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Norman looking forward to challenge at Oak Hill
As sportswriter Ivan Maisel wrote on Sunday at that 2003 PGA Championship, "if every day in upstate New York were like this, Florida would still be a swamp."
Not this week. Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the 50s and 60s with occasional showers and gusty, chilly winds as the Senior PGA Championship comes to town. Oak Hill will provide a much different test in those conditions.
"I don't know about being in upstate New York in May," Norman said. "It could be snowing (this week), who knows? (It's) a little early, but we'll just see how the golf course is ready just coming out.
"They've had a pretty heavy winter, so it'll be interesting to see how the golf course sets up. It'll be totally different than when we played it in August, that's for sure."
Weathermen aren't calling for any flurries in the area so Norman and his Champions Tour counterparts can rest easy. That is, until they remember how challenging the course -- which also was the venue for 1968 U.S. Open, 1980 PGA Championship, 1989 U.S. Open, 1995 Ryder Cup, -- can be.
"I think it's one of the great ones," Norman said. "Obviously it's (played) host to many major championships, so it speaks for itself, really. It's stood the test of time."
Surgeries on Norman's right knee and his back limited his schedule for about three years. The Senior PGA Championship, though, will be his second straight event, as well as his fourth of the year on the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour combined.
"I've been a bit absent for a while, about five years now," Norman admitted. "I haven't really focused a lot of attention on wanting to get out there and play," Norman admitted.
This year things are a little different. Although he's still playing sparingly, Norman has returned to the scene as a competitive golfer and he will captain the International Team at the 2009 Presidents Cup.
What spurred this sudden Shark attack? For starters, the influence of his son Gregory and his fianc�e, tennis superstar Chris Evert.
His 22-year-old son plays a lot of amateur golf events in South Florida, so Greg began working with him to hone various aspects of his game. Being a teacher also made the World Golf Hall of Famer a student of the game again.
"When you go to the short game and teach him the short game, you're actually teaching yourself, because what you're doing is bringing up the old habits that I used to look for when I used to practice," Norman said. "By telling myself mentally -- even though I'm physically not doing it -- when I go to practice, I say, well, you told Gregory to do this. Why don't you do that? Rotate your hips a little bit, and then all of a sudden it starts to fall into place a little bit easier."
Evert, a fiercely competitive athlete in her own right, has also inspired his recent comeback. If he still loves to play so much, she would say, why not get out there and do it?
"She understands what it's all about, and she's been very encouraging for me," Norman said. "She sees me practice. She loves to watch me practice just as much as I love to watch her play tennis."
Norman missed the cut at last week's AT&T Classic, as well as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya earlier this year. But he did take some positives from the past few months.
In late April, Norman tied for 14th at the BMW Asian Open co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour. And, though Norman shot 80 in the first day of the AT&T Classic, he did manage a 71 on Friday playing against the young guns on TOUR.
In addition to wanting to play on a course he designed, Norman viewed his stint at the AT&T Classic as a warm-up for the Senior PGA Championship this week.
"My whole attitude about (going to Atlanta) to play was because I am getting a bit excited about playing (golf)," said Norman, who also expects to play in the British Open, a tournament he has won twice, this summer.
"I'm really looking forward to July more than I am May, to tell you the truth. I'm looking forward to playing some of the senior major championships. ... I'm very excited about that, and I figured if I (could) get into Atlanta, that would be good preparation for me."
Since being named captain of the International Team for next year's Presidents Cup, Norman has re-immersed himself in the game. He reads golf magazines each week again and follows the progress of players around the world to search for potential Captain's Picks.
"It's a little bit tougher for me than it is a U.S. captain because here you can really focus on one country," Norman said. "I've got to focus on a lot of countries, a lot of tours and see how they come out. That's what I'm doing now, studying that week in and week out."
Who knows? Maybe he will be reading about himself this week.