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Rick Reilly
July 26, 1993
Greg Norman savaged the best leader board in 20 years to win a memorable British Open
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July 26, 1993

Shark Attack

Greg Norman savaged the best leader board in 20 years to win a memorable British Open

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Even to the end, Greg Norman would not believe it. Outside the scoring trailer all of England buzzed, but inside he would stare only straight ahead.

Outside, Norman's wife, Laura, was trying to give an interview through runny makeup, but behind the glass over her shoulder, Norman would not smile, would not speak. Outside, Norman's caddie, Tony Navarro, was showing people his lucky caddie badge number—00001—and trying to swallow down the thrill, but Norman would not budge. Outside, Norman's friends were hugging and crying, and the engraver was engraving the silver claret jug that would surely be his, but Norman would not let himself be fooled.

Something had to go wrong. The sucker punch had to be coming. Didn't they remember? Didn't they recall how the world had chipped in, wedged in and caved in on him all those times? How Bob Tway had chipped in out of a bunker to steal his 1986 PGA title? How Larry Mize had chipped in from 140 feet to steal his 1987 Masters championship? How Robert Gamez had holed a seven-iron to beat him at Bay Hill in 1990? How David Frost had holed a sand wedge to beat him that same year at New Orleans? How he had finished second in majors on five occasions? Did they have any idea how sick of second a man can get?

No, no, no. You were not going to fool him that fast. As long as Nick Faldo was still out there with a golf club in his hand, Norman wasn't so much as smiling. Faldo could still hole out that four-iron on number 18 and tie him. For as magnificent as the 64 was that he had just carved against the best leader board in 20 years, as enduring as his record-breaking 13-under-par 267 had been, as shimmering as his shot making had been, the trapdoor could still open, and he knew it. He would not let the greatness of what he had just done sink in.

So he found one spot in the corner of the ceiling of the little trailer and stared at it, like a kid made to memorize fractions at a classroom birthday party. Behind him the half dozen Royal and Ancient officials who had been granted exclusive visiting rights to what they thought would be the ecstatic winner could only stand around awkwardly and think of something to do with their hands.

But my god, all that blustery Sunday the rest of England had known exactly what to do with its hands—clap them sore. For on one unforgettable day the world's best golfers happened to play their best golf in the biggest event in the world. And if you were one of the 27,500 spectators there, bronze the ticket stub, for golf does not get many quorum calls like this. Golf is much too fickle.

For instance, when you are lucky enough to get the brave Nick Faldo (ranked No. 1 in the world) atop a Sunday-morning leader board, then the dangerous Greg Norman (No. 4) has usually missed the cut and is already punching out a moray eel somewhere. And if you should be lucky enough to get the brave Nick Faldo and the dangerous Greg Norman, then the steely-eyed Bernhard Langer (No. 2) probably did not enter at all and is playing in the Abu Dhabi Classic. If you got all three, you could forget about getting the white-hot Nick Price (No. 3) and the smooth-swinging Fred Couples (No. 5) and maybe John Daly besides.

Yet last week in the no-stoplight town of Sandwich, England, on a seaside course of 'umps and 'ollows known as Royal St. George's, the little yellow scoreboard had them all—half the majors winners over the last four years, four of the last seven British Open champions, the last three leading money winners on the PGA Tour, plus this year's money leader. You could almost hear the leader board groan under their weight.

The 1993 British Open was to golf what the cast of The Great Escape was to Grauman's Chinese Theater. "This," Norman said on Saturday night, "is going to be one of the greatest British Opens ever."

Cripes, what had it been so far, a warm cucumber sandwich? On Thursday, Norman himself looked as if he might get on with the scuba diving early. He hit his first drive into the hay, his second shot into the hay and his third into the hay, and hey, he made double bogey. But he closed with five straight birdies and a 15-foot par-saving snake on the 18th to gain a share of the lead with Mark Calcavecchia, Fuzzy Zoeller and Australia's Peter Senior.

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