Like his hero Norman, Scott gracious in defeat

By Doug FergusonJuly 24, 2012, 6:18 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – This year's British Open should be a proud moment for Greg Norman.

Sure, it was painful to watch Adam Scott throw away a four-shot lead with four holes to play, to walk away from Royal Lytham & St. Annes with a silver salver as the runner-up instead of the silver claret jug as the winner of his first major championship.

What should be mandatory viewing, however, is the hour that followed such a devastating loss.

Scott stood before a television camera with such composure that it looked like the interview had taken place a week after his meltdown, not just minutes after the Australian signed a scorecard that showed four bogeys on the last four holes for a 75.

''It wasn't to be,'' he said. ''That's golf, isn't it?''

Then, he was whisked away to the media center and answered every question with clarity and honesty and without excuses. As he stepped outside, he met with four Australian reporters - one who was in London for the Olympics and came over to Lytham to see Australia's first major champion in six years - and answered many of the same questions. When it was over, Scott reached out to shake their hands without prompting.

For Scott to be linked with Norman is to be expected - Scott said so himself. Norman lost far more majors than he won through a combination of bad golf and bad luck. To no one's surprise, it was that six-shot lead he squandered at the 1996 Masters that came up more than once on Sunday.

But if comparisons are to be made, don't stop with the last putt.

''Greg was my hero when I was a kid, and I thought he was a great role model, how he handled himself in victory and defeat,'' said Scott, who wept in front of the TV as a teenager when the Shark blew up at Augusta National against Nick Faldo.

''He set a good example for us,'' Scott said. ''It's tough. You don't want to sit here and have to ... I can't justify anything that I've done out there. I didn't finish the tournament well today. But next time ... I'm sure there will be a next time, and I can do a better job of it.''

Norman was headed this week to the Senior British Open at Turnberry, where he won his lone major of 1986 after being the 54-hole leader in all four majors. That became known as the ''Saturday Slam,'' except that Norman was the one who more often than not got slammed.

The only player to lose all four majors in a playoff in stroke play. The Masters meltdown. Losing a four-shot lead in the PGA Championship to Bob Tway, who holed out a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to beat him. Missing a 4-foot par putt in a playoff to lose another PGA to Paul Azinger. Twice going into the final round at Shinnecock Hills with his name atop the U.S. Open leaderboard only to close with 75 one time and 73 another.

The most famous, of course, is the Masters. No one has ever lost more than a six-shot lead in a major except for Norman at Augusta National. He wound up five shots behind Faldo, who years later revealed what he shared with the Shark as they embraced on the 18th green.

''Don't let the (critics) get you down.''

Ernie Els offered a similar message to Scott during a quiet moment they shared before the trophy presentation.

''He said he felt for me and not to beat myself up,'' Scott said. ''He said he beat himself up a little bit when he'd lost or had a chance to win. And he felt I'm a great player, and I can go on to win majors, which is nice. We have a close friendship. We've had some good battles in the past, and it's nice to hear that from him. I respect Ernie a lot, and he's a player who is a worthy champion here for sure.''

Scott thought so highly of Norman that he tried to follow in his steps, starting his career in Europe and wanting to be on the roll call of champions at all the tournaments Norman won. When he turned pro, the comparisons were with Tiger Woods because of Scott's pure swing that was honed while working with Butch Harmon. He even briefly hired as a caddie the brother of Steve Williams, who spent a dozen years working for Woods.

Being compared with Norman can be twisted into a joke. But few players were better at handling defeat than Norman, perhaps because he had so much practice.

Then again, Scott has carried himself with dignity for his entire career. When he was in a slump three years ago, missing seven cuts over eight tournaments, he took the criticism in stride and answered every question, even after he shot an 81.

Golf is filled with gracious losers. That's the nature of the sport. There was Mike Reid at the 1989 PGA Championship, Phil Mickelson at five U.S. Opens, a British Open and a PGA Championship. Who could forget Mickelson at Winged Foot when he took double bogey on the 18th hole of the final round to lose by one shot and said, ''I am such an idiot.''

And, of course, there was Norman.

''I screwed up. I really screwed up,'' Norman said right after he threw away the Masters.

Els walks away from this Open with his fourth major championship. Scott limped away, hopeful he won't have to wait another decade to play in the final group at a major. Perhaps another player can be added to the memories at Royal Lytham - Norman, who by example showed a teenager from Queensland that losing with dignity is half the battle.

Before his 2001 induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Norman said his resilience was his strength.

''What's done is done,'' he said ''You cannot change history, even though you want to blame yourself for some and blame history for others. I've never really dwelled in the past.''

Scott would do well to follow that advice, too.

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First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

If only because of the atmosphere.

The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.

“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”  

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Impressionist Moore creates 'hilarious' video for Euros

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 7:54 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European Ryder Cup team began its week by laughing at itself.

Noted impressionist Conor Moore made a 10-minute clip in which he took turns poking fun at the 12 team members in a press-conference setting.

The video has not, and probably will not, be made public.

“It was extremely funny, I have to say,” Ian Poulter said. “Clips like that, they can help the team get together. Although we’re taking the mickey out of one another, it’s quite a good way to start the week off.”

The best impression, apparently, was of reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari.

“I think Fran’s has made me giggle for about 10 hours now," Tommy Fleetwood said. 

"Just how deadpan he was – just trying to make how excited he was with his deadpan tone. It was perfect, really. It was absolutely spot-on."

Even the typically stoic Molinari found the video hilarious.

“I’m actually thinking of it all the time now answering questions, trying to smile a bit more,” he said, laughing.

So is this the new, more lively version of Molinari?

“Can’t you tell the difference?” he said dryly.

