Heartache love highlight Normans return to the Masters
That suffering was both painful and poignant at the Masters, the one major, above all, he seemed so well-suited to win.
I reflect on the fact I havent won it, he said. I talk to Chrissie about it a lot. This golf course really suits my game and I went there every year feeling great about it.
Hale Irwin, who ran down a charging Shark to win the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah, added, With Greg as long as he was, as well as he played, youd have to bet hed win a Masters.
He should have won all of them, Raymond Floyd stated flatly.
It came out like sand just dropping through my hand, Norman said. Its hard to explain. I dont know how to grasp it sometimes. You just put it down to the golf and I made some mistakes and others made some great shots.
Lee Trevino offered another explanation.
The only thing that bothered me about Norman, he told me, is that I thought he had gears and I thought he an A game, B game, C game and when you get to a major and your A game is not working, you got to go to your C game. The hell with the full 8-iron, lets take a 6 and punch it. Or lets take a 7 instead of an 8 or whatever. He always had a foot on the pedal and if its not working thats what happened, it didnt work for him.
I told Norman what Trevino said.
Would I go back and change my game, the way I used to play now that I know how I played? Yes I would have, he said in a rather stunning admission. But in that moment my psyche never allowed me to do that. You know, Im an Aussie, a go get em Aussie. Whatever it is, we gotta get you.
And yet in the next breath, Norman reveals that lack of conviction, in his own game, not lack of restraint hurt him, in 1986 with a chance to tie or even beat Jack on the final hole.
There you go, I wasnt aggressive, he said. I went conservative. I hit a 4-iron when my first thought was 'hit a high 5-iron.' I had 183 yards, I think, uphill. Just smash a 5-iron and I said 'no just back off and try to hit a 4-iron in there.' '
Norman blew it wider than wide right. The legend of Jack in 86 was cemented.
I mean, he made these great birdies coming down the stretch, recalls Jack. And then he hit the worst iron that Im sure hes ever hit in his life on 18. Greg should have won more. Some of it was because of him. Some of it was because of other people.
Like Larry Mize who in 1987 at the Masters became the first in a long line of Greg Norman tormenters.
In 1996, Norman beat himself. Holding a six-shot lead heading to the final round, he shot 78 ' as sad a Sunday as Augustas ever seen. It sparked an outpouring of sympathy and respect.
Suddenly hundreds of thousands of e-mails and letters poured in from people saying you changed my approach about what Im going to teach my kid about winning, about losing, the way you handled yourself, I got a huge lift out of that, he said.
To me, I won a tournament of life in a lot of ways and my public perception from that Monday onwards was different than that Sunday before. Augusta did some unique and weird things for me over my life and it probably will continue to do so.
In 1999 Norman again threatened to push aside all those ignominious moments, but fell just short of Jose Maria Olazabal.
Then last summer at the British Open, Norman created the rarest of later in life chances, the chance to dynamite a legacy without doing something unsavory as Roger Clemens, Pete Rose and Marion Jones did. Birkdale would be proper payback for all the cruel lashings he endured.
And though he didnt win, Norman did burnish his reputation as a baby boomer icon, a symbol for a generation and its quest for youth.
Everywhere I go, he said with obvious excitement, people tell me that I did it for the 50-plus year-olds. They tell me I rejuvenated them and proved theres no mountain too high to climb. And given the financial climate were in right now, people are looking for a happy hook to hang their hat on. Baby boomers are getting killed and their retirement funds are disappearing, so when you hear that Ive given them happiness I feel like I have to go back and work hard and I have to go fight for it.
Just how did he do it? First, Normans no ordinary 54-year-old ' he's in better shape than men half his age. Second, he was, and is, in love.
At Birkdale, he said, I just got off a wedding and a honeymoon and I was very relaxed.
We really had no expectations, Chris Evert told me last month. I think it was a testament to just how talented he really is.
And so at a time when most men are happy to be playing a friendly game of tennis ' and based on what I saw when he played with Chris at her academy in Florida, Greg can serve and volley very well ' hes attempting to again defy the odds. Could he win the Masters?
If I manage myself well and right and play like I did at the British Open, why not?
Raymond Floyd disagrees. Even if he plays like he did the first three days at the British Open, he wont win because the guys are just too good now. Someone will be better.
I also want to keep my expectations under control, Norman added. I really would love to just go through the whole four days and quietly get better each day.
Norman will not have the benefit of coming in under the radar as he did at the British Open. And hes insistent that hes returning to the Masters not for any payback because he knows it just doesnt work that way.
That hes back at all, trying again at the scene of so much heartbreak, is reward enough.
I reflect over Augusta and I still classify it as my favorite golf tournament of all time, he said.
Whether its Friday or Sunday, Norman will enjoy the walk up 18 to the applause of the patrons here. And while it may not carry the weight those moments did for Palmer and Nicklaus, the air figures to be thick with emotion.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.