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Fans' interest will be high but Shark's aiming low at The Lakes



Greg Norman still loves to compete but he hates to practise, writes Peter Stone.

Greg Norman is on the promotional poster for this week's Australian Open - presenting the trophy to Adam Scott last year - under the banner, The Glory of Golf. Yes, the Shark still gets his glory even if his best days are behind him.

Australian golf has ridden on his back for years, and still does, too, and that's why that photograph is on the poster. We've shared the highs and lows with him, and we ask for one more time, like it so nearly was a couple of years ago when he led the British Open into the final round.

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He is an ambassador for Events NSW in its efforts to revive the open championship to its great days when Jack Nicklaus once referred to it as the fifth major of world golf. But while Norman might have the body the envy of every 55-year-old his heart is no longer in the time-consuming lifestyle needed to complete at the elite level.

He has won five Australian Opens but don't expect a sixth at The Lakes, starting tomorrow. "My expectations are really low right now, to be honest with you," Norman said. "I love to compete but I hate to practise. I really don't like standing out for 10 hours a day hitting golf balls any more. My practice routine now is maybe 45 minutes hitting golf balls and then go play 18 holes."

"I never used to do it that way. I never used to play 18 holes when I practised. I just hit golf balls. Now the process of honing my skills is different. When I get out there and play, I like to push myself like I used to push myself [but] I have to balance my expectations within myself."

"Now I'm not worried if I don't shoot 63. If I shoot 72 or 74, I am not that worried about it. Everything is different."

There was a time when Norman would have dragged his caddie out into the bleak conditions for a practice round but not yesterday. He was to have played nine holes with corporate types at the NSW Golf Club in the morning but that was cancelled, so too any thought of heading to the practice range at The Lakes. He played the redesigned course several months ago and knows what's out there.

Norman and Fred Couples, the respective captains for the International and US teams for next year's Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, attended a cup launch in Melbourne on Monday and, when formalities were over, the two great mates had a chat about whether the Shark actually wanted to contend again - as Couples, 51, did at the US Masters this year in finishing sixth.

"If I wanted to go back there and commit myself to practising for four or five days a week. Do I think I can compete and win again? Absolutely I do," Norman said. "But, like I said, I am not keen on doing that. You have to understand I enjoy doing a lot of other things. In reality, my competitive juices are channelled in different directions."

He looks to developing the game in China, Vietnam, Korea and South America, where he and Lorena Ochoa have lobbied the IOC to build a course for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. "All those things that are tied to the game of golf are deep in my heart. It is not just me competing for myself, it is for the game of golf."

So, what of the TAB Sportsbet odds of $67 about him this week? "It is your money. You do whatever you want with it," Norman replied.



Read more at www.smh.com.au




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