Date: June 29, 2009
Author: Steve Orme, Sportal

Shark eyes sixth Open crown

Former world No.1 Greg Norman is confident he still possesses the game to clinch a sixth Stonehaven Cup, after signing on to contest the next three Australian Opens. Australia&aposs most famous sporting export confirmed his commitment to the tournament at a packed media conference overlooking Sydney Harbour on Monday morning. The 54-year-old, who last contested his national championship in 2006, expressed a desire to return the sport he loves to the &aposhalcyon days&apos of the 1980s. He will work in partnership with Golf Australia and Events NSW to promote Sydney and Australia as a premier golfing destination for overseas visitors. But while he plans to embrace his role as an ambassador for the tournament, &aposThe Shark&apos warned rivals not to take him lightly when he returns to NSW Golf Club – a course he happens to be a member of – later this year. “I think so,” he said when asked if he is capable of reclaiming the trophy he last won in 1996. “Any time you come to a golf course, just take last year for example at the British Open, I love Royal Birkdale (it&aposs) one of my favourite golf courses of all time.” “You go there, you feel comfortable, you feel relaxed and you go out there with an attitude and approach toward the game that you can still compete.” “That&aposs the beauty of the game of golf at my age … fortunately I can still compete because if you keep yourself fit and strong and mentally stable about the game yes, I think I have the ability to compete.” Meanwhile, Norman challenged the game&aposs leading lights to do more to promote the game across the globe. “I&aposm saddened on a global basis, not just here in Australia, that there&aposs been a bit of a neutralisation for the growth of the game of golf,” he said. “It&aposs important and it&aposs incumbent on all the name players and iconic players to try and promote the game of golf on a global basis.” And the two-time major champion, who recalled the days when the Australian Open was considered among the game&aposs top-five events, is confident the famous tournament can be restored to its former glory over time. “The Australian Open&aposs been around for a very long period of time. The history of the tournament and the names on the cup are all the players who won major championships,” he said. “And that is a shining example of where the stature of this event stands in all the players&apos minds. When you know Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer came down here and supported this event for a long time, it tells you the importance.” Asked if his decision to play in the Sydney-based tournament from December 3-6 is a bigger coup than Tiger Woods&apos upcoming appearance at the Australian Masters to be held in Melbourne this November, Norman declared both signatures a &aposvictory for Australia&apos. “I think it&aposs testament to what Australia does have,” he enthused. “The ability that we can bring two players – obviously Tiger Woods for his domination of the game over the last 15 years has been phenomenal – and for the Australian people to be able to see him first hand outside of a Presidents Cup … it&aposs a great opportunity.” “I don&apost think it&aposs a PR battle, I think it&aposs just a battle where one hand is talking to the other hand and put two hands together and Australia is the benefactor.” “And NSW and Victoria will be the benefactor of those two events – no question about it.”