TROON, Scotland –- To play or not to play, that is the question. The PGA of America, impressed by Greg Norman’s third-place tie in last week’s British Open, has invited the Shark to the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills outside of Detroit in two weeks.
“I have to make a decision,” Norman said this morning at Royal Troon, site of the British Senior Open, which starts tomorrow. He has until Thursday to make the call, according to the Associated Press.
A no brainer? Not exactly. Norman has already committed to next week’s U.S. Senior Open at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. If he adds the PGA to his dance card, that will be four straight weeks of competition for a 53-year-old bloke with a dodgy back and a global business empire to run.
“I have to be careful,” he said. “I can’t go out there and just pound golf balls and pound golf balls.”
Norman also has to consider the fact that his PGA appearance might be anti-climactic because American tournament courses have little in common with the relatively short and windy Royal Birkdale links.
“To go to a behemoth like Bethpage Black [site of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens] would be more of a mountain to climb,” Norman said. “7,700 yards, heavy rough. I’m strong, but my fingers are not as strong as they used to be. And as soon as you start pushing the golf course to 7,600 yards, it starts to compound the problem a little bit.”
In other words, he might like to sit on his current peak for a while, just to enjoy the view. Norman has gotten more than 500 e-mails and texts since the weekend, many of them from tournament players of a certain age.
“Well, it’s inspirational,” said Sam Torrance, the former European Ryder Cup captain. “I mean, it was the performance of a lifetime, a 53-year-old man leading the Open with nine holes to play. Looked like he turned the clock back 25 years, to be honest.”
The irony, of course, is that Norman went to Royal Birkdale simply as a tune-up for the two senior majors. “I’m warmed up, basically,” he joked before Wednesday’s practice round at Troon. “Now I’ve got to step up.”
He’ll get his chance tomorrow at 9:20 a.m. local time (4:20 a.m. ET), when he tees off with defending champ Tom Watson and former Masters and British Open champ Sandy Lyle. (Photo: John Biever/SI)