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QBE: Greg Norman gave Dustin Johnson putting tips at The Grove XXIII

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NAPLES, Fla. — QBE Shootout founder and host Greg Norman was only that for one of the few times in the event’s 32-year history Wednesday.

Norman hasn’t played in his unofficial PGA Tour event that features 12 two-person teams for years, but he’s usually played in the pro-am. That’s not the case this year, so he took the opportunity to jump in a cart and go see as many groups as possible during the pro-am at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.

“I had a fun day today because I drove around and tried to catch up with every one of the players,” Norman said. “I enjoyed that more quite honestly than playing because you get to see the guys you don’t really normally get to see. I go to a cocktail party or a function or a dinner with the sponsors, you don’t get to see all the others.

“To me it was a lot of fun, I really did enjoy it. I couldn’t get them all in, I probably missed about four or five groups, but I had a lot of fun today. Then I just did my radio show, (country act Lady A’s) Charles Kelly was brilliant, absolutely brilliant on it.”

QBE Shootout: Pairings, TV information

For several years at the Shootout, Norman and fellow Aussie Steve Elkington were paired together, and they even won it. This year, there is an Aussie pairing with Cameron Smith, who tied for second at the Masters, and Marc Leishman.

“We’ve always had a problem getting Australians to come play because this time of year the Australian tournaments are being played down there,” Norman said. “Sadly, they’re all being postponed or canceled because of this COVID situation. That’s why Leish and Cam asked me if they can come play and I was all for it, of course.”

Putting tips

Norman has helped out players over the years, and he embraced that role again a few months ago with Dustin Johnson, working on the eventual Masters champion’s putting at The Grove XXIII, Michael Jordan’s course where Johnson plays.

“I’ve just seen a few things in his short game, especially his putting, that I would relay on to my son to relay on to him,” Norman said. “I got a text from DJ around the middle of September. He said ‘Do you mind coming out and watching me putt a little bit? I said sure, no problem.

“We just spent time on the putting green. I don’t think how long it was, an hour, hour and a half, something like that. I just talked to him about a few things that I had seen and the difference from him on a Thursday, Friday to a Saturday into a Sunday was a big difference. Some of it was physical improvement and some of it was mental as well, but mental comes from a bad physical or bad technique. So I just talked him through it and all of a sudden he started to feel it and he started to feel it, and from that moment on he went on a pretty good run and he still is.”

Tway-Sabbatini back

Defending QBE Shootout champions Kevin Tway and Rory Sabbatini weren’t able to take their win this past season.

Sabbatini finished 127th on the money list for the 2019-20 season, and Tway was 175th.

Still, they hope they can build off last year’s victory and carry it over this week and beyond at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.

Kevin Tway and Rory Sabbatini, who won the 2019 QBE Shootout, pose with tournament founder and host Greg Norman on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. Photo by Michael O’Bryon/QBE Shootout

“Well, all I can say is it’s going to kind of hopefully be like last year where I’m going to be the jockey and he’s going to be the stallion,” Sabbatini said Wednesday. “It’s always good to be here. Obviously a lot of good memories from last year. It’s always a fun, relaxing week.”

“It’s nice to have a partner,” said Tway, whose father Bob, the former PGA Championship winner, was here as his caddie last year, and is here but not in that role this year. “Rory hits it really straight, so he hits it in play and I kind of just wail at it. He reads the greens and I putt it where he tells me and it goes in most of the time, so we’ve got a good little partnership going.”

That combination of strengths meshed well last year when Tway and Sabbatini shot a final-round 60 to edge Jason Kokrak and J.T. Poston by two strokes. Ryan Palmer and Harold Varner III tied for third, along with Billy Horschel and Brendon Todd — and both of those teams are back.

“It’s kind of strange because after Kevin hits it a mile, there’s a lot of facets to his game that are very underrated that he’s very good at,” Sabbatini said. “So for me it’s kind of fun because, as he said, I put the ball in the fairway and let him wail away and take advantage of it, which does kind of stink when I’m playing my own ball because now he’s 50 yards back.”

“I can drive it up close to the greens and Rory’s got a nice short game so he can spin it in there close and get some tap-ins for birdie,” Tway said. “It’s always a fun week. And our caddies mesh well together and I’ve got dad here. He’s not caddying, but he’s here so he brings some good vibes for us.”

Even though professional golf has been back since the summer, at almost every event there have been no fans. And that’s the case this week. So that also means no grandstands behind the 18th green, for example.

“It’s different coming to this golf course and not see the grandstands behind 18,” Sabbatini said. “The golf course has a different view as a lot of golf courses that we’re playing and competing on now. In some respects, Sea Island, some of the par-3 greens looked a lot bigger, it didn’t seem like the green was that far away. It always changes your optical perspective of what you’re accustomed to out there.

“We’ve had no fans for six months and it’s still weird because we’re not seeing people cheer behind the green,” Tway said. “It’s more weird for a tournament like this because I feel like you kind of interact with the fans more than you normally would at a regular event because it’s more laid back and more just freewheeling and stuff. It’s strange to see it as well as the grandstands not being there, it’s weird looking at it, too.”

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original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/09/qbe-shootout-greg-norman-dustin-johnson-putting-tips-grove-xxiii/

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