Maybe Greg Norman really is a shark at heart. And that's no compliment.

On Thursday, Norman's gall and greed stunned much of golf. Those of us who have found him appealing over the years are left to hope that he doesn't grasp what he's doing. If he does understand the destructive implications of his World Golf Tour for the rest of his sport, he's a wrong guy.

In a brazen display of self-interest, Norman joined the Fox network in announcing that the PGA Tour and the European Tour could drop dead, for all they care. The WGT plans to use 40 of the game's top players in eight high-priced events, televised and underwritten by Fox, starting in 1995.

The WGT's For-Stars-Only format would strip bare the fields of established events such as the Kemper Open and detract from major events such as the U.S. Open. It's no accident the WGT plans events for the weeks before the four majors.

Potentially, the World Golf Tour -- if it ever really comes into existence -- could throw golf into an ugly Balkanized era of tennis-like chaos. Think of the strikes in baseball and hockey; then think of golf, ripped by litigation and bad blood between rival groups of players. Think of the Federal Trade Commission, jumping all over the PGA Tour on restraint of trade issues. Thanks, Greg. You're a buddy.

"The question I'd ask is, 'How much money do these guys need?' " Kemper Open chairman Ben Brundred told Len Shapiro of The Washington Post. "What the hell is Greg Norman {doing} biting the hand that brought him to where he is?"

"To me, the whole thing hinges on whether they can get the 30 {top} guys," said Brundred, referring to the WTC's plan to fill its field with the top 30 players in the SONY rankings, plus 10 sponsor exemptions. "I could see some players jump for it. But it threatens the whole fabric of the {PGA} Tour."

Norman claimed on Thursday that he had broad support from many of the game's most respected names. But so far, that doesn't seem to be borne out by the facts. This week, Arnold Palmer spoke to players at the Shark Shootout -- another of Norman's look-at-me events -- and according to agent Vinny Giles: "Arnie stood up and said the PGA Tour has made a lot of people's careers. He said, 'You should all do a lot of thinking before you decide to do anything.' "

Norman has also claimed: "I have no intention of locking horns with the PGA {Tour}. ... We are not trying to undermine any other tour."

That's about as honest as the Republicans saying they're the same as Democrats. The World Golf Tour couldn't do any better job of "locking horns" or "undermining" if it brought a fleet of bulldozers to Ponte Vedra, Fla., and began plowing the PGA Tour offices into the Atlantic Ocean.

For several years, the PGA Tour has been under investigation by the FTC because the Tour says it has the right to prevent its members from competing in rival events. The FTC thinks this smells like restraint of trade. The whole issue has simmered, uneasily. The Tour keeps issuing "waivers" to its players whenever they ask for permission to be in other events, thus defusing the issue and weakening any FTC case. Now, pushed to the wall by the imminent WGT threat, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced defiantly this week that he would not allow PGA Tour players to participate in any World Golf Tour events, all of which would conflict with the American tour.

In short, Norman has flushed Finchem into the open, where the FTC can get a nice, clear aim at the PGA Tour with their federal bazookas, if they so desire.

No, Greg's not out to do any damage to the PGA Tour. He wouldn't want the U.S. tour to lose luster and become second rate, a kind of golf minor league, over the next few years so that someone else -- perhaps someone like Greg Norman -- could become the most powerful person in golf as the founding father of the mighty World Tour. For a shark, Norman sure knows how to cry crocodile tears.

"This will probably end up in court," Curtis Strange told USA Today. "I feel sorry for Tim Finchem."

To say that golf has entered a period of civil war this week may, in time, look like a reasonable interpretation. Already, fathers and sons are taking opposite sides. The third person at the World Tour news conference -- along with Norman and the president of Fox Sports -- was John D. Montgomery Jr., the infant tour's executive director.

Montgomery is the son of Jack Nicklaus's oldest and best friend, John Sr. How did the father respond to his son's sudden and spectacular rise in the world of golf? He publicly disclaimed any connection between his company, Executive Sports, and his son's new tour. Yes, this could get nasty.

Golf has always had a civilized distaste for phony, flashy events where hand-picked stars play only against each other -- keeping the game's money and celebrity to themselves -- while locking out rank-and-file players and younger stars. Golf has always been proud of "open" tournaments and has had some revulsion at the words "made for TV," which usually means semi-fake.

Now, the 39-year-old Norman, and his aging superstar friends, like 37-year-old Seve Ballesteros, want to change all that. Before their time runs out, they want to cash in big time. Cut the fields from 150 to 40 so they have a better chance of looking good and finishing high. Offer huge prize money so other events, which are more difficult tests of golf, seem paltry by comparison. In other words, tilt the wheel so you make more money against easier competition while also priming the pump of your own celebrity machinery.

The World Golf Tour is an ugly idea, both crass and alien to golf. It shows no respect for tradition and little concern for the health of the game when it is handed to the next generation. Sad to say, Norman seems to love the whole notion, calling the WGT "a dream that's been in my heart for seven years."

At the moment, Norman makes Al Bundy look classy. Golf's best hope is that, in coming weeks, the Shark can't find 29 stars shameless enough to join him.