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Indy 500 in Doubt for Greg Norman

April 23, 1998

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Greg Norman might not be able to drive a golf ball for several months, and it’s doubtful whether he’ll be able to drive the Indianapolis 500 pace car in four weeks.

Norman, who has missed only five major tournaments in 18 years, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Wednesday. He’s expected to miss the next three majors this year and the rest of the PGA Tour season.

Norman is scheduled to drive the blue Chevrolet Corvette pace car at the start of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. A spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said she didn’t know whether Norman would be able to drive the car or whether anyone else has been lined up in case Norman is unable to drive.

``We haven’t heard any more than that,″ Speedway public relations director Mai Lindstrom said of Norman’s surgery.

The Indy pace car last year was driven by three-time winner Johnny Rutherford, who now works on special projects for the sanctioning Indy Racing League and was an observer during last week’s Rookie Orientation Program.

Norman, 43, withdrew from The Players Championship in late March because of shoulder pain and missed the cut two weeks later at the Masters. His business manager, Bart Collins, said his arm will be in a sling for the next 10 days, and he will begin rehabilitation in about four weeks.

Collins said it’s doubtful Norman will be able to drive the pace car this year.

``The race is May 24 and this is April 22,″ he said Wednesday. ``Realistically, that’s a small window. If it is humanly possible, Greg’s going to drive the car, but I would say it’s questionable.″

Collins said there is a ``drop-dead date″ by which they would have to let race officials know if Norman was unable to drive so they could find a replacement.

``We haven’t figured out yet when that drop-dead date is,″ he said.

Driving the pace car would require some strength. The car brings the field to the line at about 110-120 mph. Norman also would have to do some practicing, which might be a problem.

``Greg drove 250 laps after TPC,″ Collins said, referring to the Players Championship. ``So he knows what it takes.″

He said a tentative timetable for Norman’s return to competition would be at the Shark Shootout in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Nov. 9-15.

Earlier this spring, Norman drove at the Speedway in the 345-horsepower Corvette convertible after getting some tips from longtime friend and former Formula One and Indy-car champion Nigel Mansell.

``Nigel taught me a lot here in just a normal car, a city car,″ Norman said in March. ``He told me about the different lines. He told me about the corners.″

Other pace car drivers in recent years included Bob Lutz, vice chairman of Chrysler Corp., in 1996; Jim Perkins, General Motors vice president, in 1993 and 1995; and former Indy winners Bobby Unser in 1989 and 1992; and Parnelli Jones in 1994.