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The Shark Resurfaces
Gerry Callahan
July 03, 1995
Just when it looked as if Greg Norman was going to lose the Greater Hartford Open, he bit back
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July 03, 1995

The Shark Resurfaces

Just when it looked as if Greg Norman was going to lose the Greater Hartford Open, he bit back

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Greg Norman's June
In 1986 Greg Norman was first on the money list with a then record $653,296. After his win in Hartford on Sunday, the Shark had won more than that in this June alone. With about half of the season to go, Norman has earned $1,102,180. Nick Price set the single-season earnings record last year with $1,499,927.

Date

Tournament

Finish

Money

6/4

Memorial

1

$306,000

6/11

Kemper

T4

$52,780

6/18

U.S. Open

2

$207,000

6/25

Hartford

1

$216,000

Total for the Month

$781,780

As Greg Norman made his way toward the 18th green on Sunday, still looking as if he were gliding down a fashion-show runway, the crowd at the Greater Hartford Open erupted into an ovation that had to be in violation of PGA Tour rules. The usual supportive mobs had followed Norman around the course all weekend, but now the gallery was cranking it up to another level. Now the Tournament Players Club at River Highlands sounded like an Arsenio rerun, woofing and all.

It was the least they could do for the man who stopped over in Cromwell, Conn., for a few days and gave them a golf tournament. One week after letting the U.S. Open slip away to Corey Pavin in the final round, Norman did more than win the Greater Hartford Open by two strokes and take home $216,000 and a brand-new camcorder. He won it, then he lost it, then he won it again. And he took 100,000 or so fans along for the ride. Hey, some guys will do anything for a new camcorder.

Going into Sunday's final round, the Shark was 14 under par, three strokes ahead of his playing partner, Fuzzy Zoeller, and threatening to send everyone home early. The only way the GHO would get a suspenseful Sunday was if Norman displayed his renowned penchant for finishing second. His silver medal at Shinnecock had given him 51 seconds in his career, including one a year ago at this very tournament, when he finished one shot behind David Frost.

But this year the Shark showed that he doesn't always run second when he stumbles on Sunday. Sometimes he gets up and wins. Sometimes he leaves you wondering if there is a clause in his contract that pays him according to entertainment value. After three sparkling days of golf, Norman shot a one-over 71 on Sunday (44 players beat him for the day), but he made a neat comeback to win the tournament. The trio of Kirk Triplett, Dave Stockton Jr. and Grant Waite finished second, two strokes back at 269. Pavin ended up in a tie for 11th place at eight under. In all, 50 players broke par for the tournament. If Shinnecock had been heartless the week before at the Open, River Highlands was here to make everyone feel better about himself again. On Friday, Zoeller set a course record with a 63. It stood for a day. Billy Andrade shot a 62 on Saturday.

As for Norman, the victory raised his winnings to $781,780—for the month of June (chart). He is playing so well that even the dreaded Norman curse can't slow him down. "Even though I shot a 71, I hit the ball very well," Norman said on Sunday. "I feel great. I said to [caddie] Tony Navarro before the Memorial, Are you ready for a good summer? Because we're going to have a good summer? Realistically, I know you can win four in a row because I could've won four in a row."

Of course, he could have lost three in a row if Fuzzy hadn't turned into lint on Sunday. Norman had a five-shot lead over Zoeller with 19 holes to go but finished play on Saturday by missing a 10-inch par putt on 18 after Zoeller had birdied it. By the 14th hole on Sunday, he found himself trailing the Fuzz by a stroke. If you were sponsoring the tournament, you probably didn't wait until the finish to uncork the Korbel. Fuzzy and the Shark? Slugging it out down the stretch? It was the most exciting thing to hit Hartford since term life.

A tournament that has often been viewed as an uneventful bump in the road between the U.S. and British Opens now had the best golfer in the world squaring off with one of the most popular. It was a network's dream, golf's answer to Michael and Lisa Marie.

Zoeller sweated through his shirt, smoked cigarettes and smiled when he missed a one-foot putt on the 5th hole. He is the hacker's hero. His golf bag sports the Kmart logo, and a furry little puppet serves as a cover for one of his woods. He hasn't won a tournament since 1986, but he says you won't find him out on a ledge because he slipped to a disappointing tie for fifth on Sunday. "My palms are dry, they're not shaking," he said. "It was fun. The difference between me and an amateur is that I'm not afraid to screw up."

Norman, as usual, looked as if he'd just been dry-cleaned and pressed. He may be the best golfer in the world, and still he'll never play as great as he looks. "We're totally different personalities," Norman said of himself and Zoeller. "Fuzzy is easygoing, with a gregarious personality. I'm more stubborn and self-motivated."

The two popular veterans presented a stark contrast on the course while their respective followings blended into a feisty gallery for the final round. In case you were wondering, the Fuzzy fans were the ones in the Kmart clothes. "There was a gallery for me and a gallery for Fuzzy," said Norman. "One guy would say something for me, and another guy would yell something else. The gallery was great, but it was also difficult at times."

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