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Is Greg Norman snakebit? In 1986 the Australian-born Norman made a sensational charge at all four of golf's majors, leading each tournament heading into the final day, only to lose all but the British Open. Bob Tway's bunker-shot birdie on the 72nd hole of that year's PGA Championship was only one of several stunning endings that have snatched victory from the Shark's jaws during his career. In the '87 Masters he met sudden death on the second playoff hole when Larry Mize chipped in from 140 feet. Last year Norman lost the Nestle Invitational when rookie Robert Gamez holed a seven-iron from 176 yards for a final-hole eagle. Increasingly, it has been suggested in the press that Norman's reversals of fortune have had to do with some lack of fortitude on his part. Such criticism has grown in volume in 1991, a year in which Norman's game, earnings and tour ranking have all slipped sharply.
At 36, in his ninth year on the PGA Tour, Norman lives in Lost Tree Village, Fla., with his wife, Laura, and their children, Morgan-Leigh, 9, and Gregory, 6.
Sports Illustrated: Why have you become such a magnet for criticism lately?
Greg Norman: I can't understand it. I don't know why I get the wrath of God all the time. I'm out there trying the best I can, but I'm being projected in a bad light, and I don't know how to change it.
SI: Can you date your bad press to any particular incident?
GN: No. I don't know what's happened. I haven't changed. There have been a few stories that were a little over the top, but I guess you have to expect that when certain reporters write articles without having the courtesy to ask questions.
Look what Tom Watson did on the 18th hole at Augusta this year—double bogey to lose. Look what José-María Olazábal did—bogey. Yet I do something like that and they bash me all to hell. It's perplexing. I've talked with Jack Nicklaus about this, and he says to just accept it. He went through it when he was taking over Arnold Palmer's throne. The writers called him Fat Jack—really cutting stuff. And I guess it hurt him. We're all sensitive, we're all human beings.
SI: Some critical remarks have a long shelf life. For instance, Fred Couples has to live with Tom Weiskopf's published sniping about his alleged aimlessness.
GN: What Weiskopf said was way out of line. Freddy does get flustered and irritated, but he doesn't show it the way we show it. So he gets this tag on him that he's lackadaisical. I'll defend Freddy to the day I die, because I've played with Freddy, I know what he's like. Freddy's got just as much fire burning inside him as anybody else.
SI: Do people maybe not empathize with you because they don't quite accept that you're real? You're a striking-looking individual, you come from the other side of the globe, you've got the hat and the image and the Great White Shark thing—it's almost as if you're a fictional character, a part in a movie.