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GOLF ROUNDUP

Norman Is Not in Masters' Plans

January 29, 2003|From Associated Press

Barring a remarkable rebound in the next two months, Greg Norman will not be returning to the Masters.

Norman, the epitome of collapse and heartache at Augusta National, said he received a letter from chairman Hootie Johnson that he will not be offered a special invitation.

"Hootie wrote explaining the decision, and I think it is the right decision," Norman said at the Heineken Classic in Melbourne, Australia. "I support him 100% and respect him for that."

Norman, a runner-up three times at the major he craves the most, did not qualify for the first time last year but was given a special exemption by the club. He tied for 36th.

The only way for Norman, 48, to qualify now is to move from No. 121 to No. 50 in the world ranking by the end of March, to be in the top 10 on the PGA Tour money after the Players Championships or to win the Players.

Norman is playing the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne this week and said he plans to play four PGA Tour events before the deadline.

Johnson invited Norman to be a guest at Augusta National if he doesn't make it, but Norman isn't interested.

"There's no point in me going up there," he said.

Norman's best chance to win the green jacket came in 1996.

He had a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo entering the last round but shot 78 and lost by five.

The most devastating loss might have been in 1987, when Larry Mize defeated him on the second playoff hole by chipping in for birdie from 140 feet. A year earlier, Norman bogeyed the 18th hole to finish one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus.

Four years ago, Norman was tied for the lead with five holes to play when he bogeyed the 14th and never caught Jose Maria Olazabal.

Norman acknowledged his chances of winning another major at the age of 48 were not good.

"I actually thought I had a chance to win the British Open and one other last year," he said. "I didn't but I performed well."

Norman, a two-time British Open winner, shot a final-round 68 last year at Muirfield to finish four strokes behind a leading group of four, including eventual playoff winner Ernie Els.

"Will I win another major championship? Probably doubtful," Norman said. "Will I win another golf tournament? Yes. I'm a realist."

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The PGA of America said it is changing the rule at its sectional tournaments to make women play from the same tees as men if they want to qualify for PGA Tour events.

Suzy Whaley, a club pro in Connecticut, won her PGA sectional last year despite playing from tees that made the course about 10% shorter than what men faced.

Her victory earned her an exemption into the Greater Hartford Open, where Whaley will have to play from the championship tees.

The PGA of America already requires its club professionals to play from the same set of tees to qualify for the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship or PGA Cup Matches.

Women can continue to play from the shorter tees if they choose, but they will not be eligible for exemptions into PGA Tour events.

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