A Fateful Day and a Bond Forever

By George WhiteNovember 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
The date ' Sunday, April 14, 1996. The place ' Augusta National. The event ' final round of the Masters. The characters ' Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.
What happened that day was quite possibly the single most remembered Sunday in Masters history. Norman had played a magnificent three rounds to build a six-shot lead going into the finale. But that was to all melt away to the man who had wormed his way into second place on the last hole Saturday of Round 3.
And by the 12th hole Sunday, it was all gone. By the 18th, Norman was in a state of shock after having shot 78 on a beautiful, calm, Augusta day. Faldo had grimly, gamely shot a 67 to win with ease, coasting home as the come-from-behind champion by five shots.
They teamed up last week in Naples, Fla., at Normans tournament, the Merrill Lynch Shootout. It doesnt matter where they finished (next to last.) What mattered was the image of them walking together, playing together, laughing and chatting together, a decade after that fateful day.
Norman denied that the pairing ' which he himself determined ' had anything to do with that spring day in 1996. But neither can deny what that day has meant in their careers.
Faldo is a private person who doesnt relish talking about the victory. But as I've said many a time, I genuinely felt for the guy on that day because, hey, that would have scarred me if it happened to me, he said. I blew a four-shot lead at Muirfield (in the 1987 British Open) and managed to clamber it back (to defeat television mate Paul Azinger by a shot.) At least I kind of knew what that felt like. Fortunately I haven't scarred myself in majors.
So that was a scar for him. I genuinely felt for the guy, and I thought he was certainly good enough (to win).
In 1996, Faldo obviously wasnt the golfer he had been he had been during his days as world No. 1, up until 1994. He knew he wasnt the same shot-maker. But what he still had was a champions mentality
That round was the best round of golf mentally I've ever played, he said, because I had to go through the process of every shot I stood over - every shot (I had) negative thoughts. The wheels are going to come off, start again. What do I want to do?
And I had to push myself through the process of playing a golf shot. It was like, Oh, wow, can I do it? I had to literally tick all the little things off to make it happen. So that for me was the best mental intensity I've ever given it.
The man renowned for his incredible focus suddenly had to focus like never before. And he had to do it while trying to defeat a Masters hero.
The whole sound of Augusta changed, Faldo said. We could sense what's going on - it's like you can't get involved with his emotion, you've got to stay in your own little world because if you pop out of your little world, you'll lose it.
Obviously few of us have been in that position in that arena where you realize that you can be so fragile between being so mentally tough and then something can happen and you just lose it. And one bad shot trickles off into the lake (as Norman's did on the 12th) and it's a snowball. You lose it for five seconds, and that can be Augusta gone for you.
Norman himself isnt the type to rehash a day like the 96 train wreck, though he found the week particularly revealing in one respect. Its interesting to hear how he (Faldo) felt, and obviously it was interesting for him to feel how I was feeling that day.

But if the two old protagonists dont particularly enjoy talking about the 96 Masters, they do enjoy talking about the skills of each other.
We had this incredible competitive rivalry, and I loved it because he was an intense guy to play against, said Norman. I said this on The Golf Channel show - he's a guy who would walk on the first tee, cut your heart out and hand it back to you at the end of the round. He was so intent on beating you.
And Faldo conceded that the popular conception of him as the ultimate loner was correct for a long time.
I always had the attitude that I held my cards close to my chest. I actually didn't want to socialize with golfers after a round because I just didn't want to talk golf. I liked to park it and leave it, he said.
So I think now 10 years on, I hope this is a great time. My golfing career is kind of winding down now, and I think if we can sit down at the end of the day and be able to shoot the breeze and take the mickey out of each other now that it's all over, why not?
For me, being a competitor was part of your life. But you move on, and I really like to live in the now time.
Norman conceded that the mystery of Faldo the Solitary Champion made him want to extend the invitation to his tournament, if for nothing more than getting to really know the guy who had been his No. 1 rival for a decade.

When I was sitting back thinking about it, I said, 'You know, life is too short. I haven't really understood Nick as a person, as a friend, and he probably doesn't know me as a person and as a friend, either.' I said, Why not? Life is too short.
I thought about that when I spoke to Chris Evert about it, and I thought, You know what, who was my greatest rival out there? It was Faldo. Why were we great rivals? We were great golfers.' Being great golfers doesn't necessarily need to make you great friends.
Now life has changed. He's off in the business world, I'm off in the business world, and quite honestly, we've got a lot to talk about. We've got a lot of time to catch up on.
So Norman placed the call, asking Faldo if Faldo would be his partner.

You could hear this pregnant pause at the end of the line, said Norman, laughing. I think he was pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes you've got to reach out, and sometimes youre - I'm glad I did it.
Faldo says hes sorry that he had to play golf the way he did, with a single-minded outlook which permitted him to play at a championship level but closed out completely his fellow competitors.
This is me now, he says. When I was a competitor, that was me then, and that was the only way I knew how to deal with it.
I wish, as we all do - wish you knew then what you know now. I wish I had the ability to go in and out of having fun if something happens, being able to respond to that and then click back into my golf. I didn't.
Obviously people got portrayed, Well, look at this miserable bugger on the golf course, he must be like that all the time. So I got that reputation, and I wasn't. Yes, I was committed to golf, but you have to be if you want anything from - if you're building a business or a sportsman, you've got to be committed.
But OK, this is me now. As you can hear me talk, that was then, this is the new lifestyle now. I love my life ... It's as simple as that, you know.
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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”