In fact, he could take the most pride that this Memorial, despite the winning margin, had been much more than a blowout. Norman had engaged the enemy within and trounced it soundly. In the clutch, he had truly finished.
Every time Norman wins on the Tour, his load gets lighter. His victory gave him a career total of 13, too many to support critics who say he hasn't won enough. And afterward, he was satisfied to the extent that a question about weak stretch performances at Doral and Augusta didn't rankle.
"I don't relate to those things in the past," Norman said. "They don't have any bearing on me anymore. If I get beaten sometime, I just let it go. Forget about it. Because if you keep thinking about the negative, it's going to affect you for forever and a day. So it doesn't bother me."
If those words are true, Norman is the clear favorite to win the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, in Southampton, N.Y., next week. At Shinnecock in 1986, Norman led by one after 54 holes, only to shoot a final-round 75 that dropped him to 12th. If Norman can forget that, as well as play and think at the same level he did at the Memorial, there are few players with the ammunition to beat him.
To be sure, picking a favorite in the U.S. Open is a hollow exercise. The last time a would-be prognosticator came close to predicting the winner was in 1990, when Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray, choosing the most obscure name he could, came up with Mike Donald at Medinah and looked like a genius when his man got into a playoff with another complete long shot, Hale Irwin, the eventual winner.
Very simply, there are no leading indicators for the Open. Whereas the Florida swing seems to provide a reasonable dope sheet for the Masters, and summer hot streaks tend to carry over at the British Open and PGA Championship, there seems no reliable system for handicapping the national championship.
In the last 25 years the winner of the Open has won in earlier events of that year only seven times. That fact alone bodes ill not only for Norman, but also for defender Ernie Els, Faldo and the Tour's leading money winner, Peter Jacobsen, all of whom have victories this year.
The Memorial would seem to be a natural signpost for the Open. It's a big-time event, the most prestigious tournament between the Masters and the Open. When Muirfield Village plays fast and hard, it's a great training ground for the pinpoint iron shots and sensitive putting touch needed at the Open. But, guess what? The Memorial seldom serves as a predictor.
For one thing, the Memorial rarely plays hard and fast. Of the last 16 rounds played there, six have been delayed, postponed or canceled because of bad weather. This year there was a delay every day except Sunday, and on that day the leaders had to go out early to finish their third rounds.
"The conditions just favor everybody," said Norman on Saturday night after being able to finish only 14 holes of his third round. "There's no real shotmaking to be made out there right now."