SI Vault
Rick Reilly
April 15, 1996
Greg Norman, the best golfer on Earth, isn't happy unless he's racing through life at the speed of an F-14
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April 15, 1996

On Top Of The World

Greg Norman, the best golfer on Earth, isn't happy unless he's racing through life at the speed of an F-14

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What "everything" is, nobody but Norman seems to know, but he must be close to finishing it. Norman has gotten so much done that he has run out of ordinary things to try and has had to dream up a list of extraordinary ones. He has written it down: a) trek the highest mountains of Tibet, b) dive under the polar ice cap of Antarctica, c) fly in the Space Shuttle, d) cruise down the Amazon, e) land a jet on an aircraft carrier. Say, Greg, that (b) sounds a little scary.

"Nahhhh," he says. "We'll be wearing dry suits!"

"Sometimes I think he believes he's invincible," says Laura.

Greg Norman is 17 and about to add to the wall between himself and his father. Greg's one goal in life is to be a fighter pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force. He has been a junior cadet. His father had the same dream, but when he was ready to enter the service, World War II ended. Together the Normans sit in the RAAF's Brisbane recruiting office. It is a momentous day for both of them. But just as Greg is about to sign, something inside stops him. "I can't do this, Dad," he says. Wordlessly, Merv takes him home.

Merv hopes Greg will attend college and follow him into engineering. Greg doesn't do that, either. Instead he takes a year off to surf. When he comes back, he decides he wants to be a pro golfer, despite the fact that his own instructor says he shouldn't do it. Merv is stone against the idea. Greg turns pro anyway.

"It was a bit tense around here at times," says his mother. "Once Greg left home, things were different. He and Men' didn't see each other very much."

Almost nothing Greg did in golf seemed to sway his dad. Greg went from novice to scratch in 19 months, won the fourth tournament he entered as a pro—against names like David Graham and Graham Marsh at the West Lakes Classic in Queensland, Australia, in 1976—and became an instant success on the European tour, but his father seemed unimpressed. "Even when I started climbing the ladder, he didn't think I'd be anything," says Greg. "I had a point to prove to him, to everybody."

Greg Norman is behind the wheel of the world's fastest street-legal car, the Lamborghini Diablo, in 1993. Sitting next to him is the automobile's poor owner, who is learning that the four dumbest words to say to Norman are, "Wanna drive my car?" The two of them are flying at an ungodly speed down the desert highway outside the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

"How high you ever get this thing?" Norman asks as the speedometer passes 150.

"One-twenty," the man squeaks, his fingernails digging into his leather seat.

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