My Shot: Greg Norman

The Shark

Greg Norman, photographed Dec. 19, 2003, in front of a mural at Great White Shark Enterprises in Jupiter, Fla.

March 2004

As a young man I used to have a dream where I was stuck in the corner of a room, a big boulder was rolling toward me, and there was nowhere to go. I'd wake up and think, Maybe that boulder represents the world, and it's getting bigger, and there are all kinds of opportunity coming my way. Then I'd think, Maybe that boulder is the world, and it's going to smash me to death. I stopped having the dream by working so hard during the day that I couldn't dream at night — or at least couldn't remember the dream when I woke up.

I used to be in awe of Seve Ballesteros and the way he'd deliberately hook or slice the ball 60 yards. He was the best shotmaker I ever saw. We'll never see the likes of him again, because the equipment won't allow it. It's very hard to make the modern ball curve. You've heard this before, usually from a 70-year-old guy who you think is just pining for the good old days. But I'm telling you, equipment has made the game less spectacular to watch.

Most amateurs would die to be able to spin the ball backward, but for a pro there's no problem as frustrating as spinning the ball too much. During the mid-'80s I played the Tour Edition ball, which spun like no ball before or since. The third hole at Augusta National was a nightmare for me. There just was no place to land the ball and keep it on the green. Once, not knowing what else to do, I landed my ball on the right side of the green and spun it sideways 90 feet to the left, to where the pin was. The Tour Edition helped me win the 1986 British Open at Turnberry, because the greens were like rocks, and it was the only ball that would hold. But it killed me in majors in America, including more than one Masters, because the damn thing spun so much.

I'm in a helicopter with my wife just west of Sydney. It's a hot day, we've got a full passenger load, and we're full of fuel. We came in too hot speed-wise for a tight landing zone near some apple trees. Suddenly alarms went off as the pilot tried to correct his mistake. The tail rotor hit the ground, and he tried to pull back, which lurched us forward into the apple orchard. At the last minute he reduced power and dropped us on the ground. It felt like when I landed on an aircraft carrier. Laura was stunned; I was furious. I really lit into that pilot, who didn't seem to comprehend how close we'd come to buying the farm.

If we're three-dimensional figures and throw a two-dimensional shadow, why aren't we the shadow of the fourth dimension? What I'm saying is, had I died in that helicopter crash, there's another life after this one.

Steve Elkington and I had just finished dinner with our hosts at a restaurant in Portland a while back. We're walking to our cars, and a group of guys recognize us and start giving us a hard time. I've been in that situation before, and the best thing to do is walk away. Steve, though, held his ground. Unlike a lot of guys in that situation, he was ready to get it on. We finally got everybody in the car, and we peeled out of there. Now the guys follow us down the freeway and start throwing beer bottles at the car. We finally ditched them. It was an exciting night for our hosts. That's all they talked about the rest of our stay. I had a hard time making them believe that I get this stuff from time to time. I don't know what it is. Maybe people don't like the way I look.

Don't piss off a kangaroo. He'll stand on his tail and kick hell out of you with his big feet, which have huge toenails. Don't fool with a koala bear, either. You look at one and want to put him next to your pillow, but climb a tree and mess with him and you've got a problem. Sharks you already know about.

You don't know pain until you've had the bends. Not long ago I was scuba diving 88 feet under the surface, chasing a fish, and caught my regulator on an overhanging rock. It was punctured, and I didn't know it. Suddenly I'm in big trouble. I either had to find my buddy or ascend fast, or I'd suffocate. I chose the ascent, but knowing that air in my lungs would expand as I went up. I made it out and into the boat just in time. Lying there, it felt like someone put my joints in a vice. It was a mild case of the bends, but even then it was almost more than I could bear.

That huge power outage in the Northeast last year hit during the PGA at Oak Hill. I had just come off the golf course. The house I was staying in had no power for hours. It was so peaceful. We found some candles and improvised dinner. We left the house on a quest for ice to keep our beer cold; we laughed and felt satisfied when we found some. The best part was, my cell phone didn't work. It was like camping out. I loved it.

You may remember when Bruce Edwards left Tom Watson for a time and came to work for me. We became very close friends, which happens more rarely than you might think. Caddie-player relationships tend to run their course, however, and Bruce and I knew exactly when that point had come. It was a Friday at Milwaukee. I'd had a bad run of playing and was mad at myself and getting short-tempered with Bruce. Standing in the car-park area, we looked at each other and knew what the other guy was thinking. Bruce said, "Maybe we should go our separate ways." I told him I agreed, and we both shed some tears. Bruce went back to Tom, and I think there was a happy destiny in that, because with all Bruce is going through, there is no better man to be there for him than Tom.

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