Greg Norman: ‘Phil Happy-Go-Lucky With His Approach’

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GULLANE, SCOTLAND - JULY 21: Phil Mickelson of the United States tees off from the 3rd tee during the final round of the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield on July 21, 2013 in Gullane, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Greg Norman won the British Open twice – first in 1986 and later in 1993 – and he’ll be the first one to tell you that the event is unlike any other major.

“Well, I’d start (with) the release of the golf ball off the turf,” the golfing great and soon-to-be FOX Sports analyst said on The John Feinstein Show. “When you made impact (on the ball), it was just a different sound, a different feel. The turf underneath your feet is so different than anywhere else we play in the world, especially here in the United States. So you get this real thump, and with this real thump you can get a lot more spin on the ball.”

That spin, Norman said, must be harnessed – and harnessing it takes a lot of practice.

“Sometimes you need a lot of spin downwind; sometimes you need very little spin into the wind,” Norman said. “The turf really dictates (that).”

Norman said golfers must also know how far the ball will release once it lands.

“There’s a lot of skid; there’s a lot of bounce,” he said. “The ball might bounce 20 or 30 feet before it even starts to get any spin on it. You really have to visualize that and feel that. Very seldom do you actually play that type of golf anywhere else in the world.”

And yet, some of the best golfers in the business will give it a go at this year’s Open, which begins Thursday. Is there a certain golfer whose game is particularly suited for Royal Liverpool?

“That totally depends on the weather conditions, to tell you the truth,” Norman said. “If somebody hasn’t experienced some of the real tough weather conditions that the British Open can throw at you, those type of shots that you very, very seldom practice (can affect you). If the conditions are soft, obviously you’re looking for someone who drives the ball extremely straight. The first guy that comes to my mind is Adam Scott. He drives the ball exceptionally well. He’s very, very straight. He controls his emotions and he controls the distance he hits the golf ball. So he’ll come flooding into my ind straight off the bat.

“And then you got to look at great players like Zach Johnson, who can get out there and hit it in the middle of the fairway all day long,” Norman continued. “He’s a great player. Again, weather conditions will dictate (a lot of this). Sometimes you can tee off early in the morning or late in the afternoon and get great conditions, and (sometimes) the opposite can be true.”

What do we make of Phil Mickelson, who is coming off a strong performance, finally, at Royal Aberdeen?

“Phil actually surprises me because his attitude and his demeanor on the golf course seem so relaxed, and it’s like nothing bothers him,” Norman said. “If you’re not performing well, maybe the attitude has to change a little bit. Maybe you’ve got to get a little more intense with yourself. If his intensity ramps up a little bit, Phil can do anything. But it just seems like he’s a little bit happy-go-lucky with his approach nowadays.”

What about Tiger Woods? Is there any way to get a feel for how he’ll play this weekend?

“None whatsoever,” Norman said. “You have no idea how Tiger feels because he really doesn’t give you any information to go on. You really don’t know what goes on in the private side of Tiger, either. He goes into these events – obviously keen and primed to play extremely well and the best he can. So it’ll be interesting. He hasn’t performed well in three or four months. So to step right back up and get in the fray, can he do it? Absolutely. He’s got a tremendous mental attitude and approach. But (he has to get) to that position. If the golf course is set up tough with a lot of rough, (he could struggle).”

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