Thu, Oct 12, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Great White Shark laments the state of today's game


Technology, money and Tiger Woods are hurting golf, according to two-time British Open winner Greg Norman.

The Australian, who is playing in this week's Spanish Senior Open, said on Tuesday that golf will be in major trouble if the US PGA Tour doesn't manage the sport more carefully.

"With fewer and fewer people watching golf in America, the sport has become stagnant," Norman said.

Some US tour events this year reportedly saw significant declines in American television viewership from last year, such as a 56 percent drop for the Bob Hope Classic, a 50 percent decline for the season-opening Mercedes Championship and a 37.5 percent drop for the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Some analysts have said that Woods being in contention is a major factor in ratings, such as the 22 percent increase in August for the final round of his US PGA Championship victory.

An increase in prize and sponsorship money has put more pressure on players and tournament organizers, Norman said, and that is taking away from the excitement that players such as Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros used to create.

"Players need to bring the spirit back," Norman said. "There have always been great players to bring people to the game to lighten it up so that it's not so serious."

"Look at what [Rafael] Nadal has done for tennis because of the way he is, like a boxer. You never hear anyone coming out and saying I want to beat Tiger Woods -- I haven't heard that," Norman added. "Nadal comes out and says he wants to beat Roger Federer because he's No. 1 and that's great for tennis."

Norman, who has played little golf -- and watched even less -- since making his senior's tour debut last year, also said the technology used in making golf clubs should be reserved for amateurs.

"I have a problem with someone winning a golf tournament without using a driver," Norman said. "The game has always been dominated by power-hitter players, but today you can't tell the difference between the players because of the technology."

Norman said he only watched this year's Ryder Cup after his daughter, who is dating Sergio Garcia, urged him to do so.

"It came down to great teamwork -- Europe's players play together, eat together, fly on private jets together and that's for an entire two years, not just for the Ryder Cup, so there's more camaraderie," Norman said. "The Americans are trying to do that now, and I think they're doing better, but their still not there."

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