"[Having Earl with us] certainly gave us insight into what the family was doing," Johnston says. "Earl is a guy who is close to his son, but candidly, Earl in his own right was a valuable resource to us. He was there in junior golf to let us know who was coming through."
The Earl Woods-IMG relationship raised eyebrows from the outset, especially among other sports management companies. Here was the father of the world's most famous junior amateur collecting a paycheck from the world's most powerful management company. Wasn't it natural to assume that Tiger Woods would eventually sign with IMG?
"I can understand people's curiosity and adding up one and one to make two," Earl Woods says. "But it would make no sense to compromise my son's integrity or his options. Tiger is a very stubborn person who docs what he wants to do, not what I want him to do or what his mother wants him to do. Tiger is going to do his own thing. He owes nobody anything."
The relationship with IMG ended, according to Earl Woods, because Tiger went to college and, "I was no longer attending junior tournaments." But was there more to it than that? Apparently not. The NCAA has confirmed that it would not have had a problem with Earl Woods's working for IMG so long as he wasn't being paid more than another junior golf scout and his son wouldn't directly benefit from the relationship. And the USGA made it clear that Woods's amateur status was not jeopardized by his lather's employment with IMG.
"I wasn't working for IMG, I was associated with IMG," Earl Woods says. "I wasn't a full-time employee. I was a consultant."
And obviously a valuable one—in more ways than one.
The Short Game
Greg Norman turned 40 on Feb. 10 and claims he has no problem with that milestone. "I'd rather be a young 40 than an old 30," he says. Norman's wife, Laura, threw a surprise party for the Shark that lasted two days, moving from a private yacht back to the family home on Jupiter Island, Fla. "People flew in from Kuala Lumpur and Australia and parts of the world that I never expected," he said. "That was the biggest surprise."
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Last week, at the Turespa�a Masters in Lepe, Spain, Masters champion Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal made his first start since undergoing minor foot surgery on Jan. 31. He finished 16th, 10 strokes back of Alexander Cejka of Germany....