Some critics say that he swings too hard. Can that be? The point in golf is to hit the ball hard, and Norman probably hits it as far as any winning player ever. Currently, he ranks fifth among PGA pros in distance off the tee (277.5 yards). Once, while playing at Doral with Weiskopf, Norman reached the par-5, 608-yard 12th hole in two shots, crushing a three-wood that stopped 12 feet from the cup. "That's the longest three-wood I've ever seen," said Weiskopf, no pop-gunner himself. Norman's longest mea-' sured drive went—he has witnesses—483 yards. Unlike many of his grim compatriots, Norman brings almost an air of nonchalance to his game. On the tour, he practices hard, but away from it, he almost never does. You can hang around Norman at home for a week and have a difficult time figuring out what he does for a living. However, his game does have some quirks.
Writing in Golf Digest, Dan Jenkins said, "Norman's feet move on almost every swing, he addresses his putts on the toe of his club head, he sprays his shots woefully to the right or left when he goes bad, and he is always making you wonder about his judgment. Despite these things, his power can be awesome and his touch at times can be likened to that of a brain surgeon."
After the PGA, Nicklaus summed up Norman's game this way: "From the standpoint of being a major tournament player, Greg is still young. He is doing a lot of the same things that happened to Watson, to me, to all of us. The guy is just too confident, too good a player not to learn from these things. His biggest fault, if he has one, is that he is so aggressive with his game that he can't tone it down at the end when he might need to. As long as everything works when he is going full out, he's fine. But he'll learn to play more controlled as he gets older.
"There comes a time when you realize that you can't fly it over every fairway bunker on the golf course or shoot it at every pin. You learn to hit it between the bunkers and leave the ball on the percentage side of the hole. And you become a better player for it.
"Sometimes you've got to sacrifice a tournament or two to learn. Norman is the only guy who is good enough right now, who can be in competition every week and learn—blow a few tournaments and get away with it. Learn from it. And he'll learn."
Jack Newton, a fellow Australian who admits his "mind was messed up" for a long time after he lost to Watson in a British Open playoff in 1975, says, "I think Greg jumped the hurdle when he won the British. The PGA was his worst performance; he simply didn't play well enough to win, and if he hadn't won the British, that might have been devastating. But I think he's fine now.
"He may learn to play more conservatively with a lead, but I think Greg will always be an aggressive player. At the Masters he hit into the gallery trying to fade it into the pin, which is not his normal shot, but that's why Greg is a great player. He was thinking about birdie, about winning, not about a playoff. That choker stuff is b.s."
Whatever they think of him as a golfer, Norman's peers on the Tour have an unusually high regard for him as a man. In an individualistic sport rife with jealousy, he is that rarest of players—a pro's pro. Thus, it wasn't surprising that on the evening before the final round of the British Open this summer, Nicklaus, John Mahaffey, Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green went out of their way at dinner to wish him Godspeed. Later, after he won the title, congratulations poured in from such diverse luminaries as Bob Hawke, the prime minister of Australia, and Arnold Palmer.
A few days after his victory, Norman was at his Florida home when the doorbell rang. It was his friend and neighbor, golfer Nick Price. "Let me see it, champ," cried Price. He strolled over to the mantel, where the trophy was resting. "Look at that, will you," said Price. "Such history. Unbelievable." There was pure joy on Price's face. He had been present when Norman, poised to take the Masters title last spring, hit the wild four-iron at the 72nd hole.
"I felt so bad," whispered Price, after Norman had left the room. "People don't realize...don't think, how well he played and then to have that happen. It was so sad."