In 1990 and 1995, Greg Norman won the Memorial Tournament. Twenty-two years since his last victory, the Memorial Tournament spotlight was back on Norman once again.
Jack Nicklaus honored his friend this week, a day before the Memorial Tournament begins. Nicklaus, who built Muirfield Village Golf Club and created the Memorial Tournament, has honored contributors to the game each year since the tournament’s inception in 1976. Along with Norman, the tournament also posthumously honored players Tony Lema and Ken Venturi.
On hand for the presentation, Norman graciously received the accolades, richly deserved for not only his two Open Championships and his two titles at the Memorial but for his other 87 professional victories and his 331 weeks he sat atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
The blonde Aussie, who earned the nickname “The Great White Shark” for his aggressive, attacking style of play, flew in Wednesday for the presentation and later admitted that on the flight to Ohio he attempted to choose words that would express how meaningful his selection as the 2017 Memorial Tournament Honoree is.
“And there really isn’t a right way of expressing it. Everybody recognizes your performance on the golf course, as well as off the golf course, how you conducted yourself in different situations. But at the end of the day, it’s when you reflect back on all the other honorees that you realize that you’re sitting in a very elite bucket of very impressive individuals,” Norman said. “So, to me, I still can’t find the right words to tell you the truth. But the relationship I’ve had with Jack has been extremely special.”
“First of all, he’s a great player,” said Nicklaus, describing why the tournament was honoring Norman. “He’s played around the world. He’s been successful in Australia, successful in Europe, successful in the United States. Plus that, he’s been a successful father and grandfather, businessman and philanthropist, all the things we hope that the guys who are out here today will graduate into.”
Norman began competing on the PGA TOUR full time in 1983 and won the Kemper Open and the Canadian Open the following year. He became one of the most dominant players in the world in the 1980s and early ’90s and was consistently at the top of the leaderboard in the major championships. In 1986, Norman assembled one of the great seasons in golf history. He won 10 times worldwide and led both the PGA TOUR and the Australasian Tour money lists. Most significantly, he held the 54-hole lead in each of the four major championships, and he broke through for his first major title that year by winning The Open Championship at Turnberry, in Scotland. He captured a second claret jug in 1993 at Royal St. George’s, thanks to a sterling final-round 64.
Norman led the PGA TOUR in earnings three times (1986, 1990 and 1995) and scoring average three times (1986, 1989 and 1994), and in 1995 he won the Jack Nicklaus Trophy as PGA TOUR Player of the Year. Norman is widely considered one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the game, and he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001 with a higher percentage of votes (82 percent) than any other inductee in history.
On the day of his honor, though, Norman spoke a little of his wins and losses but really chose to focus on the relationships he built in the game.
“You can talk about the rivalries you have in sport, and you can talk about not knowing anybody until you get to a certain moment in time. And really the time is the indicator. The time creates the bond,” said Norman of the friendships he’s made with fellow players. “Because for the first couple of years that you’re playing the game of golf, first of all, all you care about is yourself and wanting to be the best you can be and (you) keep pushing, pushing, pushing. But then you start getting into the arena with the group of individuals, and I mean the group, there’s always about 10 or 15 of is us that carry the weight of everybody else. We go after each other.”
One of those players was Nicklaus, who in legendary fashion defeated Norman at the 1986 Masters Tournament, one in a long string of disappointments for the Aussie at Augusta National.
“I could probably write a book in its own right just on that with Jack,” Norman continued, “about the moments we’ve had, practice rounds and the moments we’ve had in conversations during those practice rounds. And I think that’s the most important thing. If you can impress a guy as humble as [Nicklaus] is, you’ve done your job.”
Safe to say that from the moment Norman picked up Nicklaus’ best-selling book Golf My Way as a teenager, Nicklaus has been impressing Norman, as well.
Past Memorial Tournament Honorees
2016 Johnny Miller
2015 Nick Faldo
2014 Annika Sorenstam, Jim Barnes, Joe Carr, Willie Park, Sr.
2013 Raymond Floyd
2012 Tom Watson
2011 Nancy Lopez
2010 Severiano Ballesteros
2009 JoAnne Carner, Jack Burke, Jr.
2008 Tony Jacklin, Ralph Guldahl, Charles Blair MacDonald, Craig Wood
2007 Louise Suggs, Dow Finsterwald
2006 Michael Bonallack, Charles Coe, William Lawson Little, Jr., Henry Picard, Paul Runyan, Denny Shute
2005 Betsy Rawls, Cary Middlecoff
2004 Lee Trevino, Joyce Wethered
2003 Julius Boros, William Campbell
2002 Kathy Whitworth, Bobby Locke
2001 Payne Stewart
2000 Jack Nicklaus
1999 Ben Hogan
1998 Peter Thomson
1997 Gary Player
1996 Billy Casper
1995 Willie Anderson, John Ball, James Braid, Harold Hilton, J.H. Taylor
1994 Mickey Wright
1993 Arnold Palmer
1992 Joseph C. Dey, Jr.
1991 Babe Zaharias
1990 Jimmy Demaret
1989 Henry Cotton
1988 Patty Berg
1987 Tom Morris, Sr., Tom Morris, Jr.
1986 Roberto De Vicenzo
1985 Charles Evans
1984 Sam Snead
1983 Tommy Armour
1982 Glenna Collette Vare
1981 Harry Vardon
1980 Byron Nelson
1979 Gene Sarazen
1978 Francis Ouimet
1977 Walter Hagen
1976 Bobby Jones
(Story courtesy of the PGA TOUR)