, French adventurer Guy Delage, who in 1991 flew across the Atlantic in an ultralight aircraft, now has something even more ambitious in mind. He intends to swim the Atlantic. Delage plans to set out from the Cape Verde Islands off western Africa next month, swimming 10 hours a day while towing a lightweight raft. He says he'll eat and sleep on the raft and, if all goes well, reach the Caribbean island of Martinique in 60 to 90 days. Delage says he has trained for two years and is prepared for the demands of the transatlantic crossing. Some skeptics remain, however. "It is ludicrous to think you can swim 10 hours a day, tow a raft behind you, climb aboard and feed yourself across 2,000 miles," says Mike Oram, secretary of the Channel Swimming Association. "I think his brain is waterlogged."

Redemption 101

Having just played the 100th game in their storied rivalry, the players, coaches and fans of Ohio's two most celebrated high school football powers, Canton McKinley and Massillon (SI, Nov. 14), had to wait only two weeks for the 101st. The Bulldogs and Tigers met again in Akron on Saturday, in the regional final of the state playoffs, and this time Josh McDaniels seized the moment. You may recall that McDaniels, the Bulldogs' quarterback and placekicker, had missed an extra point wide right in McKinley's 42-41 loss to Massillon on Nov. 5. Ryan Bucchianeri, the Navy kicker who blew a potential winning field goal against Army in 1993, heard of Josh's travails in the aftermath of that game and called on the phone to encourage him.

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