Norman insists he is up for it

 

GREG NORMAN has received an invitation to play in next month's US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills on the back of his joint third-place finish in the British Open.

The 53-year-old Australian, who rolled back the years at Royal Birkdale to lead going into the final round last Sunday, will make a decision within the next 24 hours.

Speaking on the eve of the British Senior Open at Royal Troon, Norman said: "I already had something scheduled for that week but I will talk with my manager, Bob Collins, over dinner this evening because I don't want to hold up the PGA.

"It is a great honour to be thought of in that regard, but that would be four weeks in a row and I woke up a little stiff this morning.

"I have had multiple surgeries and those do start to show up when I hit a lot of golf balls and I have to be careful, although fitness has never been a problem with me.

"I was one of the first ones to adopt a strong fitness regime and I actually putted very well the whole week at Birkdale, and I think that was because of my stamina and inner core strength."

Norman believes that he is capable of winning a third Major in spite of his advancing years and identified next year's venue, Turnberry, and St Andrews in 2010 as the Open courses which will suit his game most, as neither course is overly long.

He does not expect to suffer any adverse reaction to his efforts last week in atrocious weather conditions and insisted: "I'm not worried about my play or my concentration this week. I'll be okay.

"My expectations are good. I like the golf course and I used the Open as a warm-up for the Senior Open, although it should probably have been the other way round."

Norman revealed that he has received around 700 emails and texts during the past few days, including one from Seve Ballesteros congratulating him on his efforts in the open.

"I must have had 500-700 emails and texts since Friday night," said Norman. "I got one of the best emails I have ever had from Seve. He was not the only one, but I mention him because his email was very powerful. Those types of things mean a lot. For Seve to step out of the past and send me an email was pretty impressive."

Ballesteros, two years younger than Norman, retired from competition a year ago. His delight at his former rival's showing stemmed from the range of shots Norman played.

"He had a lot of admiration for the way I played the game," Norman said. "Seve was brilliant at it, he was one of the best. He and (Lee) Trevino were in the top two in the world for the way they played links courses. He made comments like: 'It was great to see that, the younger players nowadays don't do that as much.' "

Norman claims there is no "after the Lord Mayor's show" sense about it. "I'll play all right," he said.

Norman begins alongside Sandy Lyle and Tom Watson, who is defending the title.

Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam will make their Senior Open Championship debuts, with the trio among 20 Major winners in the field, which collectively has 32 regular Major victories as well as 27 Senior Major wins, with five players having both on their CV.

Starting as two of the favourites, however, will be Norman and defending champion Tom Watson - chasing a record fourth Senior Open Championship title on a course where he claimed the fourth of his five Open Championship titles in 1982.

He will now try to create a unique piece of history by winning the Senior Open Championship on a third course where he also lifted the Open Championship, following double victories at Turnberry and Muirfield.

Europe's search for a first winner since Christy O'Connor at the turn of the Millennium will look towards Woosnam, winner of the 1991 Masters.

THE LOWDOWN

Prize money:€1.3 million (€199,054 to the winner)

The Course:Royal Troon GC, Ayrshire

Length:7,064 yds. Par: 71

The layout:A British Open venue since 1923, this is the first time the famed Willie Fernie-designed links will have staged the Senior version. Famed for its 11th, the Postage stamp, 123 yards.

Course and distance winner:Tom Watson won the 1982 British Open there.

Irish in the field:Des Smyth, Eamonn Darcy, Denis O'Sullivan, Jimmy Heggarty, Mark McNulty, Arthur Pierse (am), Adrian Morrow (am), Niall Lavin (am).

On Television:Sky Sports 1, 11am-1pm, 4pm-7pm.