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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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Greg Norman is doing something really scary. He is admitting he screwed up. He is talking to a roomful of reporters about the 1995 Doral tournament, at which he had a simple six-iron into the 72nd hole to stay tied with Faldo but duck-hooked it into the lake and then said there had been a clump of grass that made the ball turn over. Now, remarkably, he concedes that he was making an excuse. "That was stupid," he says. "I overplayed that shot."

After 24 years of golf, he is changing a little. He is starting to learn that you do not get extra points for burying an opponent. "I used to say, Let's drive it up there, let's go for it," he says. "Now I find myself saying, Why? You can lay it up, and the way you pitch and putt, you'll make a helluva lot more 4s that way."

Maybe his thinking is changing because the thinking on Norman himself is changing. In January he was voted Player of the Year by his peers for the first time. "That made me feel better about playing in America," Norman says. "After all these years people might finally be saying, 'Hey, he's not too bad after all.' "

At this year's Doral he went out and stole one the Nicklaus way. He hit the ball a little raggedly, lagged a few putts, actually played to the safe part of the green once or twice and won the thing. Amazingly, he was not labeled a wussie in the morning papers, and the check cashed the same as all the others.

Whaddya know? His flaps do go down.

Greg Norman is not going into the house, and neither is his father. It is 1991, Brisbane. Greg missed the cut at the Masters, and something inside him made him fly home to be with his parents, to talk a few things out, to get things said. Laura and Toini go into the house, and Greg says, "Hold on a second. Dad," and that's when a lot of it conies out. "We argued, we discussed, I told him what I thought." Greg says. "He told me what he thought. It was good. We both needed it."

Merv can still be hard to get much out of, but when the talk turns to business, the two men really hum. "I really value his advice," says the son. "He's a very good businessman," says the father.

It's still hard for Merv to understand why Greg's $18 million Gulfstream G-3 jet is no longer good enough and must be replaced by the $28 million Gulfstream G-4, but Merv was a Depression kid. You spend enough time taking your coupon book to the butcher, you don't necessarily get the whole five-boat thing.

"I think he's a much prouder father now," says Greg. "But he's not going to show you a lot of emotion. I understand that."

Greg Norman is trying to pull his wife out of the kitchen to see something. Needs her to come right now. It's not the sunset, though they have been looking at that lately. Every evening Greg gets a couple of glasses of wine, and he and Laura go outside and sit and watch the sunset. Actually sit and watch it and talk and even stay sitting there long after the sun has gone down.

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