Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If you want to know when the economy is going to make a turnaround, forget about the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the Fortune 500. The most accurate barometer of the worldwide business outlook is Greg Norman's playing schedule, and unfortunately the news is pretty bleak.Take a look back at the past 12 months since Norman's improbable run at Birkdale in last year's British Open, where he nearly became the oldest major winner ever at age 53. Sure, the economy was not great at the time, but it hadn't gone into free fall yet. Norman treated his appearance at Birkdale as a lark. It was his honeymoon, he laughed, as his recent bride Chris Evert followed his every shot, and he was just using it as practice session for the Senior British Open the following week.We all knew that Norman was into business now, not golf. Of all the ex-jocks who moved into the corporate suite, Norman was the most successful. He owned golf-club manufacturers, wineries, restaurant chains, housing developments, courses and even developed new strains of grass. Norman found a whole new arena for his competitiveness in business and he wasn't going to be a has-been grasping for lesser glory on the senior tour.That was last year. Now, Norman appears to be playing everywhere. He was at the Masters, he'll be at the Open this week, he's playing a Champions Tour event in Oregon next month, and he recently committed to playing in the next three Australian Opens. Did he rediscover his love for the game? Doubtful. More likely, in the current business climate, he can't make any deals, so he's decided to pursue the one thing he still can do to make money: play golf.Norman revealed as much in an interview this week with The Daily Mail's Derek Lawrenson, saying that laying off workers was much more painful than losing a golf tournament. Norman doesn't see much hope on the horizon either."[The American economy is] dead and it's a long time before it's coming back," Norman told the Daily Mail. "Run what's considered a small to medium business like mine, in the $200 million to $500 million turnover range and there's no incentives to grow. It's going to take a long time for business to recover and the rest of the world is going to recover quicker than America."Let's hope he's wrong, but we'll know things have turned around when Norman is off the golf course and back in the boardroom. That's the sign to call your broker, and say, "Buy!"Follow Michael Walker Jr. on Twitter

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