Date: February 19, 2009
Author: Paul Barbieri, Sportal

Norman looks to defend

Greg Norman had a blunt message to his opponents at the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Vines – play aggressively at your own peril. Speaking for the first time at the course, half-an-hour outside of Perth, 54-year-old Norman said the Vines layout was better suited to defensive golf, especially if the wind turned from the regulation Perth breeze to a hot easterly coming off the Nullabor. “It&aposs not a bad golf course, it&aposs not a great golf course,” a blunt Norman said on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the $2.75 million dollar (AUD) tournament teeing off. “The bunkers make it very awkward to play. Some of the bunker configurations and the layout really take away some of your shot lines that you really normally like to play on certain holes.” “It&aposs more of a golf course designed to make you play defensive than it is any other way, just because of the tee shot strategy and a lot of it has to do with the wind.” “The wind comes from a certain direction and you can blow it into most of the bunkers and it really doesn&apost come into play but if it&aposs the south-eastern wind, it&aposs an awkward golf course to play,” he said, referring to weather reports which indicate an easterly will come in as temperatures rise to 36 degrees on Friday. “Tee shots are tough (and even) if you hit the greens, you have to make the birdies because the greens are so huge and with a lot of undulation on them.” “(So) you have to be very, very careful where you put them on the greens as well.” “It&aposs a defensive type of golf course, you really can&apost just get up there and whale away at it and say, &aposI&aposm going to play this golf course extremely aggressively&apos.” “You&aposve just got to be careful,” he said. Norman is going through something of a career renaissance at present after coming from semi-retirement to lead the 2008 British Open for 54 holes before finishing tied for third after the final day at Royal Birkdale. That effort guaranteed the Great White Shark a 23rd invitation to the Masters at Augusta next April, along with another tilt at the British Open this year. But those tournaments are miles off Norman&aposs radar, the Queensland native saying he&aposs letting nothing distract him from the Classic, as he faces off against up-and-coming Colombian Camilo Villegas, American hot shot Anthony Kim and last year&aposs Classic winner in India, New Zealand&aposs Mark Brown. Norman is well aware this younger generation is eager to force a changing of the guard in world golf standings. “I love what I&aposm seeing in the younger players these days,” Norman said. “I think they have had a tremendous opportunity since Tiger has been off the scene for nearly 12 months to give themselves the confidence to say, &aposokay, I can go out there and do this&apos.” “So they get this confidence boost and I think these two guys (Villegas and Kim), have got the opportunity to take the bull by the horns and not get intimidated by anybody or any golf shot or any golf tournament.” Norman has an early start to his Vines campaign, the 2007 Australian Sport Hall of Fame Legend, teeing off at 7.40am alongside world No. 9 Villegas and England&aposs Lee Westwood, ranked 12th in the world.