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On Friday all Faldo did was slay Royal St. George's to the tune of a course-record 63. The lead was his, by one shot.
That led to Saturday, when 15-knot winds made the already narrow St. George's fairways tighter than the streets of Sandwich, which are wide enough for a stroll by a uniformed linebacker but not two. On Saturday par was plenty. The field stayed pretty much pat: Faldo and Corey Pavin leading, Norman and Langer one back, Price three and Couples four.
All of which led to Sunday, which dawned dizzy with possibility. It was Faldo's 36th birthday, for one thing, and the forecast promised a monster storm, for another. As the leaders were about to begin, the storm hit. However, just as every top button was being buttoned and every "brelly" was blooming, just as the rains started to come and the Channel winds started to howl, and just as the leaders began having visions of 76 WINS OPEN, a funny thing happened.
Then the clouds even opened a few cracks. Apparently, even the gods wanted to see this. Within five minutes, what you had was your basic four-way, can't-be, goose-bumps superstar tie. Both Norman and Langer birdied the 1st hole to climb into a four-way tie with Faldo and Pavin at eight under par.
But Pavin would fall off with a bogey on number 1 and a few more along the way. He disappeared, despite committing no greater sin than shooting par. Par might have won Hartford, but here, today, it was good only for fourth place. Hard as he might try, Pavin is still the dread Best Player Never to Win a Major, the King of the B Movies.
Price, Daly and Couples all fell away, too, mostly from lack of oxygen. The rest of the way would be fought above the rim.
Birdies got cheap. Norman birdied the 3rd hole to take the lead. Faldo answered on number 2 to tie. Langer kept pace. The cups looked like uncovered manholes. Fans split pants trying to run from group to group. In fact, in the first nine holes the troika of Faldo, Norman and Langer made nine birdies. For your average Wayne Levi-weary golf writer, it was enough to induce lip trembling.
After a time, routine birdies weren't enough. It became necessary for the threesome to begin knocking down flag-sticks. Norman knocked it six inches from the hole on the par-4 9th and then buried his putt for a two-shot lead. Langer hit the wicket at number 10, another par-4. On the par-3 11th, Faldo hit what looked like the greatest hole in one in golf history, but the ball hit the cup and rolled away. Maybe that's when you knew that, at last, Norman's day of glory had come. Any other major Sunday, Faldo's ball stays in the jar.
Owing to air-traffic control, somebody had to fall from heights like these. It was Langer. Standing on the 14th tee, he sliced a driver over a simple white fence and onto the neighboring Prince's Golf Course, where Gene Sarazen had won the 1932 British Open and where Allied troops had trained before the invasion of Normandy. Where Langer's ball landed would have worked nicely in 1932, but 61 years later it was out-of-bounds. In a race like this, it was like stopping to tie your shoe. He would shoot 67 and finish third.