Okay, I had my fun at the expense of Greg Norman yesterday, so let's focus on his more rational comments on a subject he's been pretty consistent on for some time: the limits of technology in making golf a better sport.
In his Golf Magazine interview with David Denunzio, he says this:
The best are always going to be the best, no matter what you chuck in their bag. Send five guys out on Augusta National with hickory-shafted clubs and gutta-percha balls, and the guy with the most talent will always win. Technology allows you to extract certain things from your equipment, but how you extract it is dependent upon your ability to swing the club. Science can only take you so far.
I'm not sure if Norman was intentionally making the point, but we often hear the apologists for unfettered technological "progress" say that the best players are still winning and that lesser modern golfers are not receiving any significant skill-bumps which keep them more competitive with the elites.
Yet taking Norman's challenge, I would agree that with a little practice, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson could compete with Old Tom and Bobby Jones using hickories and guttas. But could some of the other "elites" in today's game keep up?
I'm not so sure, and this is one of the less-discussed elements of the technology arms race: just how much has elite skill been nullified?
Last week at the World Challenge, Tiger Woods gave the most definitive commentary he's ever made on a topic he once shied away from:
It's more difficult to win events now, and it's only going to get that way. As equipment has certainly narrowed the gap quite a bit from the elite ball strikers. Guys that can really hit the golf ball back in the persimmon days and balata balls moving all over the place. You see more young players throw the ball straight in the air and are very shocked to see the ball get moved by the wind. For a lot of us who grew up playing balata balls, you wanted to get that thing down. You didn't want it up in that wind because it got pushed around like you wouldn't believe.
It's a totally different game. Guys have evolved, and I think have become much more aggressive now than they ever used to be because of equipment.