Norman '96 and Spieth '16 - the two don't compare

By Joe PosnanskiApril 13, 2016, 1:40 pm

Yes, it’s obvious why people compare Jordan Spieth’s rather unfortunate blow-up on Sunday with what Greg Norman did in 1996. There are so many similarities. Both were shocking collapses. Both happened at Augusta National. Both men plunked a ball in the water at No. 12. Both had huge leads and were devastated after losing the Masters.

But having been there for both disasters – and having thought about it a bit – I realize that the two are completely different. One is just something that happens. The other, well, is a Greek tragedy.

Let's face it: Jordan Spieth’s troubles Sunday were only shocking because he’s Jordan Spieth. If his name had been Jugsy McSquirrelbottom, and he had surprised his way to a big lead going into the back nine on Sunday, we might have expected him to hit the ball in the water twice at No. 12. After all: That's a devastating little hole. Even Nicklaus, in his sweeping run to to glory in 1986, bogeyed No. 12.

You will remember Jean van de Velde. He triple-bogeyed the 72nd hole at the 1999 Open Championship when a double bogey would have won him the claret jug. It was one of the most jolting things I've ever witnessed, no question, but in retrospect was it all that surprising? Van de Velde was Rocky Balboa, an affable and middling pro who, for one brief moment, found himself under the hottest spotlight in golf. Sure, that last hole was crazy. But it was crazier that the guy was in position to win the Open in the first place.

Spieth’s brief but potent three-hole blackout is so common in professional golf we hardly even think about it. Look at Hideki Matsuyama, a fantastic player ranked No. 13 in the world. He was in good position to contend on Sunday. He went bogey-bogey-double bogey on holes 4 through 6 to drop out of contention. That sort of meltdown happens to great players at just about every major championship.

So what made Spieth’s quadruple bogey at No. 12 stand out is that he seemed utterly immune from such things. He almost won the Masters his first time out! He led for seven straight rounds! He was in contention to win all four majors last year! We had come to believe that Spieth invulnerable to pressure and anxiety and golf's gravity. Turns out, unsurprisingly, he’s is not.

What happened to Greg Norman in 1996 is completely different.

One of the most fascinating baseball players ever is Nolan Ryan. This may not sound connected but it is. Ryan is utterly fascinating because he decided early in his career what kind of pitcher he would be and he never, ever backed down from it. Ryan tried to strike out every single hitter he ever faced. Each battle with the hitter was personal to him.  It didn’t matter the score, it didn’t matter the pitch count, it didn’t matter the quality of hitter. You and me. Let’s go.

This stubbornness pushed Ryan to strike out more hitters (5,714) than anyone else ever will. He struck out 300 batters at age 42 – nobody else will ever do that. The stubbornness pushed him to throw seven no-hitters – nobody else will ever do that, either.



But with such singular purpose came unintended consequences. Ryan tried for corners and swings-and-misses, and in doing so he walked 2,795 batters, about 1,000 more than any other pitcher in baseball history. Those walks hurt a lot, especially because Ryan did not particularly care about holding on base runners. They ran at will against him. Ryan was also an error-prone fielder. He always seemed surprised when the ball came back. These seemingly minor flaws made the almost-unhittable Ryan surprisingly beatable in his career. His 292 losses are the most for any pitcher since 1900. Pitcher losses are not a particularly revealing stat but, hey, that’s a lot of losses. Ryan was unable or unwilling to adjust his pitching style so it was less spectacular and perhaps more effective. He made his choice to be awesome.

Norman, I think, made a similar choice. Nobody played a more thrilling or daring brand of golf than Norman. He was the Shark. He hunted for eagles. He hunted for birdies. There wasn’t a flagstick out of his reach. There wasn’t a bunker he couldn’t fly over. Year after year, all around the world, Norman would show up and dazzle everyone with the most majestic and awe-inspiring shots in the game. He was the player who left other players gasping.

