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Star Attraction
April 13, 2009
At 54, Chris Evert and Greg Norman make each other feel like high school sweethearts, but can wedded bliss rejuvenate him enough to conquer Augusta National, the course that has haunted him?
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April 13, 2009

Star Attraction

At 54, Chris Evert and Greg Norman make each other feel like high school sweethearts, but can wedded bliss rejuvenate him enough to conquer Augusta National, the course that has haunted him?

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The Shark was out by the pool this winter, talking business. Talking—to be more specific—recession. "It's a dramatic slowdown," he said in his imitable Aussie accent. "Russia's completely gone off the map. The Caribbean's shut down. America is dead." And while there were a few places where golf courses were still being planned or built—Mexico, Vietnam, China, Qatar, Dubai—you now had six to 10 architects fighting for every job. "Everything has been put on hold until further notice," the Shark said, his gray-blond hair puffed up by a warm breeze. "Or closed down."

Funny thing, though. The chairman and CEO of Great White Shark Enterprises Inc. did not seem all that perturbed by the global construction slump. Nor was he fretting over a dismal retail climate that presaged a slow period for the Greg Norman Collection, a globally marketed apparel line that bears his familiar Shark logo. His famous blue eyes were as placid as the pool. The hawkish profile suggested a raptor in repose.

You didn't need a consultant to interpret the Shark's equanimity. Six months before, at age 53 and six years removed from full-time tournament golf, he had entered the British Open on a whim and shocked the world by nearly winning the damn thing. Now, on the strength of his third-place tie, the Shark was an automatic invitee to the 2009 Masters. If you knew the man's history at Augusta National—his tie for second in 1986, his playoff loss of '87 and especially that final-round meltdown of '96, which produced the indelible image of the Shark bent over in despair, hands on his knees—you saw the glimmer of redemption in his eyes. Business opportunities might be drying up, but the Shark was swimming again in deep water.

Then a door opened at the back of the house, and he turned expectantly. His wife stepped out from under a red-tiled overhang and paused to adjust an earring, giving the Shark a moment to appraise her trim figure, mischievous eyes and windblown hair. A broad grin spread across the Shark's face, and a perfect storm of pheromones made him turn his head slightly to display that prominent jaw.

A romance writer would describe it better. An old sports hack can only deliver an informed opinion. The Great White Shark wasn't thinking about the Masters.

GREG NORMAN, the Hall of Fame golfer, and Chris Evert, the Hall of Fame tennis player, were married on June 28, 2008, in a ceremony in the Bahamas. It was his second marriage, her third, and the messy disentanglements from their penultimate spouses cost Norman $100 million and Evert $7 million. Showing no ill effects from this outlay, the newlyweds honeymooned in Egypt and South Africa before popping up in Southport, England, to entertain spectators at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club—Norman with his spot-on impression of the vintage 1985--95 Shark (winner of two British Opens and top-ranked golfer in the world for a then record 331 weeks), Evert in her fresh and endearing role as the Shark's most avid fan. That week, and the following week during the Senior British Open at Troon, Scotland, the celebrity couple smooched across the gallery ropes so often that the paparazzi wandered off in search of fish and chips.

Nine months later, as the world teeters at the edge of another Great Depression, Norman and Evert, both recently turned 54, are the sports equivalent of Fred and Ginger, dancing cheek to cheek across a mirrored floor. "They're goofy in love," says Evert's younger brother, John, who runs the Chris Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. "They hold hands and kiss in public, and you don't want to be around them in a private setting." He laughs. "I'm like, 'Guys, could you take it somewhere else?'"

Here, for example, we find Greg resting his bare feet on Chrissie's knees while he reads the Financial Times. "We both have foot fetishes," she explains, gently tugging on one little piggy while coyly eyeing another. "We rub each other's feet all the time." She tilts her head as she runs her thumbs up his calloused soles. "Boy, feet. I think all athletes know the importance of feet."

And feats. Starting with the 1976 Westlakes Classic, Norman's size-10Ds carried him to 20 victories and three money titles on the PGA Tour and to another 70 triumphs on four continents, including the Australian Masters (six), the Dunlop Masters (two) and the Taiheiyo Masters. Evert's size-7½s withstood the pounding, sliding and pivoting of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, three doubles titles and the best pro singles record in history—1,309 wins against 146 losses.

"We both know what it's like to be Number 1," Evert said last September while introducing her famous hubby to friends at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadow, N.Y. A marriage counselor would have scribbled that remark in his notebook and underlined it twice, but Evert wasn't talking about the need for attention that undermines most celebrity unions. She was talking about competition. "It takes a certain kind of person to be in the upper level," she said, holding court in a dim corridor under the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium. "That's why Greg and I enjoy watching Olympians perform. You can see it in their eyes."

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