10 Jul 2020 | Professional golf | Feature stories |
Great Australian Moments 22: The Shark at Sandwich
by Martin Blake
Greg Norman won 91 times around the world but he never had a better single day than July 18, 1993 at Royal St George’s near Sandwich in England.
Norman’s final-round 64 to win the Open Championship for the second time is the most famous and best round of his golfing life.
It vaulted him to a two-shot win when he had started the last day in the second-last group with world No. 2 Bernhard Langer of Germany, a shot behind world No. 1 Nick Faldo of England and world No. 15 Corey Pavin of the United States, with world No. 3 Nick Price and world No. 5 Fred Couples also thereabouts.
The significance of that final day was that all the top players in the world were in the mix; Royal St George’s brought out the best of them.
Not only that, but Faldo and Langer scarcely faded. They both shot 67 that day, but Norman’s 64, six-under par, was the lowest final round by the tournament winner in Open history at the time. It overtook Tom Watson’s 65 at Turnberry in 1977, and his 267 aggregate was also a record back then.
Cometh the big moment, this was an unstoppable Greg Norman.
Both those landmarks have since been beaten by Henrik Stenson with his closing 63 and 264 aggregate at Royal Troon in 2016, but for it does not change the fact that this was a groundbreaking day for Norman, who by 1993 had already started to endure some of the heartbreak that in part, would characterise his career.
He’d been skewered by Larry Mize’s 1987 hole-out at the Masters and by his own flared four-iron into the crowd around the 18th at Augusta the year before when Jack Nicklaus won, as well as by Bob Tway’s hole-out from a bunker at the 1987 PGA Championship. Not to mention losing a playoff at the 1984 US Open at Winged Foot and at the 1989 Open Championship when he drove into a Royal Troon bunker that no one even knew was in play.
Here was a day when the Golf Gods were with Norman. Needless to say, it was overdue.
He wore a vest with a big shark logo on the back, and he striped the ball throughout, turning in 31 so that he had jumped into the lead, then closing the door on everyone when he hit his iron shot close at the par-three 16th hole and rolled the putt in.
That gave him a three-shot buffer over Faldo and wiggle room for him to miss a short putt for par at the 17th on the run home.
“Invincible,’’ was how Langer described him, and Norman himself rated it his best-ever round, delivering the quote to media that has been oft-repeated since. “I could honestly say that my entire career, I've never gone around a golf course and never missed a shot. You know, I'm just in awe of myself, the way I hit the golf ball today. It was just perfect."
Of course in Australia, this was seen as a turning of the tide for one of the country’s most popular sportsmen. Everyone thought there would be a flood of major wins coming, just as they had felt when he won the Open at Turnberry seven years earlier.
But Norman never won another major. Faldo would reel him in from six shots behind at the Masters in 1996, three years on, and the near-misses piled up. As recently as 2008 he led the Open Championship through 54 holes at 53 years of age before fading to finish third – an astonishing effort in itself.
Some of this was difficult to watch. But the glass-half-full approach suggests that if you remember Greg Norman, best think about him tearing up Royal St George’s in 1993, a golfer at the peak of his considerable powers, on the biggest stage that there is.
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