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The great ball imbroglio may have been big news in Hartford, but Greg Norman was making headlines back home in Australia for another reason last week. A simmering feud between the Shark and fellow Aussie David Graham boiled over when Norman questioned Graham's effectiveness as captain of the International team that will play the U.S. in the Presidents Cup, Sept. 13-15 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Manassas, Va.
Norman's ill will toward Graham goes back to the inaugural Presidents Cup, won 20-12 by the U.S. in 1994 at the same venue. Norman, who came down with the flu on the eve of the match and was forced to withdraw, showed up on the final day of the competition to cheer on the International team. CBS television producer Frank Chirkinian asked Norman if he would allow himself to be wired for sound. When Graham found out, he killed the idea. "The Presidents Cup is not Greg Norman's golf tournament," he said. "It's a 12-man team. It's not Greg's team." Norman was steamed and remained so even after Graham tried to make peace.
Last week Norman appeared to be seeking his revenge when he told reporters that this year's International team was "in a fog" because members had heard hardly a peep from Graham. Taking matters into his own hands, Norman said that after consulting with Nick Price, he decided to call a team meeting for the Monday before the British Open. And, yes, Graham is invited should he care to attend. "I've talked to all the players, and none of us know what's going on, not a clue," Norman said. "I don't even know when I have to be there or what I have to do. We haven't heard from our captain. I'm very concerned about it, from a team point of view. You've got to get the camaraderie going."
Graham, shocked by Norman's criticism, blamed the PGA Tour for failing to provide his team with additional information. Graham said the team meeting in Great Britain is a good idea but added that he had scheduled one for the Wednesday before the Players Championship in March and only Craig Parry and Frank Nobilo bothered to show up. As for Norman's other comments, Graham would only say, "I'm not going to get into a spitting match with him, because I can't win."
More than anyone, Deane Beman is responsible for transforming the Senior tour from two exhibitions carrying a total purse of $250,000 in 1980 to the $37 million, 44-tournament circuit that it is today. Now that the 58-year-old Beman has retired as Tour commissioner and rejoined the ranks of the players he once ruled, he has been welcomed with something less than open arms.
Old animosities based on two decades of decisions from the commissioner's office are one reason Beman has problems with some of his peers. Another is Beman's ability to get into virtually any event through sponsor's invitations instead of having to play his way in like everyone else without an exemption. His critics say that every time Beman accepts a sponsor's exemption, a more qualified player is left out. On that score, Beman has given them plenty of ammunition lately.
Starting in late May, Beman took sponsor's exemptions in three straight Senior tour events, then withdrew after the first round in all of them, citing chronic shoulder and back pain, thus depriving someone else of the chance to play. Last week Beman was also given a sponsor's exemption in the Kroger Senior Classic, but he withdrew before the tournament began, opening a spot for Bob Wynn, who finished 72nd.
Don't talk to Patrick Burke about the luck of the Irish. He's Irish, of course, but hasn't had a lick of luck in more than a month. His troubles began when Continental Airlines lost his Cleveland Classics irons on the way from the Kemper Open in Potomac, Md., to the Memorial tournament outside Columbus, Ohio. He shot 75 with a borrowed set in the first round of the Memorial and withdrew, then used Ben Crenshaw's Cleveland blades during a futile attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open at the sectional in Columbus a few days later. Continental offered $1,200 (and some free flight vouchers) for the missing clubs, but money was not the issue. The clubs were irreplaceable because Cleveland no longer makes that model. "I told Continental I wanted to play well to give them bad publicity," says Burke. It did not appear that he would have that opportunity after his mother slammed his hand in a car door early last week, bruising his fingers.