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Norman shanks one with world tour

What Greg Norman, in a self-serving way, has proposed will destroy the American professional golf tour. It will be his fatal legacy to the game. The one sport that hasn't been besmirched by scandal -- including fixes, betting coups or taking drugs -- stands as a powerful beacon of decency and integrity. It has extraordinary leadership.

Baseball, football, hockey, basketball and the rest wish they enjoyed the same reputation as golf. Credit the Professional Golfers' Association and the U.S. Golf Association, plus the players themselves, with the exemplary manner in which they go about conducting tournaments and the personal codes of decorum they enforce.

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Now comes Norman with a brainstorm that he has turned loose on the public. He wants to establish a world tour, conflicting in some instances with established PGA events. This, according to his half-baked theory, would lift golf to an even more exalted dimension of worldwide acceptance. Wrong.

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour will be relegated to something of a minor league. Four of the eight presentations on Norman's world agenda would be played in the United States, competing against regularly scheduled events on the PGA Tour. It's not a way for Norman to show his gratitude to America for making him a rich man. No thanks, Greg.

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If you aren't happy with what the PGA has enabled you to do -- to become a multimillionaire -- then expedite passage on the next plane for Melbourne. Your homeland of Australia might be receptive to the suggestion and you could be both promoter and player, putting yourself in position to make money both ways.

The world tour, or the Norman format, is not in the best interests of golf. It forgets the majority of the tour golfers and caters to a select list of the 30 elite. Individual cities and communities that are involved in PGA golf also would be hurt.

More than $30 million, a figure authenticated by well-respected accounting firms, was raised this year via the PGA Tour to assist all kinds of worthwhile causes, ranging in establishing college scholarships to building hospitals and allocating monies for medical research.

A world tour would irreparably damage the well-accepted PGA program, which offered 43 official tournaments from January through October in all parts of America -- a different place each week during the golfing season. The average PGA purse for the players in the field amounted to $1.3 million.

Norman, though, would like to skim off the top "name" PGA participants and book them in the world concept, leaving the not-so-glamorous, as he perceives, out of the picture. There's enough world competition as is, including the Ryder Cup, where the original purpose is degraded by disgusting degrees of nationalism; the new and intriguing Presidents Cup and, in the amateur realm, the long-exalted Walker Cup.

What Norman fails to realize is he would be hurting the PGA players. They, in effect, own the tour as it's now constituted. What happens in Los Angeles, Miami, Greensboro, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston and other cities if they are holding their annual tournaments and Norman lures the premier golfers to his world venues?

They quickly lose stature, which translates to a lesser desire for spectators to buy tickets. Crowds fall off. Then the television fees drop accordingly and the sponsors lose interest. Instead of across-the-board success, there's dismal failure. The tour would take it on the chin and lose prestige, thanks to Norman.

Nick Price, a friend of Norman's and also the foremost golfer on the face of the earth, is opposed to what would be a misguided venture. Price intelligently reasons that such a format could seriously diminish the importance of the PGA Tour.

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Price informed Tom Wulff, who puts on the Freeport McMoRan Classic (formerly the New Orleans Open and first played in 1938) that he's not involved in the Norman project. This was comforting to Wulff because he's president of the American Golf Sponsors, which numbers representatives from all the cities where PGA events are held.

A call to John Morris, the same John Morris who was once a sportswriter for The Evening Sun and is now vice president in charge of communications for the PGA, disclosed that other players, such as Curtis Strange, Davis Love and Lanny Watkins, have come out against the Norman proposal.

"We are aware golf exists because of volunteer workers, who staff the PGA tournaments, selling tickets, working as marshals, and caring for a myriad of details," explained Morris.

"They all give freely of their time because they like golf and, which is just as important, they want to see a considerable percentage of the financial benefits derived from ticket sales come back to their communities to help specific charities.

"The players absolutely realize the importance of the sponsors. They make friends in the various cities where they play each year and look forward to returning. What I'm hearing is the players have no desire to do anything, even remotely, to jeopardize the relationships they have created."

Greg Norman ought to beg forgiveness of the PGA for proposing such a rock-headed suggestion. Not only is he losing direction but he's out of bounds . . . way off course.


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