Greg Norman is down. His Shark polo shirts are going for $14.99 at Costco (with a $5 discount for the next few weeks). His pinot was the cheapest on the list at dinner the other night. And most prominently, he’s a weekly punching bag for the press, many golf pros, and well, much of the general population.
The Shark could have faded from public life, but that’s not how his ego works and he’s found an outfit to join back on the front lines in his own personal 30-year fight with the PGA Tour. It does not diminish his success as both a golfer and brand-building businessman decades ago, but he’s going out further disgracing himself. It’s unlikely he cares.
But perhaps what the Shark should care about, and more critically for his new bosses, is that he’s doing a poor job serving as that public face of LIV Golf. Undoubtedly part of the role is to serve as the punching bag, the man out front taking the pointed critiques about a sportswashing effort. It’s just that Norman sucks at it, often handing his critics loaded gloves and then stepping right into the punches.
This week, he rationalized the Saudi-regime’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi with, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.” It was a staggering deflection of a response that put the Shark, and his Saudi bosses, all over international news for the wrong reasons.
When asked about the Kingdom’s views on and persecution of the LGBTQ community, he turned on that Shark empathy, stating, “I’m not sure whether I even have any gay friends, to be honest with you.”
Of the execution of 81 men in March, he added, “I’m not going to get into the quagmire of whatever else happens in someone else’s world. I heard about it and just kept moving on.” May we all incorporate “quagmire or whatever” going forward anytime we don’t want to talk about something.
There aren’t *good* answers to these questions, but Shark is exceptionally bad in this role, and this week came after a series of amusing, weird, and/or laughably false statements, open letters, and promotional stunts as LIV works to get off the ground. It may well succeed in some form thanks to its Saudi funding and their apparent disregard for any kind of monetary return on investment. But it won’t succeed because Norman was some master negotiator or PR wiz. You’re supposed to be stifling the news about all those nasty things your bosses did, not creating a fresh, re-seasoned round of news about all those bad things.
As discussed on the Shotgun Start this week, it makes you wonder where this LIV effort might be right now if they’d chosen someone with more business, marketing, or PR acumen from the start? Or who might be next on the list if the Saudis get sick of Norman’s antics? Here are five potential new LIV Golf leaders to replace the floundering Shark.
Rory McIlroy – Streamlining things by elevating communication on prince-to-prince level, plus the “all sorts of services” required of players who take the cash would now include juggling shows for the crowd and VIPs.
Bob Parsons – If anyone in golf knows how to “ignore the haters” to disrupt with cash and persistent shouting, it’s this guy. Plus, he’s a doctor, which is something he can hold over the suits in Ponte Vedra.
Elizabeth Holmes – Cash on hand but still “fleshing out the details” even though it all seems to work in your head? Something more substantive on paper than it is in execution right now? No one can help keep the house of cards standing until that all gets sorted out better than this legend. It would get the press talking about her past and not the Saudis.
Tim Finchem – Akin to when one of those government regulators leaves his/her job and jumps to a lucrative gig lobbying for the company that he or she was just regulating. He’d bring World Golf Hall of Fame gravitas to the operation, plus extra salt in the Shark wound for his one-time foil being the replacement.
Wally Uihlein – Adept at imposing a narrative at a sign of the slightest criticism, and might know a thing or two about the tactics of a dominant player in the marketplace trying to maintain its position.
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