Greg Norman loves the camaraderie top players have

Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas
USA Today Sports Images
Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas walk together during the 2016 Masters par 3 contest.
By
Greg Hardwig
Naples Daily News, Fla.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 | 2:54 p.m.

Jack Nicklaus hitting the Bahamas with Arnold Palmer? Or Gary Player?

Or Greg Norman and Nick Faldo just hanging out? What about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson?

Not likely scenarios in their heydays. But Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Jordan Speith are doing just that, having fun with each other on social media, and all the while winning golf tournaments.

Thomas won his first major and was Player of the Year for 2017, and Spieth won his third major, the British Open. Fowler just shot a 61 to win Tiger Woods' event.

"What I love more than anything else that I see in this generation is the way you get four or five of these kids running off to some island in the Bahamas to have a fun time," Norman said Thursday ahead of his QBE Shootout at Tibur�n Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. "That never existed in my career. I don't think that probably existed in Jack's or Raymond Floyd's career. We all disappeared once the golf tournament was over to our own wherever we went, right?

"But to see these kids interact the way they are today, especially in the United States, I think it's fantastic for the game. And I've seen that happen in Europe. The European guys got together and travel together and did things together. So it bodes well for American golf going into the future."

And the present. The U.S. won the Ryder Cup last year and the Presidents Cup a few months ago.

"I think that all comes from socializing together," Norman said. "I don't follow too many of everybody's social account, but just the interaction, the way they are on social media is fantastic. I wish I had social media in my day because I think it would have been fun to interact with the other players and do what they do and say what they say and needle each other back and forth a little bit.

"But it's all done out of great friendship and great spirit and you see it coming out on the golf course. There's probably five or six, seven, eight kids today under 26, 27 that could be No. 1 player in the world tomorrow."

Norman, 62, knows what it takes to get there, holding that spot for 331 weeks. And the accomplished businessman who wants to keep the game of golf's future bright, is hoping a new venture will play a part in that.

Norman recently announced a partnership with golf cart company Club Car, GPS Industries and Verizon called the Shark Experience. It incorporates livestreaming, Bluetooth, GPS and more into a golf cart.

Norman walked into a cart barn once and saw 20 or so of the carts equipped with screens, and saw the possibilities. He likened it to a hotel room with TVs that could show just about any form of entertainment.

"I thought 'Why can't we do this with a screen on every golf cart? Why can't we pull in what we have on our iPhone and give the people the ability to listen to music, put speakers in the roof of the golf cart and take their iPhone away, take their Bluetooth speakers that they pull around all over the world with them from golf course to golf course and put it all on the screen?'" he said. "That's what I envisioned. That's what I thought about. Then we wrote a business plan and four and a half years later here we go to market next year."

Norman said the system will be cashless, in testing so far pace of play has not been slowed, and management companies and the National Golf Course Owners Association are on board.

"So fingers crossed, knock on wood we found something that's good for the golf industry, and yeah, the icing on the cake for us is and from my perspective is it's a rev share with the golf clubs that have it," Norman said. "So they have a chance of increasing their bottom line by having Shark Experience at their golf club."

Norman says the PGA Tour also is keeping track of it.

"If our agreement goes ahead, which I'm pretty sure it will, they can watch live streaming PGA Tour golf on their monitor and they're playing golf at the same time," he said. "Instead of being home on the couch with their buddies drinking beer, they're in a golf cart drinking beer, watching the PGA Tour and playing golf. So you're bringing it all in. And the PGA Tour goes, 'Whoa.'"

Woods created a "Whoa" in his return to golf last week after missing more time due to back surgery. He flirted with the lead the first two rounds before tying for ninth in the Hero World Challenge.

Norman said a healthy Woods is good for the game, but hopes Woods doesn't get too wrapped up in other people's expectations.

"You just hope it just continues on for him because a lot of the stuff he's done has been self-inflicted, but a lot of the stuff that he's going through now is more the wear and tear of the body hitting a lot of golf balls," Norman said. "... So I hope he manages his expectations more than everybody else's expectations being like he's going to come back and be Tiger of past. I think he still has a little bit of time on his side, but not a whole lot."

Norman took some time to actually play golf the past two days in the pro-am, for obvious reasons to support those from QBE Insurance and others who were in the pro-am. But also to get ready for next week's PNC Father/Son Challenge, where Norman will play with his son Gregory.

"This is the first time I've played two days in a row I bet in 10 years, but (his game) needs work," Norman said. "If I had a little bit more WD-40 I think I would be OK."

So he's hoping Gregory is prepared to carry the team.

"I've got a custom-made saddle that perfectly fits his back and I can put it on him and I can ride him as hard as I want to ride him," Norman said. "I have no expectation for myself. I'm looking forward to playing with him because he's really, really excited about it. He's been practicing every day, wanting to do well.

"So that's why I've been trying to practice every day just to sharpen my game from zero to one or two, which would be great for him." 

This article is written by Greg Hardwig from Naples Daily News, Fla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.