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Norm Macdonald obsessed over golf in inimitable Norm Macdonald fashion

norm macdonald

The last tweet the late comedian and actor Norm Macdonald posted to his Twitter feed — it came on Friday, July 16, 2021 — was about golf.

“Morikawa shoots a 64 to get to -9,” Macdonald wrote midway through the Open Championship. “He was my pick for this week, but I laid off at last second due to injury concerns.”

Macdonald, who died Tuesday at 61, was an obsessive golf fan — more so as a keen observer of the game than as an active participant on its tee sheets.

“Nobody knows golf more than me,” he proclaimed in 2018. “Nobody.”

Hyperbole? Sure. But scan Macdonald’s tweets and you’ll quickly see how closely he followed the professional game, no doubt in part driven by whatever action he had on a given event. During the Travelers Championship earlier this year, where Harris English outlasted Kramer Hickok in an epic eight-hole playoff, Macdonald tweeted 16 times about the duel, including this observation: “An incredible show being put on here at the 8th extra hole. The 2 players will never forget it. And both want the win at all. For Hicock (sic) it is the first and the first is a breakthrough. For English a touch of redemption.”

Macdonald’s interest in the sport — and, in particular, in Tiger Woods — came to my attention in 2010. That’s when I first noticed the former Saturday Night Live star’s Twitter feed lighting up with golf tweets, especially during major broadcasts. For lengthy stretches, Macdonald would live-tweet seemingly every shot. And when Woods was playing, look out — Tiger was Macdonald’s rocket fuel. (“The greatest creative acts you will ever witness,” Macdonald typed in 2018, “are by Tiger Woods on a golf course.”)

At the time, I hosted a fledgling podcast on GOLF.com. Macdonald seemed like a long shot to join as a guest but I knew that he had a new Comedy Central program, Sports Show with Norm Macdonald, that he was seeking to publicize so I put in an ask through the network. The response came quickly. Golf talk? Norm was in. We spoke a few days later, in the wake of the 2011 Masters.   

Below is a slightly condensed and edited version of our conversation. (You can also listen to the 12-minute interview here.) In classic Macdonald fashion, he was funny, acerbic and at times cryptic and scattered. But his nose for the game was evident. Our chat started with a joke that he had delivered in the first episode of his new show: “After [his Masters] win, Charl Schwartzel said, “Charl Schwartzel? Who the hell is Charl Schwartzel?'”

Macdonald performing stand-up in 2017.

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GOLF.com: Sports Show is a platform that allows you to poke fun at all sports but in that debut episode golf landed in your crosshairs a few times, which I was a little surprised by. How closely do you pay attention to the game?

Macdonald: I pay attention to all sports but the Masters had just happened two days earlier so that’s why it was such an important story. And Tiger almost — it was looking like a historic day as he crossed the bridge, Hogan’s Bridge, but it wasn’t to be.

Are you disappointed when a lesser-known player like Charl Schwartzel wins the Masters?

I’m very disappointed because I like watching the best, and it’s sad that [Tiger] got knocked out. [Ed. note: Woods tied for the lead on Sunday with an eagle on the 8th hole but faded from contention on the back nine.] I like watching the other top guys, too, but then they’re not in it — Tiger leaves and then so does Lee Westwood and Mickelson and everybody else. Everybody leaves every time Tiger leaves so that’s depressing, too.

When a player like Mickelson or Lee Westwood wins, it’s not as funny, right?

Not as funny?

Yeah, compared to when a guy like Charl Schwartzel wins?

Oh yeah, but I’d rather have Tiger win than a guy with a funny name. The joke doesn’t mean as much to me as the golf.

I didn’t realize you’re such a hardcore fan.

I want to see golf prosper, because I’ve watched golf ever since I was a kid, and before Tiger, like, no one understood it. You tried to explain golf to someone back then and it was just middle-aged men playing the world’s slowest sport. Then when Tiger came along at least he generated some interest and now people are back to not caring again, but he’ll come back. It’s just a matter of time. He’ll win one major this year. [Ed. note: Woods sat out the U.S. Open and Open Championship with a leg injury, then missed the cut at the PGA Championship.]

Before Tiger, golf was just middle-aged men playing the world’s slowest sport.

Norm Macdonald

So you watched the game growing up as a kid. Did you start playing at a young age?

Yeah, I played all my life, but I suck. But it doesn’t stop me from playing. I already issued a challenge to Dustin Johnson — well, I guess I haven’t yet. I may as well do it now. He probably listens to your podcast.

I don’t know. I did see he fired his caddie today.

