Strangely for a man who reigned at the summit of the World Rankings for the best part of a decade, Greg Norman’s darkest days have come on the game’s grandest stages. On no fewer than seven occasions has the Australian held the lead going into the fourth round of a Major, and yet for all his bite and tenacity, the ‘Great White Shark’ has become all too brittle and erratic when opponents have sniffed out any scent of self-doubt.
Only once has such Saturday supremacy seen Norman over the finishing line safely in one of the big four – at the 1986 Open. But during that same year, he surrendered third-round leads in all three other Majors; at Augusta he was charged down by Jack Nicklaus; Ray Floyd smothered hopes at the US Open; a miraculous bunker shot from Bob Tway thwarted victory at the USPGA.
Despite being labelled as an easy touch by some, Norman was still regarded by his peers as the man to beat. There was also the accepted wisdom that his shortcomings came as a result of his opponents’ skill being splashed with a savage dose of bad luck on his part. But then, on April 14, 1996, the golfing world witnessed perhaps the most notorious Sunday crumble in Major history when the then 41-year-old blew a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo at Augusta National. Just as Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly had commented: “Where there is a Saturday lead for Norman, there are always Sunday banana peels.”