Apparently it was sadder for friends like Price than it was for Norman himself. Greg's wife, Laura, is still surprised after five years of marriage that her husband rarely carries his remorse past the final hole. "At the Masters this year, that was the first time I saw the hurt, the disappointment on his face," she says. "But honestly, after it was over, he was over it. That night we had some friends come by our rented house. We had a great time. And then after the Open, riding back into New York City, everything was fine. We laughed. We talked.
"Some guys, it would hurt. They would worry that they might never win a major. But not Greg. The difference, for instance, between Greg and Seve [Ballesteros] is dramatic. Seve's not a very happy person. He harbors things more. He thinks people are against him. He's a wonderful guy, but he just won't let loose. Greg is loose all the time."
Norman does seem less buttoned-up than most other golfers. Maybe it's because he was first an athlete and then a golfer. Unlike most players, he has no fear of golf, no worry in the back of his mind that the insidious game can take back what it has given him. "I don't let anything bother me, because I know that if I work harder and harder, I'm going to get myself out of it," says Norman. "I knew I was going to win a major. I believe in myself to the nth degree, and if you feel like that, you don't have any problem. I'd like to win 10 or 15 of the sonofabitches."
Graeme Agars, an Australian broadcaster who has followed Norman all over the world, says, "He's the most positive thinker of any sportsman that I've come across. It's not an act, he really believes he can win all the time, and I think that's why he won't let the defeats in the majors this year get him down. After the PGA, he told us he gained more maturity in three minutes in Toledo than he had in the previous three years. He expects so much of himself. At the Australian Open, after he won last year, he got serious and said to us, 'It's really nice that I've won all these tournaments, but isn't it about time I won a major?' I guess this year was his answer to that question."
Winning suits Norman, and he certainly looks the part, with his shimmering white hair and his swagger on the course. His all-or-nothing attitude calls to mind no one so much as another hard-charging golfer with charisma—Palmer. Norman has often been compared with Nicklaus, but that was due more to the physical resemblance than to his approach to the game. In truth, Norman plays and relates to galleries as if he got his training as a cadet in Arnie's Army.
In a sport that seems to encourage grimness, Norman laughs a lot and doesn't labor over decisions. And like Palmer, he seems to enjoy himself more playing golf than doing any other thing. Nicklaus, by comparison, has put together the greatest record in golf almost as an adjunct to his business dealings. "I'm not real keen on business," says Norman. "I fall asleep at my financial meetings."
Norman shares another obvious characteristic with Palmer. Both would rather go down with guns firing than give in. There's no lay-up in either of them. "I don't like to be negative when I play," Norman says. "If I'm paired with a conservative player, I think, How can he do that? I love the challenge. I love grinding. I love it when things aren't going my way and I have to fight for it, fight with myself, and fight for a score. I love that, having to dig in deeper and reach for something in the bottom of you."
While Norman was driving on an English highway several years ago, another driver, perhaps resentful of Greg's stylish car and long, golden hair, kept taunting him, passing, cutting in front of him, and then slowing down. Norman got that look on his face he gets when he makes a double bogey. Finally, as the other motorist pulled onto an exit ramp, Norman roared around him and stopped, blocking the escape. He got out of his car, walked back to the other man's vehicle and, through an open window, punched his antagonist in the jaw. Then he walked back to his car and drove away.
Many people take in Norman's rakish manner, his striking appearance and his penchant for expensive toys, and they misread him. He is, indeed, one of golf's more conspicuous consumers—owner of a spacious Florida house at Bay Hill, which has an $80,000 red Ferrari in the garage, next to a Rolls-Royce, a Jaguar convertible and a Jeep Wagoneer—all of which will soon be joined by an Aston Martin he has on order. He owns two other houses—one in Brisbane, Australia, and one in Sunningdale, England. His family life seems idyllic with Laura, whom people simply call "the Best" because that is Norman's usual reference to her, plus two beautiful children, Morgan Leigh (who calls her father Sharkie), 3, and Gregory, 11 months, an infant mirror image of his father's dimpled, white-thatched good looks.
His humor, too, is mostly airy. Last spring, a siege of lung congestion baffled doctors for a while, and one told him that he might be allergic to grass. For a golfer this means oblivion, but Norman just shrugged and laughed, "Hey, it could be worse. I could be allergic to beer."