Date: November 19, 2006
Author: Ben Collins

Norman backs Aussie golf

By Ben Collins, Sportal Greg Norman has backed Australian golf to go from strength to strength after a memorable week at this year&aposs MFS Australian Open. Fans flocked to the Royal Sydney to see the 51-year-old legend make his first Australian Open appearance since 2000 and, although the two-time Major winner never threatened the leaderboard, he still provided reminders of his brilliance. He safely made the cut with a birdie putt on the 18th but the huge cheer from the galleries and the thousands that followed him all week demonstrated his enduring popularity. Norman now hopes the Australasian Tour can build on the success of the MFS Australian Open and attract new investors to the game. “I think the crowds this week have been phenomenal, not just in my group but everybody else&aposs too,” he said. “I think they&aposve come out here and really started showing their support for the game of golf again, whether that s [because of] the new, innovative Australian Open or a new crowd, who knows? “But you&aposve got to take a look at it and say something&aposs working, which is great, and maybe we have turned the corner. It&aposs not going to happen in one tournament, it&aposs got to happen in a series of tournaments, but as long as we keep the momentum going, that&aposll be great.” “There&aposs a lot of money in this country,” Norman added. “The economy&aposs strong, corporations are very profitable and golf is a great avenue for corporations to spend their dollars, it&aposs just a matter of getting them to come back to the table.” “They get great exposure out of it, and I don&apost know what the TV ratings have been like here, but if they&aposre up on last year then use this as positive marketing, and go out there and push it.” This may have been Norman&aposs last appearance at the Australian Open but the veteran is confident the new generation of Australian golfers will be able to attract non-golfers to the sport like the charismatic Queenslander has done. “People are always interested in what happens with these individuals, and I&aposm a prime case,” he said. “You&aposre going to be in the public eye, especially if you&aposre going to win golf tournaments like an Adam Scott or a Geoff Ogilvy, it&aposs pretty hard to dodge that. You&aposll always get people through the gate, who want to know what Stuart Appleby&aposs like or what Robert Allenby&aposs like.” “The higher you go up the pyramid of success, the more exposed you are and the more people want to find out what&aposs going on, and that brings people through the gate. But that&aposs good, there&aposs nothing wrong with that.” “If you can get a cross section of audience from an eight-year-old up to an 80-year-old, that&aposs fabulous, that&aposs what we need. Not every one of them has to play golf, they just have to be interested spectators.” After being eight-over for the first two rounds, Norman went round in four-under on Saturday before hitting a 74 on Sunday to finish six-over and tied 26th. “I walked off the golf course feeling very disappointed,” he said. “I felt I could have done a lot better than what I did. I can sit back and see where I could have saved eight or 10 shots easily if I&aposd been in some kind of game mode.” Florida-based Norman will return to Australia in the New Year to promote his business interests, but he refused to say if he would play in next year&aposs Australian Open. “It&aposs a long way away,” he said. “I&aposm going to be coming back down here doing other work, and doing business. You&aposll want to know what I&aposm doing and the exposure is good for all of us. At the end of the day, we&aposll still be talking to each other.”