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Woods' final round is highest-rated FEC telecast ever

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 9:05 pm

We've heard it a million times: Tiger Woods doesn't just move the needle, he IS the needle.

Here's more proof.

NBC Sports Group's final-round coverage of Woods claiming his 80th career victory in the Tour Championship earned a 5.21 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs and the highest-rated PGA Tour telecast in 2018 (excluding majors).

The rating was up 206 percent over 2017's Tour Championship.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Coverage peaked from 5:30-6PM ET (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion. That number trailed only the 2018 peaks for the Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28). The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 PM ET) posted a 4.35 overnight rating, which is the highest-rated Tour Championship telecast on record.

Sunday’s final round also saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (up 561 percent year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports Sunday round (excluding majors) on record.

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Randall's Rant: Woods' comeback story ranks No. 1

By Randall MellSeptember 24, 2018, 8:40 pm

We’re marveling again.

This time over the essence of the man as much as the athlete, over what Tiger Woods summoned to repair, rebuild and redeem himself, after scandal and injury so ruinously rocked his career.

We watched in wonder Sunday as Woods completed the greatest comeback in the history of sport.

That’s how we’re ranking this reconstruction of a champion. (See the rankings below.)

We marveled over the admiration that flooded into the final scene of his victory at the Tour Championship, over the wave of adoring fans who enveloped him as he marched up the 18th fairway.

This celebration was different from his coronation, when he won the Masters by 12 shots in 1997, or his masterpiece, when he won the U.S. Open by 15 shots in 2000, or his epic sweep, when he won at Augusta National in ’01 to claim his fourth consecutive major championship title.

The awe back then was over how invincible Woods could seem in a sport where losing is the week-to-week norm, over how he could decimate the competition as no other player ever has.

The awe today is as much over the transformed nature of the rebuilt man.

It’s about what he has overcome since his aura of invincibility was decimated in the disgrace of a sex scandal, in the humiliation of a videotape of a DUI arrest, in the pain of four back surgeries and four knee surgeries and in the maddening affliction of chipping yips and driving and putting woes.

The wonder is also in imagining the fierce inventory of self-examination that must have been grueling, and in the mustering of inner strength required to overcome foes more formidable than Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and today’s other stars.

It’s in Woods overcoming shame, ridicule, doubt and probably some despair to rebuild his life outside the game before he could rebuild his life in the game.

Woods may never let us know the detail or depth of those inner challenges, of what helped him prevail in his more spiritual battles, because he’s still fiercely private. He may never share the keys to rebuilding his sense of himself, but he’s more open than he has ever been. He shares more than he ever has.

As a father of two children, as a mentor to so many of today’s young players, there’s more depth to the picture of this champion today. There also is more for fans to relate to in his struggles than his success. There’s more of the larger man to marvel over.



The greatest comebacks in the history of sports:


1. Tiger Woods

Four back surgeries and four knee surgeries are just part of the story. It’s why Woods ranks ahead of Ben Hogan. Woods’ comeback was complicated by so many psychological challenges, by the demon doubts created in his sex scandal and DUI arrest. There was shame and ridicule to overcome on a public stage. And then there were the chipping yips, and the driving and putting woes.


2. Ben Hogan

On Feb. 2, 1949, a Greyhound bus attempting to pass a truck slammed head on into Hogan’s Cadillac on a Texas highway. Hogan probably saved his life throwing himself over the passenger side to protect his wife, Valerie. He suffered a double fracture of the pelvis, a cracked rib, a fractured collarbone and a broken ankle, but it was a blood clot that nearly killed him a few weeks later. Hogan needed 16 months to recover but would return triumphantly to win the 1950 U.S. Open and five more majors after that.


3. Niki Lauda

In the bravest sporting comeback ever, Lauda returned to grand prix racing 38 days after his Ferrari burst into flames in a crash in a race in Germany in 1976. Disfigured from severe burns, the reigning Formula One world champion was back behind the wheel at the Italian Grand Prix, finishing fourth. He won the world championship again in ’77 and ’84.


4. Greg LeMond

In 1987, LeMond was shot and nearly killed in a hunting accident. Two years later, he won his second Tour de France title. A year after that, he won it again.


5. Babe Zaharias

In 1953, Babe Zaharias underwent surgery for colon cancer. A year later, she won the U.S. Women’s Open wearing a colostomy bag. She also went on to win the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year.


6. Monica Seles

Away from tennis for two years after being stabbed with a knife between the shoulder blades during a match in Germany, Seles won in her return to competition at the 1995 Canadian Open. She was the highest ranked women’s tennis player in the world at the time of the attack.


7. Lance Armstrong

After undergoing chemotherapy treatment in a battle with potentially fatal metastatic testicular cancer in 1996, Armstrong recovered and went on to win seven Tour de France titles. Of course, the comeback wasn’t viewed in the same light after he was stripped of all those titles after being implicated in a doping conspiracy.


8. Mario Lemieux

In the middle of the 1992-93 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins star underwent radiation treatment for Hodgkin disease and missed 20 games. Making a start the same day as his last treatment, Lemieux scored a goal and assist. The Penguins would go on a 17-game winning streak after his return and Lemieux would lead the league in scoring and win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.


9. Peyton Manning

Multiple neck surgeries and a spinal fusion kept Manning from playing with the Indianapolis Colts for the entire 2011 season. He was released before the 2012 season and signed with the Denver Broncos. He won his fifth NFL MVP Award in ’13 and helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl in the ’15 season.


10. Bethany Hamilton

A competitive surfer at 13, Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack in Hawaii. A month later, she was surfing again. Less than two years later, she was a national champion.