Take the second round at Turnberry at the 1986 Open Championship. The conditions were pretty brutal; Norman himself had called the course “humiliating” just one day earlier. Put this way: Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, who had played their famous Duel in the Sun here just a few years earlier, both shot over par. Norman shot 63 – he had a putt on the final hole to shoot a major-championship-record 62. He missed a couple of other putts or he might have shot 60. Numerous players, including Watson and Nick Price, would call it the greatest exhibition of golf they had ever seen, at least until Tiger Woods came along more than a decade later.

Norman had that kind of talent, and he flaunted it. He attacked relentlessly. He would talk every now and again of dialing it back, but like the scorpion in the story, going at flags was just in his nature. And it led to a beautiful career. Norman won 85 times around the world. He had two glorious Open Championship victories, the first a runaway, the last a tour de force against a star-studded leaderboard at Royal St. George’s. There he shot a final-round 64, leaving a jaw-dropped Gene Sarazen to say, “I never thought I’d see golf played like that.” Norman became the most famous player in the world, an international superstar, a hugely rich entrepreneur and the one every kid wanted to become.

And the unintended consequences? Right: Norman kept losing in heartbreaking ways at major championships. In 1984, he sank a ridiculously long putt at the U.S. Open to reach a playoff with Fuzzy Zoeller. He lost the playoff by eight shots.

In 1986, it’s easy to forget, he was tied with Nicklaus for the lead, and he hit a perfect drive on 18. He went for the birdie because he’s Greg Norman. He pushed his approach into the gallery and bogeyed the hole to lose. “He wanted to make history,” his caddie Pete Bender would tell Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly. “He wasn’t going to go for the middle of the green.”

He was leading the 1986 U.S. Open by a shot when hecklers called him choker and got under his skin. He walked over to them and challenged them to show up after the round. They did not, but Norman was toast and shot 75 on the last day to fall off the leaderboard.  Two months later, at the PGA Championship, he shot 76 on the last day and lost when Bob Tway made up a four-shot deficit and dropped a bunker shot from what would be known as Tway's Trap.

On and on it goes. At the 1987 Masters, Norman got beat when Larry Mize chipped in from 140 feet away in the playoff. In 1989, Norman was tied for the lead in Augusta and he bogeyed the 18th hole again. Same year, he made it into an Open Championship playoff with Mark Calcavecchia and Wayne Grady and, on the fourth hole, he hit it into a bunker, then another bunker, then out of bounds. He never finished the hole. Calcavecchia won the four-hole playoff with scores of 4-3-3-3. Norman’s score officially is 3-3-4-x.

In 1990 at the Open Championship, Norman shot 12 under the first two days and was tied with Nick Faldo for the lead. On Saturday, he shot a 76.

“Disastrous,” Faldo called it.

In 1993, just a few weeks after his titanic performance at Royal St. George’s, he lost a playoff to Paul Azinger at the PGA Championship, giving Norman the unfortunate distinction of being the only man who has ever lost all four major championships in a playoff. Like Ryan’s walk record, nobody will ever touch that record.

Norman turned 40 in 1995 and was reborn as a player after working with Butch Harmon. That was the year that many people called him the greatest driver of the ball the game had yet seen. But still he could not quite compose himself and win at the majors. At the Masters, he was in position to make a run at Ben Crenshaw when he went for birdie at 17 (of course) and was over aggressive (of course) and spun the ball back off the green, making bogey. At the U.S. Open, he led going into the final day and then shot a 73, allowing Corey Pavin to come from off the pace to take it away from him.

All of this is an important backdrop for the 1996 calamity. With Spieth, we just couldn't imagine him blowing it. With Norman, we could not imagine him winning it. But for the first three days, Norman played almost surreal golf. He tied the Masters record with a 63 on Thursday, making him the only players to shoot 63s at two different major championships. He increased his lead to four shots the second day and to six shots going into Sunday. It was all over as this Cincinnati columnist wrote for that Sunday morning:

“Norman has turned the Masters into a White Shark music video. He leads the one-man, off-Broadway production by six shots and nobody is in second place.”

“You know,” says Nick Faldo, the leading candidate for finishing second, “anything’s possible.”

“People always say that, but you know, not anything is possible. Norman is focused. This tournament is over, history, done.”

