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Norman turning players away from Shootout

Greg Norman's been very happy with how the Franklin Templeton Shootout has come off its first three years in Naples.

But he was happy and sad as he prepared for the 2004 tournament.

The problem: it's grown so popular that he had to turn away some of the regulars for the unofficial PGA Tour event, which will be Nov. 10-14 at Tiburón Golf Club.

"We basically had about 40 more players wanting to play in this tournament this year than any other year," Norman said in a teleconference on Monday as he took a break from tarring the roof of his Hobe Sound home, damaged by Hurricane Jeanne late Saturday.

"You're getting more and more name players that want to play. The toughest and saddest part for me is my good friends, especially in the neighborhood, that couldn't get in the tournament because of that."

That includes new Naples resident Rocco Mediate, whose year has been dominated by illness and injuries. His normal playing partner, Lee Janzen, also isn't in the field.

The two won the tournament in 2002. Brad Faxon, who's won it three times, and Craig Stadler, the 2004 ACE Group Classic champion, also aren't in.

But John Daly returns after a two-year absence and new blood has been added such as first- timers Chris Riley, Nick Faldo, Steve Flesch, Loren Roberts, Rory Sabbatini and Bill Haas, who will play with father Jay Haas. Justin Leonard will play for the second time overall and first since 1998, and Charles Howell III will do the same; he last played in 2000.

Norman announced the pairings on Monday and, surprisingly, he's not paired with good buddy Steve Elkington. He'll play with Scott McCarron in stead; Elkington will play with Bonita Springs' Peter Jacobsen, the 2004 U.S. Senior Open winner.

"I'll give Steve a break," said Norman, who added that it might be good for both of them.

Daly will play with Sabbatini and 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup members Riley and Campbell will play together. Defending champions Hank Kuehne and Jeff Sluman are back together as well.

Norman believes the upgrade in the field and the tournament itself goes back to the move to Naples in 2001. The community has supported the event, and the addition of the on-site Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, which opened in early 2002, was an added bonus.

"Everything really has gelled together beautifully," he said.

"Last year, I thought it was our best year ever."

2004 was far from Norman's best year ever on a golf course.

He played in seven events, missed the cut in five of them, was disqualified from another and tied for 81st in The Players Championship.

"Probably on a scale of 1-to-10, it was about a .2," he said.

It ended, except for the Shootout, when he awoke on Aug. 11 prior to the PGA Championship and realized he couldn't play because of his back. He was even more disappointed because he had received an exemption.

"That was a tough blow for me," he said. "I couldn't get out there. I couldn't play."

Norman hasn't played since.

He's had MRIs and other testing to determine what to do, but the rash of hurricanes hitting the state has delayed recent appointments with doctors. It's not a new injury, however, and far from his first. He's had hip and shoulder surgeries and also suffered a wrist injury.

"It's a product of the game of golf," he said. "It's just wear and tear. I hit a lot of golf balls over my time.

"I'm like an old Ferrari. The outside looks good, but sometimes the engine doesn't run as good as the new engines nowa days."

Whether that Ferrari gets parked at any Champions Tour events remains to be seen. Norman has been somewhat lukewarm on how much he would play the 50-and-older circuit, which he will qualify for on Feb.

10, a week before Naples' tour event, The ACE Group Classic, will be played.

"Turning 50 and going to play the senior tour, I'm not that excited about it, to tell you the truth," said Norman, who said he would be excited about turning 50 from a business standpoint.

"That has nothing to do with my physical capabilities. I can promise you this: I will go out there and play some. What the number will be, I couldn't tell you."

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