CHICAGO — Greg Norman, a white-haired Australian who once stalked great white sharks, has tested the waters of golf's grand slam events and has set his sights on winning them all in 1987.
Norman won only the British Open last year but was in contention in the others and came as close as anyone in the past several years to winning all four in the same season. Norman wound up earning $653,000 in PGA prize money despite taking off most of the fall season. Including international events, he topped the $1 million mark in earnings.
"I set my goals at the practice tee. One of my goals right now is to win the slam. I know it's feasible and I think I can do it," he says. "I don't know if I'll do it but I think it's in range."
Norman insists he doesn't plan to gear his entire schedule around the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA.
"No, but I'm going to try this year to take one week off before each of those tourneys," he says. "I'll practice sidehill lies, putting and other things, based on the courses where the majors are at this year."
Norman was accused by critics of choking at the majors last year. They also suggested he blew leads at the U.S. Open and PGA because he couldn't stand the pressure. Norman rejects that theory.
"I can do better. So much depends on what you want out of things. I want to get the most out of my professional career for 25 years. There's no limit to it," he says.
Norman, who ranked near the top of most statistical categories kept by the PGA last year, will be busy as usual in 1987.
"I'm playing 19 tourneys, the exact same schedule as I did last year. Four or five in Europe, a couple of tourneys in Australia," he says. "The same as I've done for the past 10 years or so."
Norman says the international traveling hasn't bothered him or affected his play.
"The only mistake I made last year was playing that nine weeks in a row," Norman says. "I've never done it before and I guess you have to do it once to learn that you can't do it ever again."
Norman says he enjoyed the learning experience, even if it did affect his play on the tour. The key is to know when to schedule rest periods.
"It's like anything. You don't know how far you can push yourself until you do it," he says. "I didn't mind playing nine weeks in a row. The problem was that I didn't get enough rest. In Australia, four or five nights I was going out at banquets or award dinners. That was what killed me."
The demands on Norman have grown along with his earnings. Demands for him to speak, attend clinics and just handle the celebrity status are a problem for someone who still relishes his home life.
"Everyone wants a piece of the pie," he says. "You basically have to screen it. I work on the Children's Hospital projects, anything to do with kids I will do because I feel for them. It is a little harder to be selective. I want to do everything I can."
Because he insists on competing internationally and in his native Australia, the demands on Norman's time are probably greater than on some of the other superstars on the tour.
"Oh sure. You have to play it by ear and go by feel," he said. "I determine it by trying to help the people who helped me. I like certain golf courses, that's a determining factor. You want to feel comfortable not only with the course but with the people and the atmosphere."
Norman maintains he still has such a love for the game he can't envision the time when he will want to cut back and appear at only selected tournaments like a Jack Nicklaus.
"I probably will eventually, but I'm not thinking about that right now," he says. "I enjoy it so much still."
Returning to Australia is a joy for Norman, who now resides near Orlando, Fla.
"It's still a lot of fun to go back home," he says. "The private life is tough because you're in a hotel and you don't have much time by yourself. I guess on the other hand it's a real lift for me."
However, his countrymen have probably not grasped the level of success he has achieved both in the United States and worldwide.
"I don't think they have, I guess. It's hard for anyone to grasp anything worldwide anymore. I guess only you and your best friends can appreciate it," Norman says.