You can’t read an article about the upstart Premier Golf League without making mention of Greg Norman’s original idea for a World Tour in the mid-1990s, so when Rory McIlroy directly invoked Norman’s name and intimated that the Great White Shark was on the wrong side of history, there were some hurt feelings.
Speaking to Golf.com’s Josh Sens last week at the WGC-Mexico, Norman made his feelings clear about the possibility of the PGL getting off the ground and his disappointment with McIlroy — and more specifically, his team — for the world No. 1’s comments about the circuit.
“I like Rory, no question about it,” Norman said. “But I think what he said was probably coming less from him than it was coming from people around him.
“This one cuts deep. It’s a subject that has left a lot of scar tissue for me.”
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McIlroy, undoubtedly one of the most influential professional golfers on the planet, flatly made his intentions known on Wednesday at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,” McIlroy said. “For me, I’m out. My position is I’m against it until there may come a day that I can’t be against it. If everyone else goes, I might not have a choice, but at this point, yeah, I don’t like what they’re proposing.
“I would like to be on the right side of history with this one, just sort of as Arnold (Palmer) was with the whole Greg Norman thing in the ’90s. I value a lot of other things over money, and that’s sort of my stance on it at this point.”
Norman added a theory as to why Palmer was so against his World Tour idea in 1994, and again, it went back to those around the star golfers, not the players themselves.
“I was blindsided, I felt backstabbed,” Norman said. “I’m listening to Arnold, with Tim Finchem standing beside him, chest puffed out for a 5-foot-4 guy, and I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding? Why are you saying this?’
“The Tour got to IMG and then IMG got to Arnold is my belief. Nobody has spoken to me about it, but it is my understanding and my observation of the sequence of things.”
Similarly, Norman suspects there was some backroom coaching of McIlroy who fronts the NBC Sports/Golf Channel digital subscription service, GolfPass. With GolfChannel’s investment in the PGA Tour as well as in McIlroy, Norman is once again trying to connect the dots.
“When I first wanted to do the world tour, Rory was probably around eight years old,” Norman said. “So, either Rory watched what I was doing and has a hell of a memory, or someone coached him.”
Spokespeople for Golf Channel and McIlroy both denied the accusation, but as it stands, McIlroy has been the biggest name in the sport to speak out against joining the PGL flat-out.
“It was a really good dream,” Norman said of his concept. “But everybody is fiercely defensive of their space. And in that sense, things haven’t changed much since 1994.”