Norman arrives. What happened on that second shot into 17?
"I think it was kind of a hanging lie," he says. The writers roll their eyes.
The biggest problem with a compass that's always fixed on Perfect is that golf is the most imperfect game. There are too many variables: wind, funny hops, golf gods who might think being handsome, cool and ridiculously talented is enough; majors we'll dole out to somebody else. The greatest golfers did not think Perfect. Walter Hagen used to count on missing seven shots every round. If he missed only six, he broke open the champagne.
Mistakes do not compute in Norman's laptop. Bruce Edwards, who caddied for Norman in 1988, says the difference between his current boss, Tom Watson, and Norman is the latter's "softness."
"Greg has that tremendous ability to have six or seven straight birdies," Edwards says, "but then he'll get pissed off with a bad bounce or a bad result. I expected Greg to react like true champions react. If Watson hits a bad shot, he'll watch and take it and say, 'That is my punishment.' "
"Hell, that's not fair," says Norman. "He's talking about a few shots out of what, hundreds of thousands I've hit? Jesus!"
Remember, it was Norman who played what may be the greatest round of the last 20 years, shooting 64 at Royal St. George's on Sunday to win the 1993 British Open over the best leader board in two decades: Faldo, Price, Couples, Corey Pavin, Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer, none of whom shot worse than 70. "Never," said 91-year-old Gene Sarazen, "have I seen golf played like that."
But among those who know Norman best—coaches, friends, caddies—the theory is that the bigger the tournament, the more Norman's irresistible drive gets in the way of his task. In crucial situations Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Watson seemed to say, "O.K., what shot does this require?" In the same situations Norman seems to say, "What shot do I need to stick in there?"
Australia's Peter Thomson, a five-time British Open champion, told The Times of London recently that Norman can make the impossible shots look easy and yet "make such hard work of such simple shots, it's almost as if he were ungifted." This is starting to purple Norman's cheeks.
"O.K.," he says, his voice rising. "But if I changed my way, would the wins come easier? Everybody can second-guess me. If I did change, it could make me worse, couldn't it? I mean, I don't want to be a guy who hits it in the water and goes, 'Ha, ha!' When you lose a shot, you can never make it up! Never!"