Oh, good. My challenge, it’ll even be a little harder without a caddie: I’ll play him one round on any course he likes — or any course I like, I guess, and I get one free throw every hole. I think I could beat him.

How do you characterize your game? Are you a big hitter, a good putter, what do you do well — anything?

I throw the ball once per round pretty good.

Going back to your Saturday Night Live days, who was the best golfer on the cast?

I don’t know, maybe [Chris] Farley was the best. No, David Spade was the best golfer.

If Farley was the best golfer I think you guys— 

—yeah, we would have been in trouble.

Did you see Kevin Na make a 16 at the Texas Open?

Yes, it was fun to see him come out and just be laughing. But you’ve never see anyone so deep in the woods. It’s crazy — it was like helicopter footage of a crime scene or something

Does that make you feel better about your own game when you see a Tour pro make a 16?

Yeah, it does make me feel better for sure, because you always expect one of those on [your] card every round. These guys get one in their life and it’s a surprise.

You’re known for your impressions. Are any golfers ripe for an impression?

You could probably do Nicklaus. But you hardly hear any of them talk. Tiger seems to be the only one to ever have a microphone in front of him. I’d like to say I do a mean Duffy Waldorf, but I don’t.

I’d like to say I do a mean Duffy Waldorf, but I don’t.

Norm Macdonald

Who introduced you to the game? Did your father play?

No, my dad didn’t play. We didn’t have any money when I was young. It was a rich man’s game — now it’s a poor man’s game. But back then it was just rich people; we never thought we were allowed to play.

You grew up in Canada, in Quebec City. Are you a Mike Weir fan?

Mike Weir?! … No, Mike Weir is great. We had a player named George Knudson, he was the best Canadian golfer — or I guess Mike Weir was. But then we had Moe Norman who invented natural golf, he’s from Canada. The eccentric, the bipolar Moe Norman.

Tell us about your Normcasts. I understand you did one for the Masters. I didn’t get a chance to listen to it.

The idea is that if you want to watch the Masters or any event that I’m watching or Normcasting, you can feel free to turn on the stream on the free computer and listen to me watching the game along with you — that’s what I like to do and then I take tweet quests from the blogosphere [Laughs].

You’ve got a pretty considerable following on Twitter — 200,000 or so followers. That’s pretty good.

For a latecomer, yeah.

The Laugh Factory, in Hollywood, paid homage to Macdonald on Tuesday.

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On a Sunday afternoon, if you’re flipping around the TV, would you rather watch a PGA Tour event or a rerun of one of your old movies?

Oh no, the Tour event, no question about it. That’s probably my favorite thing to do is watch a PGA Tour event. I like when courses are tough. I don’t like when the leader is 32 under or something. But I’ll watch most of them anyway.

Does golf lend itself to satire? I would think basketball or football avail themselves to more jokes.

There’s not many jokes in golf — the sport is defined by the personalities and obviously there’s only one personality right now. Sometimes a guy will wear a different colored shirt and try to be a colorful character. Or that guy that goes down for the putts — you know, Villegas. At least he knows to do something colorful. They’re mostly colorless characters right now right, except for — no, even Rory’s kinda boring.

What did you make of his implosion at the Masters?

That was pretty hard to watch. Everyone else was under par except for him, which was really bizarre, but it seemed like everything was setting up for Tiger — the fall from McIlroy and then the cast of no-names all around him. But we just have to wait for another event. Right now, all the four owners of the majors suck.

That’s not where I thought you were going with that.

I mean, they don’t suck. I just don’t want them to be [the winners], put it that way. A couple of years ago every one of them was a disappointment. Like, Kenny Perry was going to be the oldest guy to win and he got beat by Cabrera or somebody. And Y.E. Yang beat Tiger. And then Phil Mickelson and David Duval were two back [at the Masters] and they didn’t win, and the fourth one I can’t remember but it was also depressing. Oh, Watson!

Cink over Watson.

All in the same year — four almost-good stories.

So, you said you like Tiger to rebound and get another major win this year?

Yeah, because I think, like, it’s been hard on him.

It sounds like you almost have taken his struggles personally.

Well, I do. I’m the real victim in this. I’m the forgotten victim, the guy who’s spent 16 years of his life watching a guy play golf just so that I can see him lose because of some weird thing happening.

Give us one bold prediction for the rest of the golf season.

I had Couples for the Masters and it looked good for a couple days. That was my last bold prediction. I would say John Daly will win on the PGA Tour this year, and I’d say for a major I’d pick Els. Those are my two shockers.

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