15 Jul 2021 | Professional golf |
Open flashback: The Shark's greatest day
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
It was perhaps typical of Greg Norman’s career that what he accomplished on the Sunday of The Open Championship on the links of Royal St George’s on England’s Channel coast in 1993 was somewhat overshadowed by what he said shortly thereafter. “I’m not a person who boasts, but I have to say that at this moment I am in awe of myself,” Norman said to the assembled media of his final round 6-under 64 to secure a two-stroke victory and a second major championship. “The golf I played out there was just perfect. I have never before gone round a golf course and not mishit a single full shot.” Many took it as further evidence of an ego they believed prevented him from winning more majors but 28 years later, Norman tells Australian Golf Digest that he was somewhat surprised by the reaction his post-round comments elicited. “I didn’t really care how some of the journalists took that comment,” Norman says in the July issue. “It wasn’t a comment of arrogance; it was a comment of confidence. “When you do feel you’re capable of doing things that other people can’t, that’s a great feeling to have. It’s a reflection of your own confidence and your own ability to do something.” In Norman’s defence, he wasn’t the only person in awe of a round that went into the record books as the lowest in the final round by the Open champion. “Some of the most powerful, most perfect golf witnessed in an Open Championship,” David Davies wrote in The Guardian. “When in future, Opens are assessed and the great battles are adjudicated upon, Royal St George’s 1993 will rank with Turnberry 1977, with Muirfield 1987 and Royal Lytham 1988.” WHAT CAME BEFORE Although arch-rival Nick Faldo was dominating the top spot of the Official World Golf Rankings in 1993, Norman remained a dominant force. Winner of the Doral Ryder Open in March, in the 13 events that Norman had played that year leading up to the Open he finished in the top five six times, missed only one cut at the US Open and had only one more finish outside the top 10, the 1993 Masters. Two weeks prior to his arrival in England Norman had finished runner-up to Nick Price at the Western Open yet he wasn’t among the top five picks with the bookmakers to leave Royal St George’s with the Claret Jug. Faldo, Price, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Payne Stewart were all more fancied picks than Norman at 16-1 who was attracting more attention for his Reebok wardrobe than his recent run of form. His long-time sponsor launched a new “superior fashion line” using Norman as its clothes horse for the week of The Open, its colourful design not gelling with the English golf cognoscenti, Mike Selwey describing his ensemble in The Guardian as being put together by “someone with a sense of humour but not of colour.” But whether he read it or not, the underlying tone within the media was the doubt as to whether Norman the golfer could surpass the deeds of Norman the businessman. “He has a garage full of Ferraris, a helicopter, a luxury yacht and enough money to run his own golf circuit,” Renton Laidlaw wrote in Monday’s Evening Standard. “What he doesn’t have, yet, is a second Open success.” HOW IT UNFOLDED Hitting your tee shot into knee-high rough, hacking your ball three times in the space of 100 yards and putting out for a double-bogey is the opening scene of a triumphant underdog movie, not the accepted way to win a major championship. Yet that was what Norman was forced to confront and he did so in very pragmatic fashion. “I told myself there are 71 more holes to go,” Norman would later say. He made the turn in even par but there was little indication of the fireworks to follow when he fell to 1-over with a bogey at the 11th hole. First came a tap-in birdie from 18 inches at the 13th. Then Norman chipped in for birdie at 14. He lasered another iron into two feet at 15, rolled in a 24-footer at 16 and a five-footer at 17 for five birdies on the trot. A 15-footer to save par from the sand at the last meant that Norman needed just five putts over the closing six holes to post 4-under 66 and join fellow Australian Peter Senior and American Mark Calcavecchia at the top of the leaderboard after day one. Faldo dominated the headlines on day two with a 7-under par round of 63 that earned him the halfway lead, one stroke clear of Langer with Norman a further stroke back after a round of 2-under 68. With Ian Baker-Finch (67) and Wayne Grady (64) showing that the Sandwich course still held some vulnerability after rain earlier in the week, Norman set about applying pressure to Faldo and Langer in Round 3. His round of one-under 69 was enough to keep him within one of the lead shared by Faldo (70) and American Corey Pavin (68) through 54 holes and level with Langer (70) in a tie for third. Norman’s display on day four however would forever end criticism as a one-major wonder that had dogged him ever since his victory at Turnberry seven years earlier. With Faldo waiting to tee off in the group behind, Norman drew level with a birdie from eight feet at the first and decided that the best option was to play from in front from that point on. A Faldo bogey at four gave Norman the lead for the first time since Friday morning and a birdie at six and another tap-in at nine saw the blond Aussie make the turn in 3-under. A par save was crucial at 11 and a birdie from four feet at 12 gave him a three-stroke advantage with six holes left to play. After watching Langer blaze his tee shot at 14 into the adjacent Prince’s course and out of bounds, Norman embraced his reputation as the game’s greatest driver of the golf ball to split the fairway in spectacular fashion. A birdie followed along with another at 16 and although he missed from close range to bogey the 17th, Norman came within a whisker of a closing birdie on the 72nd hole that would have matched the lowest score in major championship history. His round of six-under 64 did set a new mark however as the lowest final round by an Open champion and contributed to the lowest aggregate score of 267, records that both tumbled with Henrik Stenson’s closing 63 at Troon in 2016. WHAT FOLLOWED Although he shrugged the monkey off the back by winning a second major championship, Norman continued to endure heartbreak at the game’s showpiece events, most notably the 1996 Masters. He won a further 13 times between that Open victory and the 1998 Greg Norman Holden International and returned to No.1 in the world in February 1994, 149 of his 331 weeks as the world’s best according to the world rankings coming in the years after his win at Royal St George’s. Beyond his extraordinary playing prowess, Norman established a business empire that continues on unabated, golf courses, residential estates, wines, clothing, eyewear and beef all part of the Greg Norman Company portfolio. Voted as Australia’s Greatest Golfer in a fan poll conducted by the PGA of Australia last year, Norman was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001 and in 2015 the Greg Norman Medal was unveiled by the PGA of Australia, awarded annually for the Australian deemed to have been the best performed golfer in a single year.
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