And so it has come to this. A 53-year-old looking to become the oldest winner of the Open Championship since Old Tom Morris; a part-timer who is taken in more by the layout of the courses he plays than the scores he makes; a man who has found the right balance in his life following his recent marriage to tennis legend Chris Evert; a golfer at ease with the game that has hurt him so many times before.
Whatever your opinion of Greg Norman, you have to tip your hat in recognition of the job he has done this week at Royal Birkdale. Rounds of 70, 70 and 72 have opened up a two-shot lead for the Shark and it is fitting that the two-time champion will tee off in the final pairing tomorrow with the reigning champion, Padraig Harrington. It promises to be an epic day.
Despite being mightily impressed by Norman’s game as I followed him during his first round on Thursday, I was quick to dash any hopes that he would be fighting for the Claret Jug on Sunday. Today he fought bravely, most notably against the vicious wind that cut the hopes of so many of his challengers.
Tee to green, Norman stayed on top of matters; his driving accurate with the necessary power; his iron play crisp and penetrating; his putting businesslike but also deadly. It was a polished performance from start to finish and it does make you question why many of the younger breed have not been able to match the Australian’s consistency.
Throughout the week, Norman has highlighted how his life away from the game has contributed to his form on the course. But when asked in a press conference on Thursday as to whether he would ever consider increasing his golfing schedule, Norman was determined to keep things in perspective. I’m happy, he said with a smile. There are too many things in my life away from golf now and there is no way I will go back to all that again. No way.
If Norman does win – and I’m afraid that still remains a massive if – it will be a fantastic achievement for a man who is best remembered for some of golf’s greatest chokes. Hand on heart, it may be too much to ask for, but the Great White Shark has at least proven today that he at last has the stomach for a fight. Old Tom would be proud