The Commish and The Shark Make Up?

Now there’s something I never thought I’d see — Greg Norman agreeing to not only captain the Presidents Cup team, but [photopress:couples_norman.jpg,full,alignright]also sitting on the same stage as Tim Finchem.

The animosity between the two men has been red hot for several years now, so it caught plenty of people off-guard when Finchem announced Norman (and Fred Couples) would captain the PC in 2009. I’ll give my peers credit here — it didn’t take one long to raise the question to Norman about his relationship with Finchem and the tour. After all, Finchem killed his “world tour” concept and then fundamentally altered it into the Accenture events like last week’s match play.

Norman made it sound like he’s just an independent director sitting at the table of a public company — he raises the questions shareholders want to hear apparently:

Well, I think what’s happened in the past is in the past. And I think it’s also good to know that if you sit on a board of any company, you don’t want to have a friendly board. You need to have some bit of contentious, open discussion because not everybody is going to think exactly the same way. I’m sure Tim’s views on things are different than mine and Freddie’s views on things that are probably different from mine, as well.
I always say this, that Tim and I have had an open discussion about certain situations with the game of golf, whether it’s personal, whether it’s business. I think there is communications that have been good for the game of golf in the long run, and that’s the most important thing that comes out of this; the improvement for the game and the ability for players to go out there and perform their profession on a global basis.

Which isn’t exactly the same as the language he used while hiring a lawyer in 2006 to take on what he felt were the tour’s questionable disclosure practices:

“The PGA Tour is us, the players,” says Norman, 51. “I’m not on a witch hunt here, but we should be able to see what’s going on and see how decisions are made.”

I guess Norman is putting the matter behind him — though he didn’t say as much — especially since he also seems to be prepared to captain the Presidents Cup team again in 2011 when the event returns to Australia. That is the take of columnist Steve Elling:

Two men whose spats have played out publicly for more than a decade shook hands after coming to grips with the realization that they finally need each other, at least, in one particular arena…The rift is more than a decade old and has often been played out publicly. Norman has never forgiven Finchem for co-opting his idea of forming a world tour, a notion the commissioner spun into the World Golf Championships, which just celebrated its 10-year anniversary last week. They have been at loggerheads on multiple fronts over the ensuing years, with Norman frequently hammering Finchem in print.

I wonder if Finchem making Norman a captain is a way of shutting him up, keeping him closer to the tour and therefore not as likely to pound it in the press. It would follow from that statement of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

So how significant is the placement of Norman and Couples as captains? Finchem says they were the Tiger Woods of their time:

Finchem: Their careers during those years remind me of — people ask me about Tiger Woods today, but for years and years in the late 80s and early 90s when I was out on the TOUR and one of these guys was not in the field, I heard about it from the sponsors.

I recognize Norman was the best player in the world for a long time — a dashing blonde Aussie who captured the imagination of golf fans. And Couples has always exuded a certain near comatose charm. But in my time watching golf, I never recall thinking, “Where is Fred Couples?” when he wasn’t at an event. Norman, is a different matter. I’ll assume Finchem has been hanging out with The Donald and is now speaking in hyperbole.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Couples announced he’d like to have Michael Jordan as “an assistant, assistant, assistant,” and perhaps Robin Williams “to keep us loose.”


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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Generally, there are two things in business that will bind unlikely people together:

    – a common enemy
    – money to be made

    I suspect it is the latter that draws the two together and forego past differences.

    I like the choice of the captains if the matches are viewed as an exhibition. They will certainly bring glam to the P-Cup.

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