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Norman will play in Presidents Cup says Thompson

Golf Today 24th March
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Norman will play in Presidents Cup says Thompson

Greg Norman will be part of the International team that defends the Presidents Cup in Virginia in October. Who says so? The captain, Peter Thomson.

Breakfast on Wednesday at the Players Championship here, and Australia's two greatest golfing names swapped thoughts over toast and coffee.

"I told him it was up to him whether he wanted to be there and he told me he is ready and looking forward to it," Thomson said. "That is what I wanted to hear and after talking to him I don't think there is any doubt he will be there. I think the team without Norman would be a lesser team."

No one would dispute that last statement if Norman is motivated and in form.

Clearly, Thomson is keen to establish the first of those two provisos and after their discussion he is confident the latter will also be the case.

The current standings show Norman in 13th place, three spots outside the top 10 who will qualify automatically.

In Europe not one of the famous five who ruled golf alongside Norman in the 1980s and early 90s – Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer and Severiano Ballesteros – made it into the team for the last Ryder Cup match at Brookline.

Thomson would appear to be taking a much more conciliatory line than the European captain Mark James. He never met with any of the above names in the months leading up to the match, something which Faldo in particular found hard to bear.

Thomson, by contrast, is keen to make sure Norman is valued, knowing he is potentially a leader both on the course and in the locker room.

Norman was not the only player with whom Thomson had a word. Indeed the captain met all the candidates in a collective meeting that lasted nearly an hour.

"I explained to them all that we were a team and that I did not care where they came from, that when the time came I would choose as my wild cards the two strongest players I could find, and it did not matter whether they were Australians or New Zealanders, Japanese or Afghanis," he said.

Thomson said he could already sense the team spirit that served the International team so well last time at Royal Melbourne would be preserved on this occasion, regardless of the final selection.

When he asked if there were any questions, one player wanted to know if they would be living in a tent this time – a jocular reference to the marquee that doubled as the International team room, because there was no room in Melbourne's cramped clubhouse.

"If it is good enough for the King of Arabia to live in a tent, it is good enough for you," Thomson shot back.

"To be serious, I could tell that they were all excited about trying to make the team this summer, and they support each other despite the fact there is going to be a fair bit of competition between them."

Nevertheless, the captain acknowledged he could be faced with a desperately difficult decision regarding wild card selections.

In addition to Norman; Steve Elkington, Shigeki Maruyama, and Michael Campbell are also outside the automatic slots, although all are in a position to advance over the summer. "It's going to be a problem, I recognise that," Thomson said.

"But there again, turn it round the other way. A bigger problem would be if there was not that competition.

"I think the top half is almost known, players like Ernie Els, Nick Price, Vijay Singh, Carlos Franco, and Stuart Appleby. But from numbers six to 10 I don't think there is any doubt that we are going to see some new faces, players like Mike Weir."

As for the American captain Ken Venturi, he said that he would be trying to put into practice much of what he had learned from Thomson in Melbourne.

"I watched him closely, the way he conducted himself and how he handled his team and I thought to myself that that was exactly the way to go about things," he said.

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