Fame-and-Fortune or Fortune-and-Fame


Ever think there are paybacks in golf?
Well, there just may be. Go ask Larry Mize next time you see him. Or better yet, ask Greg Norman.
In 1986, Larry Mize was 28-years-old, a young kid from Columbus, Ga. and a promising professional golfer.
Mize had been playing full-time on the PGA Tour since 1982, and in that time had collected a win at the 83 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic, and a couple other second-place finishes.
He was a young chap who seemed to be doing pretty well for himself in the big world.
One thing Mize had never found himself in, however, had been a playoff, but that was exactly where he was come Sunday at the 86 Kemper Open.
His opponent? The emerging star from Australia Greg Norman.
Norman, at the time, was ' like Mize ' still a relatively young man himself. He was 31, and had achieved a number of overseas wins, in addition to three victories on the American tour.
Unlike Mize, however, The Shark HAD been involved in several playoffs in the States. Yet, he had never come out of any of those encounters with a victory.
First, there was the 83 Bay Hill Classic, when Norman lost to Mike Nicolette. Then, in 84, he finished second to Fuzzy Zoeller at a slightly larger event, the United States Open. Finally, Norman lost again in extra holes, this time to Tom Watson at the 84 Western.
Like so many players do, Greg Norman seemed to be having problems with the kind of direct one-on-one pressure that comes with sudden death.
What Norman really needed was NOT a Tom Watson to go head-to-head withNOT a Fuzzy Zoeller. He needed someone relatively young; someone relatively inexperienced.
He got that with Larry Mize at the 86 Kemper.
Well, you guessed it, in the end Norman disposed of the young Mize with a par. It required six holes to do so, yet he had finally tasted his first playoff win.
For Mize, his poor play on that sixth hole cost him what probably seemed like everything at the time.
The irony of the whole situation, however, was that each man was to face one another in the very next playoff that they were involved in, and this particular event may have been the most important to either of them at the time.
It was, of course, the 87 Masters.
Not only were Norman and Mize in the mix, but Spains fantastic Seve Ballesteros was also involved in the playoff.
Interestingly enough, the two-time winner at Augusta was the first to go, exiting on the first extra hole.
The momentum was now clearly in favor of Norman. Surely he must have had the psychological advantage over Larry Mize.
Whether he did or not, well never know. You see, Larry Mize got the better of Greg Norman that day at Augusta, as he poured in that now-famous chip shot on the second extra hole to score the most unlikely of birdies.
While Mize jumped up and down in a wild celebration, Norman scowled. Then, he collected himself and tried for a birdie of his own. He missed.
It was the ultimate of paybacks. For Mize, it was the defining moment in his career. For Norman, it was but one of his first tastes of the bitter defeat that he would undertake in several more majors.
In addition to that 87 edition of The Masters and the 84 U.S. Open, Norman would lose two more majors by way of playoffs over his career (he lost the 89 British Open to Mark Calcavecchia, and in the 93 PGA Championship he was surpassed by Paul Azinger). He would also finish second in four additional major championships (the 86 Masters, the 86 PGA, the 95 U.S. Open and the 96 Masters). The number of top-10 finishes Greg Norman has recorded in the majors are even greater, and in truth, a bit depressing to dwell upon.
Life has gone on for Norman, however. He has taken a couple British Opens over the course of his career and will be remembered in the sport for many, many years. He has no doubt been a fixture over the duration of the 90s, the best player in the game during its important transformation into the new millennium.
For Mize, he saw his best day come and go with that particular Masters Tournament. He too, has won a few more times and made a nice career for himself on the PGA Tour.
Yet, it is without question that he will be forever remembered for that memorable shot at the 87 Masters. After his disappointment at the Kemper just a year prior, it was truly one of the great bouncebacks.