Greg Norman was once the world’s top golfer, but he had a knack for losing the big ones. He’s found success in both business and (finally) love (hello, Chris Evert). Now, after a seven-year hiatus, he’s taking another stab at Augusta.
Greg Norman Estates produces wine in Australia and California and sells hundreds of thousands of cases a year. Five years ago Wine Spectator named his 1999 Shiraz Reserve the world’s eighth-best wine. Norman flew to New York to be feted with other top vintners. “I vividly remember when the awards presenter started to go through the top 10 wines,” says Collins. “For the other nine winemakers, it was like their British Open, the culmination of their careers. For Greg, it was more like a hobby.”
As it turns out, Norman has hundreds of hobbies. “I’ve still got a lot of ordinary things I’d like to do before I die,” he says. He jotted down a few of them for me:
* Trek the highest mountains of Tibet
* Dive under Antarctica’s polar ice cap
* Fly in the Space Shuttle
* Cruise down the Amazon
* Land a jet on an aircraft carrier
And what do these aspirations illustrate about Norman’s temperament? “They show that I’m not afraid to take on new challenges,” he says. He hasn’t gotten around to any of the achievements on his bucket list, but he has a new addition. “I’d like to go through pregnancy,” he says, grinning affably. “I imagine that feeling your body change and going into labor and having a baby must be a phenomenal experience.”
After his spectacular flameout in the 1996 Masters, Norman lived in the sporting shadows. Injuries to his hip, back, and a shoulder hindered his fitness, while his wide- ranging outside interests limited his yearly
schedule to a handful of events. But friends and fellow players noticed a change in his outlook. The seemingly inexplicable losses and questions about his courage under pressure had inflamed his already famous combativeness. (In 1986 he even challenged an unruly fan to a fistfight in the parking lot
of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.)
The same quality of fearlessness that Norman displayed on the fairways manifested itself in his personal relationships. He could be ruthlessly outspoken and crushing if provoked. He had a special animus against PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who had scuttled Norman’s grand idea to become owner and operator of a new world golf league that included only the top players. As it turned out, the commissioner had his own plans for a global circuit, none of which featured Norman as emperor. When Finchem announced the formation of a federation that would sanction world championship events, Norman accused him of co-opting his idea and, in retaliation, skipped tournaments and missed a pro-am that the Tour used to entertain its deep-pocketed backers.
Critics claimed that Norman was more interested in flaunting his big houses and fast cars than in maintaining friendships with fellow pros, none of whom had supported his proposed World Tour. The critics were right: Whisked from event to event by helicopter and private jet, Norman made himself unapproachable. Few intimates remained close to him for long. If you crossed Norman — or if he perceived that you crossed him — you were out.
“At the golf course he seems to be irritated all the time,” golf coach Butch Harmon said back in the mid-1990s. “He doesn’t seem to be having a good time. He always seems to be upset, with himself or with somebody else, and I don’t like that side of him.… I think his intensity has caught up a little bit with his nervous system over the years.”
Meanwhile, Norman’s marriage was falling apart. He and his wife Laura Andrassy, a former flight attendant, were becoming, by many accounts, dramatically incompatible. Nevertheless, they went through the motions for the sake of their two children, performing a sort of karaoke of couplehood.
In Florida, Norman and Andrassy were friends with Chris Evert and her second husband Andy Mill, the onetime downhill ski champion. The couples sometimes took vacations together. Not always happily. In the company of three world-class athletes, Laura sometimes felt left out. In December 2006, Evert divorced Mill, whom she had married in 1988, paying him some $7 million. The previous spring, after 27 years together, Norman and Andrassy had split up. Shortly thereafter, Norman filed for divorce and began publicly stepping out with Evert.
Things went further south when lawyers for Andrassy reportedly threatened to subpoena Evert, wanting to see details of gifts Norman gave her and excursions she made in his private jet. Andrassy then accused Norman of cutting up her credit cards and changing the locks to their home to pressure her into an agreement. Norman’s lawyer filed a petition requesting that the Shark get the majority of the couple’s assets. He argued: “The wife did not teach the husband to swing a golf club. The wife did not teach the husband to win.”
The messy legal wrangling over assets was settled last summer, with Andrassy receiving more than $100 million in cash, $500,000 in jewelry, a Range Rover, Christmas decorations, and several paintings of family dogs. Andrassy went on Australian TV to blame Evert for the breakup. “Greg and I weren’t lovers before the separation,” says Evert, a devout Catholic. “I could never live with myself if we were.” For his part, Norman declines to discuss his first marriage. “The drama of the divorce really wore my father
down,” recalls his son Gregory.
Norman wed Evert on June 28, 2008, in the Bahamas. Three weeks later, at the British Open, at Royal Birkdale, he rekindled memories of Stormin’ Norman. Amid the wailing wind and pelting rain, he gave his young competitors a Ph.D.-level course in how to play links golf. At the end of the third round he led by two strokes and was on course to become the oldest winner of a major. On the final day he surrendered the lead with a horrific start, got it back, then bogeyed his way to third place. “Chrissie convinced Greg to
play, and really kind of lifted him up,” says fellow pro Peter Jacobsen. “Greg had a different air about him, a calmness, a contentment.”
Norman’s finish at Royal Birkdale earned him an invitation to the 2009 Masters. “This time around my expectations will be totally different than when I was number one and everyone expected me to perform,’’ Norman says as he enters the clubhouse at Fairmont Turnberry. “Golf is a simple game, but I
complicated it by turning people’s expectations on myself. Today my life is more in balance than it has ever been. For the first time in my life, I’ve got beautiful balance.”
If you were a young male — or possibly female — tennis writer in the 1970s, you could endure only a certain amount of Chris Evert without developing an enormous crush on her. She was the Ice Maiden, a genuine charmer whose cool on-court demeanor belied a fierce passion for winning.
In 1973, Evert began a very public romance with her first love, top men’s player Jimmy Connors. After the couple announced their engagement, Jimbo won three grand slam events — including the first of his career. The nuptials were called off shortly after Connors won the third, the ’74 U.S. Open. He didn’t win another major for two years. In ’79, Evert wed John Lloyd, a previously luckless British tennis pro and grass specialist. With Evert cheering him on, Lloyd won his only three grand slam titles, in mixed
The golden couple of tennis divorced in 1987. The following year Evert married two-time Olympic downhill skier Andy Mill, who had retired seven years earlier. Three sons and 18 years later, they too were divorced. But not before Mills, at Evert’s urging, took up deep-sea fishing and became only the second angler to win five Gold Cup Tarpon tournaments. When Norman rallied at last year’s British Open, Evert was hailed as sport’s greatest muse and most potent performance enhancer.