Normans Last Shot

By Associated PressApril 5, 2009, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' After all these years, Greg Norman still knows his way around Augusta National.
 
As late winter melted into spring, Norman found himself driving past the 61 Magnolia trees on both sides of the lane that leads to the clubhouse. Walking into the locker room, an attendant wrapped his arms around the Shark.
 
He came up and gave a big hug, Norman said. Like, Greg, welcome back. Weve missed you around here. So right from the locker room attendant to the spectators, Im sure its going to be positive.
 
Greg Norman
Greg Norman hopes to give his wife something to cheer about, as he did at last year's Open. (Getty Images)
That he can find many positives at Augusta National remains a mystery.
 
When the 54-year-old Norman plays the Masters for the 23rd time, he is sure to be greeted by memories at every turn. Most of them are worth forgetting.
 
Just beyond the live oak tree behind the clubhouse is the ninth green, where Normans wedge spun off the false front and down the steep slope to the fairway, a pivotal bogey during his final-round collapse against Nick Faldo in 1996. Next to that is the 18th green, where Norman was tied for the lead in 1986 until his 4-iron sailed into the gallery. His bogey gave Jack Nicklaus a sixth green jacket.
 
The 11th hole? Still vivid as ever.
 
Three weeks before the Sharks return to his favorite major, he was playing with an Augusta National member and two guests when they looked to the right of the green and asked where Larry Mize was when he chipped in for birdie to beat Norman in a playoff in 1987. No other major loss haunts him more.
 
As a matter of fact, when we played, the pin position was almost identical to where Larry chipped it in, Norman said. I said, Thats where he was. Now you go over there and try to hit that shot. It was one of those situations that sticks in your mind.
 
How could it not?
 
Norman did enough right to claim three green jackets, maybe four. Three times he was the runner-up, once in a playoff. His last chance came 10 years ago, when he was tied for the lead with four holes to play and never made another birdie, losing to Jose Maria Olazabal.
 
For the better part of a decade, Norman was the face of the Masters.
 
He is welcome everywhere ' except that locker room on the second floor of clubhouse reserved for Masters champions.
 
Its amazing, Tiger Woods said. For someone whos had such a great career and come so close, you almost feel like he has won the tournament ' even though he hasnt ' because hes been there so many times. I dont know how many second-place finishes, but hes been so close so many times. And its hard to believe hes not in the locker room.
 
Even more amazing is that Norman gets one last chance.
 
It took a fairy tale for him to get back to the Masters. Norman was on his honeymoon with tennis great Chris Evert last summer when he decided to turn up at Royal Birkdale for the British Open, where he is exempt until age 65 as a two-time champion. In the biggest surprise of the year, Norman stood on the 10th tee of the final round with a one-shot lead.
 
But he couldnt make it stand. Padraig Harrington shot 32 on the back nine to win the claret jug. Norman finished six shots behind, but his tie for third qualified him to return to the Masters.
 
After thinking about it for a few months, Norman couldnt pass up the opportunity.
 
Im going back because I love it, he said. I love playing there. I love the people there. I love the establishment there. Its just a good feeling for me.
 
Norman spent a Hall of Fame career losing more majors than he won, but never making any excuses, even when he blew a six-shot lead against Faldo in his most notorious runner-up finish at a major.
 
His last trip to the Masters was in 2002, when he received a special invitation. Norman tied for 36th that year, and most everyone figured the Shark would never be back.
 
Who could have guessed that seven years later, Norman would be playing the Masters and Faldo would not?
 
I think hell enjoy the emotion and Memory Lane, said Faldo, a three-time champion who stopped playing when he became the lead analyst for CBS Sports. He can hit it decent enough. I said to him, Lucky you still have a (putting) stroke. Youve got to feed the ball there. And hes still got that.
 
Can he cook up one last chance?
 
The odds are against him, not to mention the 7,435-yard course, a quarter-mile longer than when he last contended. Norman played it recently after it had rained, when the course had no roll, and he said that Bethpage Black felt like a pitch-and-putt compared with Augusta.
 
Then again, who could have predicted Birkdale?
 
I think if anyone ever deserves to win a Masters, its Greg Norman, said Robert Allenby, one of a dozen or so Australians inspired by the Great White Shark. And that would be a fairy tale, thats for sure, if he went out there this year and won it. But you know, it will be nice to see him there.
 
Thats the way Norman wants to approach his return.
 
Why go back?
 
He loves the golf course and wants to see the changes, which have transformed it into one of the toughest tests in golf. No one has come remotely close to the course record of 63 that he shares with Nick Price. Too, Norman wanted to share the week with Evert.
 
A couple of people really wanted me to go there, and Chrissie has never seen the Masters, Norman said. So to get her there and to see what I think is the greatest golf championship, and my favorite tournaments of all time, was another factor, as well.
 
His son, Gregory, will be his caddie.
 
Norman has never played Augusta National with so few expectations. Thats what he did at Royal Birkdale, although it helped that hardly anyone knew he was there until he showed up on the leaderboard throughout the weekend.
 
Ideally, he would treat this as another honeymoon ' even though his honeymoon with Augusta ended long ago.
 
I just want to make sure that everybody manages their expectations, he said. And I manage my expectations.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Masters Tournament
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''