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Greg Norman Means Business

Greg Norman in Napa, Calif.
R.J. Muna
Greg Norman's vineyard in Napa is like his other business ventures: high-growth

Just try shooting Greg Norman's horse out from under him these days. What have you got? A 140-foot chip shot that dives into the cup like a mole into a hole? That one hurt most. Norman sat on the beach at 3 a.m. and cried after the Larry Mize miracle at the 1987 Masters. He'd laughed off Bob Tway's bunker shot at the '86 PGA, but this was too much, too soon — two straight majors, two stakes through the heart.

Have you got any of those? Doesn't matter. Norman hardly plays golf anymore, not for the wounds to his psyche, but because his body said it was time. He had a shoulder reconstructed in 1998, a hip in 2000, and last March submitted his back to Pittsburgh Steelers neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon for a laminectomy.

The golf gods can't touch Norman anymore, nor can anyone else. After Hurricane Wilma last fall, Norman, 50, cranked up the chainsaw, cleared his Hobe Sound, Fla., manse and played through. His production company went ahead with the Franklin Templeton Shootout, an unofficial Tour event, in November. His courses — he's designed more than 50 and his fee is an estimated $1.25 million — were unscathed except for one in Cancun. The Norman clothing collection under Reebok has enjoyed 11 straight quarters of double-digit growth, and his wines got a recent buzz from Wine Spectator, which anointed his 1999 Shiraz Reserve one of the top 10 of 2004, sending the grape-ful golfer to New York for the awards banquet.

"There he is sitting at this table at the Marriott Marquis, with 1,500 people in the room," says Bart Collins, who oversees Norman's businesses. "And they're going through the top 10 wines, and for the other nine people, it was like their British Open, the culmination of their careers, and for Greg it's kind of a hobby."

If you are a golfer or even a linebacker, odds are you've been touched by the Norman brand. His GN1 turfgrass has appeared in two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Sydney Olympics. He's got a stake in GPS Industries of Vancouver, which may someday allow parents to track their kids at Disney World in addition to telling golfers how many yards they've got left to the flag.

"With WiFi and GPS now you can have the player's unit hooked up with the fan's unit, so the fan can say, 'Well, he's got this much left to the green, and this type of shot,'" Norman says. "It's great technology. NASCAR does it, sort of."

You just can't stop this one-man multinational. Medallist Development, which Norman has run since 1997 with Macquarie Bank in Australia, has five master-planned communities completed and 10,600 residential units under construction. In total, Great White Shark Enterprises grossed more than $300 million in 2005.

Not long ago Norman was just another millionaire jock. When the FTC upheld Tour bylaws that limit player participation in non-PGA events, allowing commissioner Tim Finchem to squash Norman's world tour idea in 1996, it was Norman's hazing into the business world.

But who's laughing now? As Finchem tries to get his house in order, courting the networks for the Tour's next TV deal, Norman's busy not providing for his kids.

"I'm providing for my kids' kids' kids," he says with a wink. Norman's said for a while now the Tour would have trouble sustaining its astronomical growth, and he gives the impression that he would like nothing more than to see Finchem fall flat on his face. Collins describes their relationship as "measured."

In fact, Norman and Finchem need each other. Norman hopes his new Lansdowne course near Washington, D.C., someday will replace the TPC at Avenel as host of the Booz Allen Classic, and that's just the beginning. The Norman-Finchem connection extends to the Shark's unofficial Tour event (the Shootout); the Norman-designed TPC at Sugarloaf, home of the BellSouth Classic; and a piece of land in San Antonio which Norman won the right to turn into another TPC course that's expected to become the new home of either the PGA Tour's Texas Open or the Champions Tour's SBC Championship.

Norman also has been mentioned as a possible captain of the International team at the 2007 Presidents Cup, an event owned by the Tour, but says he hasn't been contacted about the job and wonders why he wasn't invited to attend the 2005 Cup.

"The PGA Tour plays things very close to the vest," Norman said recently. "You really don't know until Finchem says something, and [even then] he really doesn't tell you anyway."

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