We’ve known a Greg Norman 30 for 30 was in the works for a while now, but nothing had been officially announced until today.
According to ESPN, Shark will premiere on Tuesday, April 5th, at 8 PM ET on ESPN. The film will feature Norman looking back on his final round collapse at the Masters in 1996, when he blew a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo in excruciating fashion. The film will be co-directed by Jason Hehir (The Last Dance) and Thomas Odelfelt (producer of various 24/7 productions for HBO), and it will be coming out just two days before the first round of the 2022 Masters.
Here’s Hehir on the project, via ESPN’s announcement:
“There are places in sports that have such a mystique that they can forever shape the way we remember an athlete. Augusta National is one of those places. Greg Norman is by any objective measure one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game. Two-time major winner, 331 weeks at world #1, leading money winner in PGA history pre-Tiger, one of the few indelible players of his era. But despite all his success, he’s perhaps remembered most for his failure at the Masters, particularly his excruciating collapse on final Sunday in 1996. I was excited for the opportunity to tell the story of one man’s career through the prism of such a sacred site, and to examine the power of one place to mold a man’s legacy, for better or worse.”
ESPN has the first two rounds of Masters coverage, as well as the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday of that week, so it’s certainly an understandable bit of synergy. And it’s undeniably an iconic moment in the sport of golf, which is unique in how it affords the opportunity to watch players melt down across hours of real-time, with no real respite or escape. (If they’re still making 30 for 30 films in twenty years, maybe they’ll get Jordan Spieth to sit down and talk about 2016.)
Unmentioned in the ESPN release, though, is that Norman is also currently very much in the middle of the biggest current storyline in golf: the attempt to start a league to rival the PGA Tour, backed by Saudi Arabia. Norman’s involvement in the venture that led to Phil Mickelson’s implosion (sponsors continue to drop him) had been public for much longer; he’s the CEO of LIV Golf Investments, the front group for the Saudi investment that was going to oversee the league.
Back in November, went on the record defending Saudi Arabia’s human rights situation, noting that on his visits he saw women in restaurants, so clearly everything must be above board. Norman has become in many ways an even bigger pariah than Mickelson in the modern game. The PGA Tour surely isn’t a fan of his at the moment, considering his effort to lead (or at least his willingness to put his name on) a rival that the Tour considered an existential threat. (ESPN is also a rights partner of the PGA Tour as of this year.)
It’s not hard to envision a scenario in which Mickelson is preparing to return to competitive play that same week at the Masters, which will surely bring this story back to the forefront of not only golf but the wider sports consciousness. There would be inevitable cognitive dissonance if Shark came out that week with a narrow view, focusing strictly on the past and avoiding any mention of Norman’s more recent headlines.