Story 5 Another Thrilling Chapter

By Rex HoggardDecember 22, 2008, 5:00 pm
Top 10 StoriesOn the eve of the 137th Open Championship a group of reporters had gathered at a Southport, England, watering hole when the proceedings were interrupted by a familiar figure meandering down Lord Street.
 
Linn The Growler Strickler is a caddie-yard legend having looped for the high-profile likes of Curtis Strange, Fred Couples and Nick Price. He had emerged from semi-retirement to carry Greg Normans bag at Royal Birkdale.
 
Greg Norman
Greg Norman acknowledges the crowd during the Open Championship. (Getty Images)
As omens go, the random encounter didnt send any of the scribes scrambling to Ladbrokes to play a hunch. But it should have.
 
Six windswept days later Norman had nearly beaten the elements, the toughest course and the deepest field on Tour in 2008 and the games hottest player not on the DL. Instead, the Sharks parting gift was a 1-up victory over the relentless efforts of time and a cosmic make-good in the form of a 2009 Masters invitation.
 
At 53, Norman came within an untimely poor Sunday start of the Claret Jug, finishing six strokes behind champion Padraig Harrington after starting his final round bogey-bogey-bogey.
 
I can walk away from here being disappointed, but I can walk away from here with my head held high because I hung in there, Norman reasoned as Harrington collected the games oldest title for the second time in 12 months. It wasnt meant to be and youve got to take that with a grain of salt.
 
But this was a slight of different sort, a respectful nod from the golf gods to a man who has suffered more than his share of slings and arrows from the heavens.
 
Norman had spent the days before arriving at Royal Birkdale working on his game with longtime swing coach David Leadbetter, but there was little in the part-time players prep work that made him think his 26th British Open would be his most memorable.
 
More important than Normans resurgent swing, however, was his relaxed deamenor. Less than three weeks before Norman teed off at Royal Birkdale hed married tennis great Chris Evert in a sunset ceremony in the Bahamas.
 
I came in here with a good attitude and kind of like a fresh approach to life in general, Norman said. Its nice to have a balanced life.
 
The extended honeymoon seemed to carry Norman for three days, particularly when reality and the relentless conditions began closing in on the storybook week. He answered every major setback, posting back-to-back birdies after an untidy double-bogey at the sixth hole on Friday. He pulled off a similar rally after a double bogey at the 10th on Saturday with birdies at the 14th and 17th to close his round.
 
As the wind howled through the rough-covered dunes and the rain pelted the games best into submission, Normans age became less liability and more lethal. His towering drives seemed to defy the thick, heavy howl and his calm stroke on the greens belied the blustery conditions.
 
The Australian followed his opening-round 70 in the weeks worst conditions with cards of 70-72 for an unlikely two-stroke cushion heading into the closing frame.
 
But three consecutive bogeys to begin the final round gave Harrington all the room he needed and the Irishman closed out the field with a 5-wood second shot at the par-5 17th for eagle.
 
If he wouldve won, it wouldve knocked the stands down, Strickler said. It wouldve been Woodstock. I was going to go to Amsterdam if he knocked this one out, never to be seen again.
 
For a career defined by near-misses more so than a Hall of Fame resume, Birkdale was a heartache with a measure of hope. That 1996 Masters meltdown suddenly didnt seem so sour.
 
I can stand here now and say, yeah, I'm disappointed. Where does it rank in those (other disappointments)? Probably not as high as some of the other ones. Quite honestly, I'm sure I surprised a lot of people, Norman said.
 
Even to his contemporaries, Normans ageless Open set a new standard for Grand Slam expectations, regardless of age or psychological baggage.
 
I want to go out and pull a Norman, said Paul Azinger prior to the PGA Championship, transforming the Aussies name into verb of another sort.
 
Normans tie for third also delivered an expected opportunity ' another shot at Masters redemption.
 
Im going to have my expectations the same level as when I went into the British Open, because I havent played (Augusta National) for . . . six years, said Norman, who plans to focus on his game early next year and the games of others as he transitions to his role as International Presidents Cup captain after the Masters.
 
I still think Augusta is the purest golf tournament in the world. Of course, I have had a lot of pain there, too.
 
After Royal Birkdale, Norman has never seemed more prepared to put that pain behind him.
 

Related Links:
  • Top 10 Stories of the Year archive
  • Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

    Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

    Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

    Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

    The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

    ''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

    Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."