Norman: Mounting Pressure From Golf’s Next Generation
Greg Norman gave an exclusive interview to The Sun last week in advance of this week’s Open Championship. The Aussie legend and two-time Open champ says golf’s elite players are under rising pressure because 'the older you get, the younger the younger players are'.
Two-time Open champion Greg Norman believes Rory McIlroy’s four-year Major drought stems from the mounting pressure of golf's rising stars.
McIlroy’s long wait for another Grand Slam Major stretches back to 2014 when the Northern Irishman won the US PGA Championship a month after lifting the Claret Jug.
The World No8 has been victorious at just one tournament in the last 22 months ahead of this week’s Open at Carnoustie, which begins on Thursday.
Winners of the last five Majors have been younger than McIlroy, and Norman believes this is the psychological barrier fuelling the 29-year-old’s barren run.
Norman told SunSport: “I've read comments where he says if he doesn't win any more Majors he would be extremely disappointed.
“When you do win Majors you feel like you have the right to win more.
“But the older you get, the younger the younger players are, and those younger players are gunning for those same championships in a totally carefree and illusive fashion than someone like Rory who's got one more to win for the Slam.
“I wanted to win the Masters and US PGA and came close on many, many occasions, but every time one slips away from you it becomes that much more difficult.”
Norman, the 1986 and 1993 Open champion, recalls a slump in form during his career when he sought help from the most successful golfer in history.
The Australian said: “I was going through a slump of nearly two years without winning a golf tournament when I went to see Jack Nicklaus.
“It wasn’t about how to swing a golf club, it was about how to deal with the mental aspect of not winning a tournament after being used to winning.
“Jack was phenomenal. You forget that a player of his legend also went through slumps — but how did he get through it? You’re taking little bits of information and plugging it into your life.
“Not everything he says was agreeable to me but one or two points I picked up and — BOOM — it turned me around. About a month after, I won the Canadian Open and I did it with pomp.”
Norman, 63, says he identified McIlroy’s main problem from watching him on television.
He said: “What I see from his golf game, his swing and his shot direction are fair but his putting is his Achilles’ heel.
“I can see watching on TV the things he's doing wrong with his putting, but he keeps on doing the same things when he gets under pressure.
“He's probably got instructors out there trying to help him but I don't think his putting is anywhere near the quality of stroke as his golf swing, so that's what's holding him back.
“The quality of player Rory is, and the amount of practice he’s put in, someone just has to put the right key in the door for him.
“It might be just one or two things that frees him up physically and mentally and then — bang — he’s off and running.”
Course designer Norman knows this year’s Open venue well, and he remembers the unforgiving nature of Carnoustie from the 1999 tournament.
He says the 16th is the hardest par-3 in the world without water hazards.
Norman said: “It was a brutally tough set-up: heavy rough, one of the biggest transitions from fairway to rough, like a metre, and the windy conditions.
“I remember I think it was on Saturday I was near the lead and I hit my tee shot on 17, missed the fairway by four feet and I think I took an eight in the end.
“It was brutal. I love Carnoustie.
“There's only two holes I think that play in the same wind so it's one of those unique golf courses that instead of being straight out and straight back it's a tough bowl of spaghetti with holes going all over the place.”
Norman is backing world No1 Dustin Johnson to win his second major this week, but he also believes Englishman Tommy Fleetwood could be in the mix.
He said: “There’s a guy who plays his game, believes in his game and walks to the tee saying, ‘This is how I’m going to play’ — and he does.
“He’s been playing well and that’s not going to disappear in a couple of weeks.
“I don’t care what golf course it is, if you’re swinging well and putting then you’ll be fine. He’ll be a contender for sure.”