Great White Shark Back in Troubled Waters

Most of the endearing images we have from the Masters are victorious ones: Jack Nicklaus raising that huge, black putter head in the air as he birdied 17 on the way to an improbable victory in 1986. Nick Faldo putting his hands above his head in disbelief as he knocked over Scott Hoch in the rain and mist in 1989. Hometown boy Larry Mize flipping his visor off his head, and running across the 11th green as he celebrated his improbable chip shot in 1987.

These players all provided us with long and lasting memories that will echo through history. But they all have one other thing in common; all three of these men had to go through the same player to win. All three men took down Greg Norman.

Norman’s trials and tribulations at Augusta are not news to anyone. He has come so close so many times at the Masters he probably deserved at least a sleeve of a green jacket, a lapel maybe. As an Aussie, I grew up cheering for him in every single event he played, but as April rolled around every year the talk around the clubhouse would begin in earnest, “Is it his year?” is all we wanted to know. Unfortunately, the answer was always, “no”.

That fateful year of 1996 when Norman shot a course-record 63 in the opening round, before collapsing in a heap as Nick Faldo methodically and ruthlessly won his third green jacket, was one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch. It was like watching a car crash. Into your house. In slow motion. Only more painful.

But following his sublime performance at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last year Norman has played his way back at Augusta for the first time since 2002. One must imagine driving down Magnolia Lane would produce some conflicting emotions for Norman, a man who, at times, looked like he wanted to win at Augusta almost too much.

“I’m going back because I love it,” Norman said last week. “I love playing there. I love the people there. I love the establishment there. It’s just a good feeling for me.”

Those good feelings aside, a lot has changed in Norman’s life since that last Augusta start seven years ago. His very public and messy (not to mention expensive) divorce from wife Laura was followed by an even more public marriage to tennis great Chris Evert.

“A couple of people really wanted me to go (to Augusta), and Chrissie has never seen the Masters,” Norman said. “So to get her there and to see what I think is the greatest golf championship, and my favorite tournaments of all time, was another factor, as well. I think the reaction is going to be incredible, to tell you the truth.”

Many of his fellow competitors are happy to see Norman back as well. One such player is the current world No. 1 Tiger Woods. As an amateur Woods played several practice rounds with Norman, taking notes from the Shark that he put to good use later in his career.

“It’s amazing,” Woods said. “For someone who’s had such a great career and come so close, you almost feel like he has won the tournament – even though he hasn’t – because he’s been there so many times. I don’t know how many second-place finishes, but he’s been so close so many times. And it’s hard to believe he’s not in the locker room.”

“I think if anyone ever deserves to win a Masters, it’s Greg Norman,” said fellow Aussie Robert Allenby, one of seven in the field this year. “And that would be a fairy tale, that’s for sure, if he went out there this year and won it. But you know, it will be nice to see him there.”

He may not be the red hot favorite like he was back in his prime, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more deserving winner. Not many fans believe he can contend at age 54, almost a full decade since he last contended at Augusta National, but that won’t stop the 2009 Augusta patrons from cheering him every single step of the way. Greg Norman is a part of Augusta folklore, synonymous with the Masters, for better or worse.


3 Responses to “Great White Shark Back in Troubled Waters”

  1. Ron says:

    Hi Andy,
    I’m one of thousands rooting for Greg. After the amazing finish at Royal Birkdale last year, we know he still has it.

  2. Jerry says:

    Hi Andy, 4/08/2009
    Since I’ve gone to work with You’re 4 magic moves,I’ve never enjoyed
    the game more…..Oh yes,My handicap was an 8 at one time,but at age 76,I came from a 19 to a 14 which makes Me feel like I’m playing to an
    Talking about this years Masters,I’ve never seen this much hoopla
    and determination not only for the new talent,but for the old guard as
    well.I’ts going to make for a great week-end of viewing…You woulden’t
    know where I could pick up a pair of tickets would You?..HA,HA
    Jerry (Wisconsin)

  3. :lol:who knows?golf is such an unpredictable game anything can happen.I to had the pleasure of watching Greg playing here in Ireland at Mount Juliet at the Irish Open,where Greg was the main attraction.Fantastic ball strikerand the distance he hit the ball then was awesome,maybe this year at Agusta,but secretly i will be rooting for Rory.

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