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Greg Norman wants changes to golf balls

Greg Norman is calling for restrictions on golf ball design to prevent some of the world's best courses from becoming obsolete.

Advances in technology mean players hit the ball farther and straighter than ever before, and the 49-year-old Norman was so amazed by one of his own drives recently that he paced it out to 356 yards.

The extra distance has been good news for the average club golfer and weekend hacker, but Norman believes it has made golf too easy for the professionals, narrowing the gap between the elite and the also-rans.

The former world No. 1 now wants golf's ruling bodies to revert back to the sort of golf balls used in the 1980s and 1990s to bring a higher degree of skill and finesse back to the game.

"Put the restrictions on us. We are the best players," he said. "We are physically fit, we know how to play. Don't let us take advantage of technology like we have. Give it out to the 50 or 60 million golfers of the world. Let them have fun and bring people back to the game.

"To ask regular golf clubs to lengthen their course for one tournament a year costs a lot of money," he added. "It should go the other way. Leave the great golf courses the way they are. Put restrictions on us with the specifications of the golf ball and everyone is going to save money.

Norman celebrates his 50th birthday on Thursday and plans to play several events on the Champions Tour in 2005, but he is still concerned with the state of the game on the regular tour. And he also urged PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem to do more to protect and promote golf around the world as more of the top players become members of the US Tour.

"All of the top players from South Africa, Japan and Australia have gone to the United States," Norman added. "That is what Finchem's role has been and he's done a great job. But you've got the responsibility of protecting golf on a global basis and making sure the other tours have some support from the powerhouse which is the U.S. PGA Tour.

"I think it is incumbent on them to look at that responsibility deep and hard and figure out how they can support these events down here," he said. "As for the Australasian Tour, we are suffering because the PGA Tour is very successful. They play for almost $5 million every week.

"These players are independent contractors. They can choose to play wherever they like," he added. "You know they are going to play for the most amount of money because that is their living.

"You don't fault them for wanting to go back to the United States in the first week of January and play all the way to the last week of October. I actually think the fault lies with the head of the PGA Tour."

World No. 3 Ernie Els revealed last year that he was under pressure from Finchem to play more events in America and reduce his commitments to the European Tour and other events around the world. Norman admitted that had been going on since he was in his heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.

"I used to get those letters all the time, I used to have my arm twisted all the time," added the two-time major winner. "I got phone calls when he (Finchem) said 'if I am going to let you play in Australia or Japan or somewhere, you have to come back and play Milwaukee' or something else, which is a lesser tournament on the tour.

"That's wrong, he can't do that," he said. "We are independent contractors, we have every right to go and play wherever we want, if we play our bare minimum in the United States.

"If you play your 15 tournaments and get in a position in the world that you have the right to go somewhere else, let the guy go," he said. "He's coming back. We sign on the dotted line to join the U.S. tour. That's our commitment to the minimum 15."

 

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