The Royal and Ancient Golf Club has poured cold water on Greg Norman’s aspirations to dust off the clubs and play in the 150th Open at St Andrews in July.
On Friday, two-time Open winner Norman revealed to News Corp Australia he wanted to come out of retirement to play the Open, in what would be his first Major in 13 years and first official tournament in almost 10 years.
Norman had hoped he might be given an exemption as a past champion but at 67 years of age he is well outside the limit of 60, which is the R&A’s rule for that category.
On Saturday, a spokesman for The R&A told Australian Golf Digest via a statement: “The entry terms and conditions for The Open stipulate that a champion must be aged 60 or under or have won the championship in the previous 10 years to be exempt from qualifying. That remains the case for The 150th Open and we have no plans for any additional exemptions.”
Norman has become the face of the LIV Golf Investments – a golf operation funded by the Saudi Arabia government which is about to begin its own tour starting in June.
It was never likely that he would have received a past champion exemption by the R and A given the organisation introduced the age limit of 60 in 2007. Norman’s only other option is to tee up in an Open qualifier.
Jack Nicklaus famously chose the 2005 Open at St Andrews for his swanswong at the Majors but the age limit for past champions was 65 at the time.
Tom Watson waved goodbye at the 2015 edition at St Andrews but his eligibility for that Open was more complicated.
In 2009, Watson finished second at the Open at Turnberry after losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink. Later that year, the R and A announced a new criteria for the Open – any former Open winner who finishes in the top 10 and ties at an Open Championship would be exempt for another five years.
That took Watson to 2014, but the R&A extended it by one year. Hence, Watson was able to play the 2015 Open at St Andrews.
Despite the roadblocks, Norman announced his intention to play his first competitive event in almost 10 years in an interview with News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph.
The last tournament Norman played with world ranking points on offer was the 2012 Australian PGA Championship, while the last Major he played in was that 2009 Open at Turnberry.
“I’m filling out my entry form now; I think I’m going,” Norman told News Corp.
Norman was asked if it was a legitimate intention to play the Open, which he won in 1986 and 1993, and the Shark responded: “I think I can still get in,” he said. “It’s the 150th. I’m a past Open Champion. I love St Andrews.”
Norman’s revelation comes as a surprise given he recently told Australian Golf Digest‘s Steve Keipert he didn’t want to retire officially at St Andrews. Norman’s comments can be found within Aussies At The Open, a book now on sale through Australian Golf Digest‘s Pro Shop.
“I’m not a ceremonial golfer,’ he said. “I personally do not like to see that – players going out there shooting 80s and taking a spot away from a kid who could be out there shooting 68 for his first time. I just don’t believe in that. I’d rather give that opportunity to another person and hopefully it’s a younger person to learn how to play British Open golf.
“It was a decision that I just thought was fair for the game, fair for me and fair for The Open – and it was easy. I’ve never really retired from the game of golf, I just partly walked off into the sunset. It’s not like I want my final round of The Open and to stand on the Swilcan Bridge and say goodbye to everybody. Or to go to Australia and play any one of the golf courses I’ve played, like Royal Melbourne, and say, ‘This is my last round of golf, I’m never playing golf again.’ That’s not true. When you retire from golf, you actually retire from golf. You never pick up a golf club again. I was never going to be that way.
“It’s just a decision that evolved. I’ve people asking me, ‘Why won’t I go play St Andrews this year?’ It’s one of my favourite golf courses in the world and I look at my schedule and go, ‘That would be a pretty cool thing to do.’ Am I really going to go there and play? No. I just don’t want to get on the first tee and be that ceremonial golfer. I just don’t want to do that. It’s just not in my DNA. So I just quietly say no to everybody.”