Norman's fears for the game

Former world number one and double Open champion Greg Norman has used a pre-tournament press conference for the Spanish Senior Open to voice his concerns for the future of the modern professional game.

Australia's Greg Norman, the former world number one and one of the sport's most dominant and charismatic figures during the 1980s and early 1990s, claimed today that men's professional golf is in a state of stagnation despite the record sponsorship deals and prizemoney available to the top players.

He is currently in Spain preparing for this week's Spanish Senior Open, having recently qualified for the Seniors Tour, and he used the pre-tournament press conference to make a number of points about the current state of the men's professional game - most of them negative.

Norman (pictured) claimed that the massive amounts of revenue poured into the USPGA Tour by sponsors and the enormous prizemoney at stake is taking the fun out of the sport, along with the dominance of Tiger Woods and the increasing reliance on technology over natural talent. These factors, Norman says, have contributed to falling TV audiences in the USA. Recently released figures have shown a 56 per cent fall in viewing figures for the Bob Hope Classic, a 38 per cent drop for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and a 50 per cent fall for the Mercedes Championship.

"The sport has become stagnant, with fewer and fewer people watching golf in America," the man known as The Great White Shark said.

"Players need to bring the spirit back. In the past there have always been great players to bring people to the game to lighten it up so that it was not so serious. With the money involved now that spirit seems to be vanishing."

Norman went on to claim that today's top players are running scared of Woods and fearful of challenging his dominance in public, and he also fired a broadside at the game's lawmakers for making massive equipment improvements possible every year.

"Look at what Rafael Nadal has done in tennis," said the 1986 and 1993 Open Champion.

"He's like a boxer. You never hear anyone coming out in the media saying they want to beat Tiger Woods - but Nadal consistently comes out and says he wants to beat Roger Federer because he's the best, and that's great for tennis."

"I also have a problem with someone winning a golf tournament without using a driver. The game has always been dominated by power hitters, but today you can't tell the difference between most of the players because of the technology. Someone needs to start imposing limits on this or the fans will continue swtiching off."

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