Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Golf: Greg Turner lining up for a comeback

Greg Turner shares some thoughts with Chris Rattue as he prepares to play in NZ Open.

Greg Turner. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Greg Turner. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Kiwi golf legend Greg Turner makes a top-level comeback next week at the tender age of 49, nine years after bowing out of professional play.

Turner lines up at the New Zealand Open at the Clearwater club in Christchurch as he considers whether to join the seniors tour in Europe, where he won four times during a career that brought 12 tournament wins worldwide. He takes a few questions from his Queenstown home.

What has been your preparation for the NZ Open?
I've played a bit more golf in recent weeks with my 12-year-old son who is as keen as mustard, and also a tournament at Harewood in Christchurch. I've been getting a couple of hours in most days but I'm a long way from being in the groove.

What has kept you busy over the past few years?
Our course design business, being a dad, a role on the local high school board ... the main focus has been the design business with projects in Wellington, Christchurch and the UK.

What is the Clearwater course setup and will it suit you?
It's been a long time since I played there ... it never really suited my eye but that's the challenge of playing. The wind is always a factor there and being spring the rough will be lush.

Your chances and aims of winning it for a third time?
I was pleasantly surprised at Harewood - I hit a lot more good shots than I expected but clearly lacked sharpness. I have no right to many expectations but this will give me a benchmark and if I can build on how I played at Harewood I have a chance of playing four days.

Are you definitely set to play on the senior tour in Europe?
I haven't decided. I can utilise the exemptions from 18 years on that tour but wouldn't want to go back unless I felt I had a chance to do okay. Playing in the Open is part of that exploration.

Could this mean a life on the road again?
To a point - although I have no interest in heading back fulltime. Next winter doesn't look very busy on the design front, and I need to look at some new courses. There would be no harm in reacquainting myself with competitive golf, especially with the business advantages of being in Europe. It adds up to a reasonable case for exploring the senior tour.

Your favourite career memory/achievement?
I have very fond memories of the Presidents Cup - I have a soft spot for team golf. That said, I didn't win often enough for any of my titles not to have been special.

Funniest moment?
When I won my first tournament in Europe a (nameless) playing partner had an embarrassing moment early in the second round - his rush to a portaloo came up a bit short. As the round went on the sun got hotter, I kept making birdies, the gallery kept getting bigger and bigger. By the end of the day it was 30 degrees, I was 10 under and leading, the crowd was huge ...

Any major golfing regrets?
I don't do regrets.

Tiger Woods - is there any chance he can equal the Jack Nicklaus mark of 18 majors, or is the game up on that score?
I'd be surprised if he doesn't surpass the Nicklaus record.

Rory McIlroy - what is the potential, and can anyone ever post Nicklaus/Woods-type numbers in the majors again?
Who knows - he's clearly exceptional but maintaining that level for that long when you are earning that much loot will be tough.

Who had the best swing you've seen?
I really liked Nick Faldo's swing under David Leadbetter's coaching. It wasn't a powerful move but looked unlikely to falter under the acid ... his margin for error was enormous which seemed to me - at least at the time - to be pretty important.

The maddest or funniest playing partner?
(Zimbabwean) Tony Johnstone was hilarious. He was always close to completely losing it but always in a self-deprecating way. He was merciless in mocking himself.

Do you watch a lot of golf on TV - what floats your boat?
The Ryder Cup is always great to watch, and so is the final stretch in the majors. Other than that I find it a little monotonous.

Where do you stand on the broomstick putter debate?
No strong opinion one way or the other.

Is there something major you would like to change in golf?
We have to sort out the distance problem at the elite level. Players hit the ball too far which has made golf one-dimensional and taken the artistry away. There are flow-on effects such as the need for bigger courses, which is expensive, all for the sake of a few at the top. A recognition by the authorities of the problem would be a good start. I'd also like to see the distinction between amateur and professional scrapped. It is archaic and has a particularly negative impact in a small, isolated place like NZ.

Are you amazed at Lydia Ko's achievements and what are her hurdles in the professional ranks?
For someone so young to retain such poise is extraordinary. Her challenge will be maintaining that intensity.

Could New Zealand's player development be better - should we produce more stars?
Absolutely. We do a decent job but still haven't been nearly bold enough in challenging the status quo. The harsh truth: most of the Kiwis who have succeeded have done so in spite of being from NZ. Unless we push the envelope, not much will change.

- NZ Herald

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