Greg Norman still comes out swinging - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Greg Norman still comes out swinging

By James Dampney 11/05/2006 06:06:12 PM Comments (0)

Greg Norman insists he holds "no grudges" against Mark Hensby, but the former world No.1 still had plenty of ammunition for any criticism of his legacy to Australian golf.

Newly-formed body Golf Australia with Paul McNamee, two months into his role as Australian Open chairman, scored a coup after enticing 51-year-old Norman back to this year's event at Royal Sydney GC after a six-year absence.

Norman says he is coming back to give the local tour a badly-needed boost and joined world No.9 Adam Scott as the first players announced to contest the national championship from November 16-19.

McNamee expects lots of Australia's other leading players to compete in Sydney, with 2005 winner Robert Allenby and former champions Stuart Appleby and Aaron Baddeley likely entrants.

Hensby caused a stir last year when he said Norman, a five-time winner of the Australian Open and flag-bearer of the local scene the past three decades, should do more to support the local tour and had done little to help other Australian players.

When Norman was asked if he'd have a problem being grouped with Hensby in Sydney, McNamee showed his hand by jumping in and stating: "I don't think that's going to happen."

While the Shark said Hensby's comments were "water under a dam", he couldn't resist a thinly-veiled swipe at the US-based golfer.

"I hope he comes back and plays and doubles his performance record down here," he said, following Hensby's tie for 39th at last year's Open at Moonah Links.

"Is that my good shot, my last shot?

"But I hope he does come back. I don't hold a grudge. Why hold a grudge over that?

"If we're paired up the first two days, great."

Despite insisting it was a "dead issue", Norman was quick to jump on the front foot, defending his commitment to the Australian tour and his role with the country's next generation.

Norman was on the phone to Baddeley shortly after his breakthrough victory in the US Heritage event last month and believes both he and Scott have the tools to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

"Yes, I think (Adam's) got it," he said. "It's up to Adam to extract it out of himself.

"Take Aaron Baddeley. As soon as he found himself he was a lot happier and his golf reflected that, and he won.

"He should be able to take that win and do it on a regular basis, I hope."

The Queenslander, whose business ventures these days include a fine-dining restaurant, wineries and prime beef exports, hopes to play eight to 10 events each year, including July's senior US and British Opens.

Still recovering from knee surgery in April, he knows his body is no longer up to the rigours of regular tournament play.

Norman, who had a meeting with the Australian Sports Commission last week about the direction of Australian sport in general, remains convinced the local tour can again be a major player internationally.

"If I can be involved any little bit, whether it's on the golf course playing or behind the scenes helping ... I think the direction Golf Australia is going is a great direction," he said.

"It will happen, but it's not going to happen overnight."

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