Ha ha, what a goofball … oh, wait, that was me. Well, it did seem over, even with Norman’s history. He had done a lot of losing in the big tournaments, but he had never botched a six-shot lead at the Masters. It did not even seem in the realm of possibility. This was going to be the day of justice for Norman’s career. He would finally win the most glamorous tournament, and he would win it Norman style, pulling away, the first Australian to win the Masters, the culmination of a death-defying career of shooting at pins.

And maybe that’s why it didn’t happen. Maybe he wanted it too much. Maybe there was just too much scarring. Whatever, he looked out of sorts from the start, bogeying the first hole. By the time he made the turn, his lead over Faldo was just two shots. Then came the back nine, and Faldo did what Faldo was famous for doing – he went par-par-par on the first three killer holes of the second nine. Norman went bogey, bogey, double bogey, the last of those a water ball on the 12th hole. The groans rumbled. Faldo went to the 13th hole leading by two shots. The last few holes for Norman were agony ... for him and everyone watching.

It’s tempting to say the Norman was never the same after that, but it isn’t quite right. He was 41 years old, remember, so the sun was setting anyway. He had five more top-10 finishes at major championships. He even led the Masters one more time on a Sunday in 1999.

So, it’s not really right to compare Spieth’s struggles on Sunday with Norman in 1996. Spieth is 22, and he has played Augusta about as well as anyone, and he just had one of the greatest years in recent history. He says it will be tough to recover, and I’m sure he will have a few sleepless hours when he thinks about the 12th hole, but every great player has those sorts of regrets. You imagine that he will be fine.

Norman in 1996, meanwhile, was the climax of an operatic golfing life. He tried to birdie the world. It brought him a lot of victories. It brought him a lot of heartache, too.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 9:00 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.


Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.


Full-field scores from the American Century Championship


''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh hit a perfect approach to set up the winning playoff birdie. His celebration as the ball rolled into the cup was nowhere near as spectacular.

Singh closed the door on Jeff Maggert on the second playoff hole to win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday, giving an understated fist pump as his birdie putt dropped from about 2 feet. It was the first major title on the PGA Tour Champions for the 55-year-old Fijian, a past winner of the Masters and two PGA Championships.

''It's a little different,'' Singh said. ''It's a senior major, you know, so it's - any time you win a tournament no matter what it is, you feel accomplishment, and that's what I feel. I feel like I played well, and it's a win. A win is a win.''

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268 at Exmoor Country Club. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert began the day tied with McCarron and Bart Bryant for the lead. Singh was one shot back, but a crowd at the top of the leaderboard thinned out, turning it into a two-man race.

''I wasn't really watching the scoreboard or Vijay,'' Maggert said. ''Like I said, I thought I needed to shoot 5-, 6-, 7-under today to really kind of ice it. So I was really focused in on making seven or eight birdies today. ... You know, I thought some other scores would come into play there toward the end, but the last two or three groups looked like they were struggling, other than me and Vijay.''

Singh and Maggert posted identical scores through the first 15 holes. But Maggert bogeyed 16, and then missed chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

''We played toe-to-toe all day,'' Maggert said. ''He hit a nice shot on 18, and I had a chance to make a few putts throughout the day, but they just didn't go in.''


Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players


Singh made just one bogey this week, and that came in the third round. He had five birdies Sunday and made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But Singh blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par and send a senior major to a playoff for the first time since the 2015 Regions Tradition.

Singh played sporadically on the over-50 tour during his first few years of eligibility but is playing more often against men his age these days.

''To win the first major on this tour, I'm really excited about that,'' Singh said. ''Winning my first tournament at the beginning of the year was big, and now I've won this one, so I look forward to winning a lot more now. I always say, the first one, you get the first one out of the way, you can win a lot more after that.''

McCarron was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

Bryant (72) and Kenny Perry (68) finished in a pack at 16 under. Illinois golf coach Mike Small (71) finished one shot behind them, while three-time champion Bernhard Langer closed with a 74 to finish at 12 under after starting the day two strokes back.