Greg Norman threw a fit last week when he learned that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was planning a series of international tournaments involving the game's top players. Norman, whose World tour was shot down by Finchem almost two years ago, cornered the commissioner last Friday evening in the lobby of the Westfields Conference Center in Chantilly, Va., where the players on both teams were staying during the Presidents Cup, and let him have it. "I told him I was irritated with him," a still livid Norman said the next day. "I've had it up to here with Tim Finchem. It's the end of the rope for me. He hung me out to dry."
When Norman introduced his World tour proposal in November 1994—eight limited-field events with $3 million purses underwritten by what Norman said was a $112 million television contract with Fox—Finchem reacted by threatening to suspend any player who participated. Because most of the players were afraid to support the new tour, Norman eventually gave up on the project, but only after receiving assurances from Finchem that he would be consulted on any developments. When Finchem last week revealed the formation of the PGA Tours International Federation, an umbrella organization that is composed of the U.S., European, Australasian, Japanese and Southern African tours and will put on three new events in 1999, Norman saw red.
"I had two meetings with him [in 1995], one at Doral and one in my office after Doral," Norman said. "He told me, 'Greg, I'll keep you in the loop.' That's the last communication I had with him." Norman learned of Finchem's plans only last Friday, which led to the confrontation that evening. "I asked him, 'How long have you known about this?' " said Norman. "He said, About a month.' I said, 'F—you.' Believe me, I'm hot about this one. I told him, 'You've lost me.' "
According to Norman, Finchem not only co-opted his idea for a World tour but also cashed in on the Fox network's interest in golf. The Tour's TV contracts expire after the 1998 season. Fox, which recently purchased one third of the Golf Channel for $50 million, is said to be interested in buying the rights to existing and new tournaments. Finchem, Norman suspects, is creating new golf programming for Fox.
The new International Federation events will be a medal-play championship, a match-play championship and a team championship. Finchem said that the Andersen Consulting World Championship could become the match event, and the team tournament could replace the struggling World Cup of Golf. To identify the best players, the federation intends to modify the Sony Ranking, then use a composite of the new ranking, an international money list and the money lists from each of the member tours to determine tournament fields.
Finchem denied that the new events constitute a World tour, although it was hard to draw a distinction when he said, "We're not talking about a group of top players playing each other. However, this clearly will create a situation where players who reach a certain level will play against each other."
As for his dustup with the Shark, Finchem was willing to wear the hair shirt. "I just didn't make the right call," he said. "It was bad judgment. Hopefully, Greg and I can work through this."
At the 1994 Solheim Cup, Dottie Pepper was demonized by the British press, which came down hard on her for a perceived lack of sportsmanship during a 13-7 U.S. victory at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. It was difficult to determine what irritated European journalists more—Pepper's wrapping herself in an American flag after whipping Catrin Nilsmark 6 and 5 in the singles, or Pepper's yelling, "Yes!" when Laura Davies missed a crucial putt.
On the eve of this week's Solheim rematch at the St. Pierre Hotel and Country Club in Chepstow, Wales, Pepper was prepared to meet her critics head-on as she leads a heavily favored U.S. team against the Europeans. "If you can't get excited, something's wrong," says Pepper, a four-time winner on the LPGA tour this season. "If the British press was unbiased and looked at videotape of its own players, it would see the same reaction. But it happened to get ahold of a player who played very well and was easy pickings."