Greg Norman’s play at Augusta National from day 1 to 3 will always be remembered as solid and consistent. Long drives rolling along the undulating fairways, approach shots kissing the pin and 12 foot puts seeming to go down with ease. His day 4 performances however are etched in US Masters history as heartbreaking, more reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy than real life.
The heartache began in 1986. Norman, after making an astounding final day charge, hit a 5-iron from the middle of the fairway on 18 in hopes of landing on the green and making birdie to go into the clubhouse one shot over Jack Nicklaus.
Instead Norman watched on in horror as his shot sliced wide landing far back in the gallery. Norman was able to salvage a chance for par with an excellent chip, but witnessed his putt run past the hole causing him to lose by one stroke.
At the very next US Masters in 1987 Norman was again in a position to take home the coveted green jacket. On 18 he stood over a birdie putt with the chance to go 4-under par and claim victory. Norman missed his putt, reminiscent of the miss the year before, and went into a playoff with Seve Ballesteros and Larry Mize.
Ballesteros was eliminated on the first playoff hole and on the second hole Norman stood and watched as Mize made one of the most famous shots in US Masters history. He chipped from the back of the green, the ball rolled inexorably towards then into the hole, giving Mize his first and last Major victory.
The final act of Norman’s three part tragedy occurred in 1996. He went into the final round with a six shot lead over eventual winner Nick Faldo, a lead that slowly deteriorated as Norman didn’t have anywhere close to his best game.
On the 9th tee he had a three shot lead over Faldo and in a remarkable turnaround by the 13th tee he trailed by two. Eventually Norman would go on to place second in the tournament, 5 shots back of Faldo, somehow managing to keep a positive attitude in the post tournament interview.
“Yeah I know I screwed up today but it’s not the end of the world for me it really is not,” Norman said.
Norman seemed to own the Masters with nine top 5 finishes from 1981-1999. On multiple occasions victory seemed to be in hand, but it wasn’t to be.
“God I would love to be putting on this green jacket but it’s not the end of the world, my life is going to continue,” said Norman after the 1996 tournament.
You can’t help but feel sorry for the 56-year old Australian who had victory at the Masters snatched from his hands not only by opponents but his own play as well.
It seems as long as people talk about Norman, they will talk of how Augusta National was able to the leave “The Shark” toothless and without a green jacket.