Augusta must beware wounded Norman

THE MASTERS: Faldo is bookies' favourite for the Masters but high- profile Australian is raring to go. Tim Glover reports
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Greg Norman, whose dream of a world tour has remained just that, was inclined to leave the United States circuit after being subjected to personal abuse from members of the public.

Norman's plan stalled when the US golf authorities announced they would not release players from their own tour. Norman was hurt by criticism in golf magazines but what really riled him was a verbal attack while he was on a family shopping trip near his home in Florida.

"This guy started shouting at me," Norman said. "He said that having made millions in America I was now betraying the country. My wife and kids had to stand there and listen to that. I thought to myself I don't need this hassle." The Australian, who has a higher profile that any other player in the world, lives in Hobe Sound where he has extensive business interests.

"My intention," he said, "was to quit America and play on the European and Australian tours. My wife talked me out of it." There is a saying in golf about beware the wounded player and there is nothing Norman would like more than to win the Masters. "I would love to show these people who the real Greg Norman is," the Great White Shark pronounced. "A world tour will happen one day and the Masters is an example of getting the best players on the best course. I can win this.''

Norman, ranked No 2 in the world, between Nick Price and Nick Faldo, has been excluded from the champions' locker-room at Augusta National although he came close to wearing the Green Jacket in 1986 and 1987. Nine years ago he had a bogey at the last, shot 70 to Jack Nicklaus's 65 and lost to the Golden Bear by a stroke. The following year he shot 72 in the final round and went into a sudden death play-off with Seve Ballesteros and Larry Mize. Ballesteros retreated to the clubhouse in tears after being eliminated at the first play-off hole, the 10th, and at the 11th Mize chipped in from miles off the green for an improbable three and Norman was denied again.

This season he has not won although he was close in Dubai and again in Manila. On the US Tour he had a great chance to win the Doral Ryder Open, made a mess of the 18th and lost by a stroke to Faldo. The Englishman abroad has been installed as the 7-1 favourite on the strength of his impressive form in America.

After winning the Doral he was runner-up in the Honda Classic and joint fifth in the Nestl Invitational. In the first round of the Players' Championship in Florida he shot 80 and missed the half-way cut, but he blamed his balls, complaining that he had played with a model that had the wrong compression.

It is not just his results in America this year that have made Faldo the favourite for there is, of course, the little matter of the man from Welwyn Garden City having a strong affinity with Augusta, which is called the Garden City. Faldo won in play-offs here in 1989 and 1990.

Faldo maintained a rich run for the foreign legion with only Fred Couples, in 1992, flying the flag for America in the last seven Masters. When Faldo was repeatedly asked by the American press to explain the success of the Europeans at a classic Yankee course, he replied that the European Tour, with its huge variety of courses and conditions, helped to fashion a hardier and more imaginative player. Last year that argument was forgotten when he decided to commit himself to the US Tour.

The odds on Faldo are not generous and more attractive propositions, in addition to Norman, are Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer and Lee Janzen. Nobody has put in more homework at Augusta National than Els. He made his debut here last year, finishing joint eighth before going on to win the US Open and last week he got to know Augusta National more intimately.

At the invitation of a member - it was the only way he could get on to the course - he and a friend played 90 holes. "We had the entire place to ourselves and I saw a totally different side to the course," Els said. In terms of putting, the exercise would not be particularly helpful for the speed of the greens and the placement of the flags would bear no relation to what Els will experience this week.

However, in negotiating the course Els thinks he has found a key. "Last year I was trying too hard to draw the ball. On a lot of the holes you can let the natural slopes of the fairways determine the result of your drives." Els's impressive power should stand him in good stead.

Whereas Langer, the champion in 1993, will take heart from the sign proclaiming "Worship the Master" outside the National Hills Baptist Church, which is just across the road from Augusta National, Els is more likely to be found having a beer in a bar. The 25-year-old South African is not a member of the bible study class. Langer, who conspicuously is, also has a realistic chance here and has found form in recent weeks.

As for Janzen he has played in three Masters and has not done better than 30th. He could do a lot better than that this week. Not only did he beat a world-class field in the TPC but Janzen, the US Open champion in 1993, has the services of Dave Musgrove, the Englishman who caddied for Sandy Lyle when Lyle won the Green Jacket seven years ago. As Janzen has won more than $1m (£625,000) in the last 15 months, Musgrove has probably more need of an accountant than his former employer.

CARD OF THE COURSE

Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par

1 400 4 10 485 4

2 555 5 11 455 4

3 360 4 12 155 3

4 205 3 13 485 5

5 435 4 14 405 4

6 180 3 15 500 5

7 360 4 16 170 3

8 535 5 17 400 4

9 435 4 18 405 4

Out 3,465 36 In 3,460 36

Total 6,925 Par 72

FIRST-ROUND TEE-OFF TIMES AT AUGUSTA

All times BST; US unless stated

1pm G Sarazen, B Nelson, S Snead

(honorary starters)

1.15 R Fehr, M Heinen

1.23 C Coody, G Brewer

1.31 S Hoch, F Nobilo (NZ)

1.39 B Casper, D Ford

1.47 J Sluman, D Waldorf

1.55 H Irwin, B Faxon

2.03 G Player (SA), *T Jackson

2.11 D Edwards, C Dennis

2.19 I Woosnam (GB), *G Yamamoto

2.35 S Lowery, J Morse

2.43 C Stadler, M A Jimenez (Sp)

2.51 M Sullivan, C Beck

2.59 L Wadkins, M Brooks

3.07 J Haas, W Grady (Aus)

3.15 F Zoeller, M Ozaki (Japan)

3.23 M Calcavecchia, J Maggert

3.31 S Lyle (GB), J Daly

3.47 J Cook, B Estes

3.55 M O'Meara, D Forsman

4.03 B Crenshaw, I Baker-Finch (Aus)

4.11 B Lietzke, B Glasson

4.19 P Azinger, D Frost (SA)

4.27 L Mize, *T Kuehne

4.35 J McGovern, D Pride

4.43 J Nicklaus, *L James

4.51 S Ballesteros (Sp), P Stewart

5.07 R Floyd, S Elkington (Aus)

5.15 K Perry, D Gilford (GB)

5.23 T Kite, V Singh (Fiji)

5.31 E Els (SA), L Janzen

5.39 G Norman (Aus), P Mickelson

5.47 T Lehman, D Love

5.55 L Roberts, M McCumber

6.03 J M Olazabal (Sp), *T Woods

6.19 B Langer (Ger), C Strange

6.27 F Couples, M McNulty (Zim)

6.35 M Springer, B Henninger

6.43 N Faldo (GB), P Jacobsen

6.51 A Palmer, T Nakajima (Japan)

6.59 N Price (Zim), C Pavin

7.07 T Watson, C Montgomerie (GB)

7.15 H Sutton, N Lancaster

7.23 B Bryant, J Huston

* denotes amateur

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