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Norman says surgery will refine game, not end career


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000

The logical conclusion is that Greg Norman is done as a competitive golfer. He's coming off his highest round in the U.S. Open, 82, had surgery Wednesday to correct a lingering hip problem, and will miss next month's British Open, the major championship he's won twice.

Oh, and he's 45 years old.

Norman's desire has been questioned recently, with his involvement in various off-the-course ventures. His play has not been particularly stellar, and it would not be a stretch to suggest he'll no longer be a factor on the PGA Tour.

But that's not how Norman views the situation.

"I know this will give me a new lease on life," Norman said in a conference call with south Florida writers before the one-hour arthroscopic surgery. "When I walk out of there after surgery, it's going to be very exciting because I will be 100 percent repaired. This is not a degenerative condition like Bo Jackson or Jack Nicklaus. I should have done this two or three years ago, but they didn't have this technology back then."

Norman, who had major surgery on his shoulder in 1998, said the hip has been bothering him for a while, but he didn't feel the need to do anything until he missed the cut at the U.S. Open by 10 shots.

"There's a lot of humility at what happened at Pebble Beach," Norman said. "It was kind of what happened at the (1998) Masters when I almost killed the guy with my driver (a poor tee shot on the 18th hole that was attributed to Norman's aching shoulder). There's no more humbling experience than walking off the course after you've shot 17 over. You get to the point where enough is enough."

Norman's doctors said he could be hitting balls in 10 days. And he should compete at the PGA Championship in August.

"I don't look at this as major surgery," he said. "People can think that (I'm done), but they don't know what the intensity is like in myself once I know I'm 100 percent healthy and can go out and execute again.

"Time is not on my side, admittedly. But 45 is just a number. It's how you feel and how your body reacts that's important. The doctors have told me I can come back and play 10 years as hard as I want."

SUCCESSFUL SISTERS: In March, Aree Song Wongluekiet made headlines when she not only made the cut at the Nabisco Championship, but finished tied for 10th after playing in the last group with eventual champion Karrie Webb. Wongluekiet is 14 and trains at the Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton. Her sister, Naree, missed the cut at the Nabisco.

Now the table has turned. Last week Naree qualified for next month's U.S. Women's Open while Aree did not.

MORE RECORDS: Among the slew of records set by Tiger Woods when he won the U.S. Open was that he became the youngest player to notch his 20th victory. He did so at 24 years, 5 months, 19 days. The record was held by Horton Smit, who made it to 20 victories at 26 years, 8 months, 22 days.

AND ONE HE MISSED: Woods' 15-shot victory at the Open was the largest in major-championship history, surpassing the 13-shot win of Old Tom Morris at the 1862 British Open. It was not the largest victory margin on the PGA Tour. That record of 16 shots is held by J.D. Edgar (1991 Canadian Open), Joe Kirkwood Sr. (1924 Corpus Christi Open) and Bobby Locke (1945 Chicago Victory Open).

USGA DOUBLE: Seven Senior PGA Tour players have won both the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open: Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Orville Moody, Lee Trevino and Hale Irwin. Seven others have a chance to become the eighth: Andy North, Hubert Green, Tom Watson, Larry Nelson, David Graham, Raymond Floyd and Tom Kite.

AROUND GOLF: Former NFL quarterback John Elway made a hole-in-one Wednesday -- on his 40th birthday -- during a pro-am for the Dodge Shootout at the Westin Innisbrook Resort's Island course. Elway's ace came at the 13th hole. ... Woods has 11 PGA Tour victories in the last year. Notah Begay's victory at the St. Jude Classic was his third in that period, tying him with Phil Mickelson and Hal Sutton for the second-highest total over the past year. ... Current NCAA champion Charles Howell posted the best finish ever by an amateur on the Tour when he tied for second at the Greensboro Open. ... Walter Hall, who lives at Feather Sound in Clearwater, is one of the Senior PGA Tour's hottest players. Hall has not won, but he has consecutive runner-up finishes at the SBC Championship and NFL Classic, and he has four top 10s in his last five starts.

Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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