The first full swing was nothing like the last one 147 days ago.
Greg Norman quietly returned to golf Friday, hitting balls for the first time since he missed the cut at the Masters and then had shoulder surgery that caused him to miss three major championships and the rest of the PGA Tour season.Norman hit about 100 balls at Medalist Golf Club and reported no pain in his left shoulder.
"It went OK," the 43-year-old Aussie said from his home in Hobe Sound, Fla. "There were no problems, and I knew there wouldn't be anyway. I've been doing all the right things, and I've been disciplined in my rehabilitation. My body is stronger since I can remember."
On a hot, steamy morning in south Florida, Norman loosened up with about 30 pitch shots, took about 70 full swings with nothing more than a 9-iron, then finished his first day back at work with 10 three-quarter swings with a 7-iron.
"It's like riding a bike," he said.
It was a sharp change from the last time Norman struck a ball, when thousands lined the 18th fairway at Augusta National and gasped when he barely got his tee shot airborne in the second round of the Masters.
Norman, who had withdrawn from The Players Championship two weeks earlier because of a sore shoulder, missed the cut after rounds of 76-78. He had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder April 22, which forced him out of the game for the longest time since he was a 15-year-old beach bum on the Queensland coast of Australia.
"I was excited this morning when I came back," Norman said.
Buddy Antonopoulos, the head pro at Medalist, and Tony Navarro, Norman's longtime caddie who has been working for Jeff Sluman this year, joined him for a practice session that lasted just more than an hour.
Antonopoulos took one look at Norman's swing and pronounced him fit for tournament play in 10 days.
Norman won't return until his Shark Shootout Nov. 9 in Thousand Oaks, Calif., opting instead to work himself into shape slowly.