Stormin Norman

By Brian HewittJuly 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Open ChampionshipIm a wreck, said the wife.
The husband, who knows a thing or two about wrecks on the golf course, was the calm in the eye of the storm.
Say hello to Chrissie Evert and Greg Norman, the protagonists of the 137th Open Championship on the eve of the final round.
The 53-year-old Norman has a 2-shot lead over K.J. Choi and Padraig Harrington.
And for now, hes the lone player in the field to have made friends with the awful weather.
Saturday at Royal Birkdale was all about the elements. And Im not talking about copper, tin and manganese.
Winds gusted up to 50 miles an hour most of the day. And it caused several of the greens to become almost unplayable.
In 1998, when the Open Championship last came to Birkdale, the conditions were so bad that officials had to stop play for half an hour Friday when several players reported that their golf balls were blowing off the putting surfaces after they had marked and replaced them.
This time, Peter Hanson, bedeviled by the winds, 5-putted from 18 inches on the 10th hole. There were also unprecedented reports reaching tournament officials that golf balls were actually oscillates in bunkers.
What happens when a ball oscillates on the green typically is that the wind pattern on the ball changes when the putter head is set on the ground behind the ball ready to be stroked. If the ball moves and doesnt return to its original spot after the grounding of the putter, the player incurs a one stroke penalty.
The best way to avoid this is to not ground the club. If a player doesnt ground his club behind the ball, he is deemed not to have addressed the ball. If the ball moves in that case, its not a penalty.
The problem is most players are accustomed to grounding their putter behind the ball. Its part of their pre-shot routine. Asking a player like Greg Norman not to ground his putter behind the ball is a little like asking tennis player Roger Federer not to bounce the ball before his serve or asking Kobe Bryant not to bounce the ball before a free throw.
David Duval acknowledged how difficult all this was going to be before he teed off Saturday in an interview with TNT. Theres no predicting, said Duval, who began the third round just three shots off Chois lead. Theres no guess that you could venture to make that would be accurate. Whos to say?
Then Duval promptly went out and made triple bogey on the first hole and followed that with bogeys on the second, third and fourth to shoot 10-over 44 on the front side and end the day with 83.
All of this despite the fact that the R&A decided not to double cut the greens after the second round. They knew the kind of bad weather that was on its way. If they had done their usual mowing, the golf course would have been unplayable from the outset.
You just try and survive, said Rocco Mediate. The first tee shot is the hardest tee shot on the face of the earth.
Added Norman, In these conditions you just worry about yourself. You dont even worry about score. You know youre going to hit good shots and get bad results.
Norman bogeyed three of his first five holes. But a birdie on the eighth got a share of the four-way lead with Jim Furyk, defending champion Harrington and Choi, who had come back to the field with a double bogey on the brutally hard sixth and a bogey on No. 8.
At one point it looked like the 5-over total posted early in the day by little-known Englishman Simon Wakefield might be good for the 54-hole lead.
But Norman proved stouter than the gales.
I believe its going to be a nice day tomorrow in England, said Wakefield, full of hope, after his round.
Norman might not be wishing for the same. Even if it makes his new bride a wreck for one more day.
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