Norman playing political games at Augusta?

Mark McGowan

Greg Norman at Augusta National during the 2024 Masters (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Like most of us, I’m just trying to enjoy the Masters. Having all of the world’s best players competing on the same course, in the same event, is something that we haven’t experienced since last July and I was hoping that that would be the dominant narrative.

No LIV versus PGA Tour chatter, no talk about money, just which of these 89 – realistically 82 or 83 – players was going to announce themselves on the big stage, solidify their position as one of the game’s elites, or join the pantheon of legends by completing the career grand slam, capturing their 16th, seventh, sixth or fifth major title.

Even the dastardly media, whom Sergio Garcia feels are responsible for the divide, are keeping the politics out of the equation.

But then Greg Norman came thundering in. Dressed in a white shirt and trademark white Stetson he then changed to black, complete with black Stetson, he was making his presence felt. He hadn’t been invited, of course, but he’d paid his way and was entitled to be there. No issues there.

And he claims that he’d not received a single negative comment. And that I’d believe. The Masters patrons are a different breed to anything you’ll find at any other event on one of the major tours. They’re respectful to the point of reverence, paying homage to a tradition that both supersedes them and will see them ejected – and their couple of thousand dollars go up in smoke – if they so much as approach the line that shouldn’t be crossed.

But as for his claims that he’d been inundated with people coming up to him and telling him they loved what he was doing, what LIV were doing, and that all words were positive?

“Walking around here today, there’s not one person who said to me, ‘Why did you do LIV?’ he told the Washington Post. “There’s been hundreds of people, even security guys, stopping me, saying, ‘Hey, what you’re doing is fantastic.’

“To me, that tells you that what we have and the platform fits within the ecosystem, and it’s good for the game of golf.”

While a certain amount of brown-nosing is to be expected, that literal hundreds of people were willing to lower themselves to engage in it is hard to believe. Particularly given the fact that part of the reason why this Masters tournament is such a big deal is that fans have been starved of opportunity to see the best players in the world all on the same stage.

But what’s Norman’s real motive in turning up at Augusta National? Is it to give necessary support to his 13 LIV players? Doubtful. Last year proved that they don’t need any additional support. This week more than any, they are just players, all of whom are respectfully treated, cheered on, and all of whom will have multiple family members and friends in attendance.

Chris Solomon of the No Laying Up podcast has an alternative theory as to why Norman may be in attendance.

“I had somebody come up and tell me yesterday, he’s like, ‘so Norman like was out there like being really awkward with Rory at the practice round yesterday, like walking up to him, on five like on the ropes, like trying to get his attention. Almost like being really weird.’ Sure enough, I show up on five and there’s the Shark just like hanging out there on the ropes like almost desperately trying to get Rory’s attention. He is turned around talking to people but as soon as Rory walks up he like is looking at him and staring at him awkwardly. And it was just the weirdest scene. It was just like Rory never looked over and it was awkward,” Solomon said on the post-first round podcast.

But it didn’t end there, and even though McIlroy would say after the round that he hadn’t been aware of Norman’s presence, it appears that it wasn’t for the want of trying on the LIV Golf CEO’s behalf.

“Norman is standing by the putting green sees that that Rory’s gonna walk up. So walks over to this rope just like stands there and has this like shit-eating, laughing grin on his face, Rory walks by, doesn’t acknowledge him and then [Norman] just turns back around and goes back to the putting green,” Solomon continued, talking about Rory making the turn. “Like it made no sense for him to do that other than just to like fuck with Rory in some way. I, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I, because I was making the turn towards 10 and I kind of walked by [Norman] and I was like, ‘what is he doing?’ And I went and followed him just to like see what he was doing and I was like, ‘dude, what the hell?'”

The public spat between McIlroy and Norman has been well publicised, and both parties guilty of petty exchanges, but while McIlroy continues to be critical of LIV Golf, going as far as to say if it was the last place to play golf, he’d retire, he has softened his position on players who’ve opted to join and has advocated for an agreement between the PGA and DP World Tours and the Public Investment Fund that would help bring the top players back together again.

Perhaps Norman was hoping that he’d catch McIlroy’s eye and effectively gloat about his victory. But there would be a certain irony in that, given that this is the venue where Norman famously couldn’t be a victor.

Either way, the LIV CEO is on the ground and he’s playing political cards left, right and centre.

But it’s all the media, right Sergio?

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