Royal Sharkdale


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Open ChampionshipThis one is tailor made for People magazine. But it will play pretty well in the golf media, too.
Aging, blonde, Australian, former superstar rediscovers his game at the advanced age of 53 and finds himself in the final group Saturday at the years third major championship after recent marriage to blonde, American superstar, also 53.
Yes, the lead story at Royal Birkdale through 36 holes is the pair of 70s Greg Norman has posted in the wind, rain and chill. Only K.J. Chois 1-under total is better in the field that started as 156 players.
Greg Norman
Greg Norman is greeted by his wife Chris Evert after his second straight 70 Friday. (Getty Images)
We now approach a weekend with dire weather in the forecast.
Norman, whose Hall of Fame career was highlighted by the two major championships he won at the British in 1986 and 1993, arrived at Birkdale fresh from a whirlwind honeymoon with Chris Evert, who by the way, has 16 more major tennis championships in her CV than her new husband.
Shes been there, Norman said of Evert when asked what kind of support his new bride is lending. She knows exactly what you have to do.
And shes her new husbands biggest fan. She really feels every shot, Norman added. She plays every shot with me and shes walked every shot although sometimes its hard to find her.
Normans two-day total of even-par 140 comprises five birdies, three bogeys and one double. He has one-putted 17 holes in two days. His next three-putt in this 137th Open Championship will be his first.
I havent been here in a long time, he acknowledged Friday. Im a realist.
But he also acknowledged that he has been there. And there is memory.
Earlier in the week I praised the straightforward Birkdale layout of 7,173 yards for not being Quirkdale. Too often golf courses get unnecessarily tricked up for major championships.
Little did I know at the time that Birkdale was going to become Sharkdale by the time darkness descended Friday night on these classic links by the Irish Sea.
The other Aussies will tell you that they could see this coming. There has been a spring in Normans step ever since he and Evert started keeping regular company. And there was a cutting edge to his golf game that his countryman noticed during the practice rounds.
Now the man they call The Shark is chasing history with the singular purpose of a Great White. If Norman pulls off victory, he will shatter the record as the oldest player to win a major. Julius Boros was 48 years, four months and 18 days old when he won the 1968 PGA Championship at Pecan Valley in Texas. Norman will be 53 years, five months and 11 days old on Sunday.
And in case you were wondering what blast of air would rush in to fill the vacuum left by the absence of world No. 1 Tiger Woods, heres your answer.
Maybe 53 is the new 32 (Woods age). Maybe, for one week at least, an old Shark is the new Tiger. Or maybe this is all a dream that will disappear in a hail of Norman bogeys on Saturday and Sunday.
But isnt it fascinating how Norman, for years the most identifiable international face in golf, has replaced, at least for now, Woods, currently the most identifiable international face in golf.
There was a time during Normans long reign as the best player in the world in the 80s and 90s that people complained that the game was too Shark-centric; that the television directors showed all of his shots and not enough of the rest of the best players. Woods took over before the 90s had expired and those same kinds of complaints arose.
Its almost as if Norman handed off the Q-rating spotlight baton to Woods who, somehow, has figured out a way to temporarily loan it back to him ' knowing it will be in good hands ' until he returns to golfs big stages some time next year.
To be sure, Choi is the 36-hole leader. And he birdied the last two holes Friday to earn that distinction. But to be extra sure, almost everybodys eyes right now are on Greg Norman.
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