Elkington, Norman Win Shootout

Following a closed session of court, the chair of Saddam Hussein remains empty, as his co-defendants, 1st row left to right, Mohammed Azawi Ali, Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid; and, 2nd row center, Ali Dayim Ali, appear for their trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2006.
AP

Steve Elkington made sure that Greg Norman's return to golf was victorious Sunday.

In his first tournament back since shoulder surgery seven months ago, Norman forced a playoff with an 8-foot birdie on the 18th hole, then won the Shark Shootout on the third sudden-death hole when Elkington, his partner, hit a 9-iron into 2 feet on the same hole.

"It's good to see the old man back playing again," Elkington said. "He did all right today."

Norman and Elkington closed with a 58 in the scramble format to tie the team of John Cook and Peter Jacobsen, who tied a tournament record with a 17-under 55. Both finished at 27-under 189.

Norman didn't have to win this week to feel good about his game. His left shoulder felt strong throughout the 54-hole event, his putting was superb at times and he came up with his share of big shots throughout the day.

"Under the gun, I felt pretty good," he said.

But the closing holes belonged to Elkington, who himself missed his share of golf this year with a litany of illnesses and injury.

Elkington's 8-iron into 8 feet set up the playoff, the first in the 10-year history of the Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout. On the first playoff hole, Elkington hit his approach into 10 feet. Norman made that one, too, a big putt coming after Cook's 20-foot birdie putt.

Both teams made short birdie putts on the 385-yard 10th hole, and they returned to the 18th for the third time in about an hour.

Norman, who had put his two previous approach shots into the front bunker, this time landed safely in the middle of the green, and Elkington took the suspense out of it by sticking yet another one close.

Norman and Elkington each won $160,000 from the $1.3 million purse.

More importantly for Norman, it was a huge first step toward making a strong return to golf. He'll play the Skins Game on Thanksgiving weekend, and then two events that will matter a little bit more the Australian Open, followed by the Presidents Cup.

"It's good to come back," Norman said. "It's good to feel the internal feelings that you feel. I'm pretty happy with the way I've come back."

Norman, the tournament host, won for the first time in its 10-year history. He certainly picked the right partner to make a victorious return Elkington won the team competition for the third time in five years with his third partner.

Jacobsen and Cook made four eagles in their round of 17-under 55, which tied the tournament record set in 1993 by Norman and Nick Price. They birdied the last two holes and then had to wait about 40 minutes to see if the 189 would stand.

For a while, it looked like it wouldn't.

Norman and Elkington complemented each other beautifully throughout the round Elkington hitting it stiff on the front nine and Norman making every putt, the roles reversed on the back nine.

Norman made three birdie putts over 1 feet on the front nine. In fact, Norman was so pure with the putter that Elkington's first contribution with the short stick was a 6-foot eagle putt on the 11th hole.

After a three-putt par from 50 feet on the par-5 13th, Norman hit into 6 feet on each of the next two holes for two more birdies

both made by Elkington and they were in good shape to wrap it up when Elkington hit his approach on the par-5 16th to 8 feet.

But again, neither of them could make the eagle putt, and they both missed from about 20 feet on the 17th.

Norman had said that the pressure shots was the one thing he had missed during his seven-month hiatus from golf, and there were plenty of situations Sunday with mixed results.

Needing a birdie on the 18th to force a playoff, Norman's 7-iron came off heavy and drifted right and short, into a bunker. Elkington hit a hard 8-iron into 8 feet, and Norman finally rose to the occasion by making the putt.

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