It got worse. At 11 Norman hit two perfect shots and a sweet 10-foot putt that lipped out. Then the three-foot tiddler coming back also stayed stubbornly out. No-shot lead.
Now there was an uneasiness among the dogwoods, a sickening feeling, as Norman came to the one hole you do not want to come to after blowing a six-shot lead. It is the 12th, the Drew Barrymore of par-3s: small, gorgeous and sheer trouble. Norman had left that one ball on the bank on Friday and another in the water on Saturday, and the way he was swinging, the green must have looked like a TV tray.
"His routine is so different," said Faldo's coach, David Leadbetter. "He's standing over the ball an incredible amount of time. I'd say he's spending six, seven seconds longer per shot, fidgeting, moving around in ways I've never seen him do."
Behind Greg, Morgan-Leigh was praying and trying to calm Laura. "It's gonna be all right, Mom," she said. It might be, in time, but the shot definitely wasn't. Norman pushed it right of Faldo's ban, which sat happily on the green, and then watched as it slud back into the pond. Sorry, only one Couples Cling per Masters. Double bogey, Norman's fifth straight 5. For the first time all week he did not lead. Unfathomably, Faldo led by two shots. In five holes Norman had handed Faldo six shots.
The players traded birdies at the par-5 13th, Norman letting himself get talked out of going for it in two by his caddie, Tony Navarro, who argued that to hit a shot 213 yards off pine needles was asking too much of a man who had hit five greens all day. Norman and Faldo traded pars at 14 and birdies at 15, Norman missing an eagle by an inch with his chip on 15. As the ball crawled by the hole, Norman fell to his knees and then arched back on his haunches so that he looked like the vanquished Y.A. Tittle in that famous photograph. Then he toppled over, shot by an imaginary bullet. "Really thought that was in," he said.
So the world's No. 1-ranked player had three holes to make up two shots and avoid being the answer to the question, Who blew the biggest final-round lead in a major? "I needed to hit a hook in there," he said. "I sure hooked it." It was left. It was wet. Double bogey. Faldo by four.
Golf is the cruelest game, because eventually it will drag you out in front of the whole school, take your lunch money and slap you around. Golf can make a man look more helpless than any other sporting endeavor, except perhaps basketball when you air-ball a free throw in the clutch, and nobody we know has air-balled free throws for an afternoon on national TV. Norman shot 78. He had taken his glorious victory parade and driven it off a pier.
Afterward Faldo, whose 67 was the best score of the weekend, still couldn't believe what had transpired. Cepelak went back to their rented house to change for the traditional champion's dinner, and Faldo was left to wait outside Butler Cabin in the dusk, shoeless and almost wordless. "An amazing day," he said quietly, shaking his head. "Amazing. I don't know how it happened. He had played so great. It was the strangest turn of events I've ever seen. I genuinely feel for the guy. I feel so sad for him."
Cepelak is new at this business of escorting greatness to functions. When she came back, she kissed Faldo and said, quite seriously, "What are you going to wear?"
"What do I wear?" Faldo said with a grin. "Well, I've got a little something right here." He pulled on the cuffs of his Fashion Don't, the green jacket you cannot trade for with helicopters, Ferraris or money.