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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Now the tournament was down to two, Norman and Faldo, the two greatest figures in the game. The craving for vindication was all Norman's, for Faldo had become everything in golf Norman had ever wanted to be. Though two years younger, Faldo had five majors; Norman had only one, the British Open, seven long years ago. They had gone head-to-head in the third round at St. Andrews in 1990, and Faldo had embarrassed Norman 67 to 76 on the way to the second of his three British titles. They had been paired in the playoff of the Johnnie Walker Championship in Jamaica last Christmas, and Faldo had again won. Norman was Jerry Quarry to Faldo's Ali, and he had scars up and down his psyche to prove it.
If today was going to be different, Norman would have to do a complete and thorough check of his nerves. Hearing roars from Faldo's gallery behind him, he held steady. Needing a six-foot par-saving putt on number 11, he made it. Needing to chip close for birdie on number 14, he hit it to within six inches. Needing to save par on the 15th from 10 feet, he dunked it.
From across the green even Langer stopped to admire the show. "Today," he said, "Greg was invincible."
Almost. After a killer birdie at 16, set up by a five-iron that he hit to within 3½ feet, Norman stood on the 17th green and, for the first time all day, looked at a scoreboard. God, he thought as he saw his three-shot lead, you're going to win!
Now if there is one shark on this planet who should not be messing around with fate, it is this one. He promptly missed a 14-inch putt for par, a teensy-weensy little putt a toddler could have knocked in with a toy rake. But there it was. Rimmed. Uh-oh. That old sinking feeling was back. Tragedy was still lurking. He had blown a four-shot lead at the 1986 PGA at Inverness with nine holes to go. He had blown a one-stroke lead with two to go in the four-hole playoff at the 1989 British Open at Troon. He had blown leads at more than one Masters and U.S. Open. But blowing this would be absolutely lethal.
As he prepared to hit his tee shot in the deafening silence of the 18th tee box—maybe the biggest tee shot of his life—some wise guy in the crowd whistled Beethoven: da-da-da-dum. Norman set up sturdily, hammered the ball with his driver, stared again into the sun and watched the prettiest tee shot you ever saw.
Not that Norman was surprised. It was the 14th fairway he had hit in 14 tries on the day. And when he followed with a four-iron from 198 yards to within 18 feet of the pin, everybody in the place showed relief. "That was the greatest golf I've ever seen in my life," Langer said to Norman as they walked toward the growing roar at the final green. "You deserved to win."
Australian flags waved in the crowds. A huge inflatable shark bobbed up and down through the gallery. Somebody sang Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, and the birds off Pegwell Bay sang in harmony as the sun glinted off the white cliffs of Dover. Even heartbroken Faldo-loving Brits let themselves be joyous.
Only Norman himself would not. His face got stern, and he acted as if he'd done nothing more admirable than make out a neat grocery list. He signed his scorecard in the scoring trailer and stayed there, looking like the fifth face of Mount Rush-more. He had convinced himself that the worst could still happen, as it always had.
But at last it came, the news that miracles don't always happen. Television showed Faldo's final approach out of the rough fall exhausted, short of the green. Faldo looked spent. He woke up with a Sunday-morning lead, shot a brilliant 67 and lost by two. Anywhere else but here, on any day other than this one, Faldo is kissing the silver claret jug and wondering which half of Barbados he will buy.