There’s a story Greg Norman told recently that might go some way to explaining the man they used to call the Great White Shark.
By extension it possibly explains his compulsion to chew up anyone who gets in the way of his sordid romance with Saudi Arabia.
It concerns his father, Merv, an electrical engineer with whom he has always had a strained relationship. When Norman was about 15, the tale goes, his dad tried to block his plans to become a pro golfer, and that ended with the older man pinned up against the fridge and the lad saying ‘f *** you’ .
Former world No 1 Greg Norman is now the CEO of Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments
The past and present show two pertinent things—that Norman doesn’t much care for being told what to do, and secondly that he usually gets his way in the end.
Which is how we find ourselves here, in St Albans, staring at the moral and sporting crater caused by his partnership with the Saudis. The LIV Invitational? Or LIV and let die, as plenty wish it would.
Enough has been said on the ethical and organizational fronts across the past three days for another re-hash, but what has become a point of subtle interest at Centurion Club is how the firestarter has retreated from view.
A few weeks back, when he was discussing the mutilation of Jamal Khashoggi in the context of ‘mistakes’, the mystery was how so many words could escape his mouth with a foot in the way.
Norman has declined interview requests from the mainstream media, preferring to stay silent
The debut LIV Golf Invitational event is currently being held at the Centurion Club in St Albans
By Friday afternoon, his sales tactic seemed to have shifted to silence. It was asked on Thursday evening if an audience would be granted to mainstream media — not the script readers on their in-house broadcasts — and the answer from his communications staff was no.
It was suggested again on Friday, when Sportsmail approached the 67-year-old directly for an interview. ‘Now is a time for the players,’ he said.
Those same players are too well paid and too comfortable with their decisions to be depicted as victims thrown under a bus, but nonetheless it is somewhat surprising that once the storm rolled in — and surely the wealthy minds around this nonsense knew the questioning would be firm — their pied piper piped down.
What happened to you, Greg? And what happened to that shark, the one for whom no shot was ever too risky?
Norman greets fellow Saudi rebel Dustin Johnson on day one of the much-discussed event
For instance, it would be appropriate to hear his personal take on the PGA Tour making his band of brothers pariahs via suspensions. And have his backers offered any thoughts to him on the backlash from the media? Or has that somehow caught him and his rich accomplices unawares?
On drier topics, when will we be told the crowd figures? The capacity is 8,000, and while the footfall hasn’t been embarrassing by any means, they apparently haven’t got close to the limit. And within that, how many of the crowd were freebies? Of 20-odd conversations with spectators this week, I’ve not found anyone who paid the £67 for a ticket.
From there, how do the economics of a moderately attended event balance with the richest prize pot in golf, at £20million? Again, not the juiciest of topics, but we can go to other business as well.
Not the least of which includes a rather surreal episode on Thursday night, which stood out even for the standards of this tournament.
Norman lurks in the background as US journalist Alan Shipnuck is kicked out of the event
It surrounded the respected US journalist Alan Shipnuck, who might know reported comments made by Phil Mickelson a few months back. The ones when he spoke of the Saudis being ‘scary mother*******’ but that he would use them as ‘leverage’ against the PGA Tour.
Mickelson didn’t like that coming out. Anyway, fast forward to this week and Shipnuck was told Mickelson would not take any questions from him. When Shipnuck then attended Mickelson’s post-round media briefing, an ugly scene developed with security guards.
He later texted Norman to ask if he knew he had been ‘muscled out’ by a ‘couple of your goons’. Norman responded to say he didn’t, which later teed up a follow-up message from Shipnuck — a picture of the Shark standing directly behind him and watching as the altercation took place.
He was silent, of course. How exactly has it come to this, Greg? Any of it.