It is possible
that if he doesn't earn a Masters champion's green jacket soon, Greg Norman
will opt for a straitjacket instead. Three times in the past four years the
Australian golfer has come ever so close to winning the tournament, falling one
stroke short each time. Two weeks ago, on April 9, he came to the final hole
needing only a par to gain a playoff with the eventual winner, Nick Faldo. He
overanxious? Overwrought? Overdue? Overrated? The Shark, so called because of
his fishing exploits Down Under, has carried great expectations since his first
Masters appearance, in 1981. But so far, his sole victory in a major
championship has been the 1986 British Open at Turnberry, where he vanquished
England's Gordon Brand (as in bland) by five shots. Norman might console
himself with the knowledge that even Ben Hogan did not win his first major, the
1946 PGA, until he was 34—Norman's age now—and he went on to win eight more,
his last one at the age of 41. Except that, well, Norman is getting
At Augusta this
year, where he shot closing rounds of 68 and 67, Norman put up a brave front.
He declined an invitation to be interviewed in the press room after the final
round, and as darkness fell on Sunday evening, he joined fellow pros Mark
O'Meara and Payne Stewart in the clubhouse for a beer.
"I may not
show it," Norman said, smiling tightly, "but I'm incredibly
disappointed, incredibly down."
"You will win
the Masters sooner or later," a bystander told him.
later?" Norman replied, still smiling. "How much——later is it going to
That's a good
question. Once expected to run the table, Norman now might be running out of
time. At Augusta he got off to a slow start with rounds of 74 and 75, leaving
himself eight strokes off the 36-hole pace of Faldo and Lee Trevino. But as has
become his habit, Norman came alive on the weekend. He moved into contention
with that third-round 68, and on the back nine of the final round he caught
fire, birdieing the 10th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes. Then his five-iron
approach to the final hole plunged yards short of the green. Norman finished
the tournament at four under par. As he peered at the television monitor in the
locker room, he rooted for either Scott Hoch or Ben Crenshaw, both then tied at
five under with Faldo, who had already finished, to birdie 18 in regulation and
win the tournament outright. At least that would spare Norman the pain of
having to watch a playoff he might have joined.
But his wish
wasn't granted. Once again Norman finished one stroke off the lead. Once again
he was the gracious runner-up at somebody else's victory party.
At the 1984 U.S.
Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., Norman pushed his second
shot on the 72nd hole into the bleachers. He parred the hole anyway, to tie
Fuzzy Zoeller, who then whipped him in an 18-hole playoff. That's life, his
fans figured. Norman would be back.
And he was, at
the 72nd hole in the 1986 Masters, chasing Jack Nicklaus. Except that Norman's
four-iron went right, and he bogeyed. Second again, but that was O.K. too. At
46, the Golden Bear was destined for this Norman conquest. Besides, the Shark