Faldo shows humanity in victory

US MASTERS: The manner of Norman's defeat will be the dominant memory. Tim Glover reports from Augusta
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Having witnessed at first hand the self-destruction of Greg Norman, Nick Faldo did not restrict himself to a ritual handshake on the 18th green at Augusta National. "I just want to give you a good hug," Faldo said as he embraced the Australian, patting him on the back repeatedly. "I felt for him. It was as simple as that."

It was a warm and fitting response from Faldo. "It was a very, very special moment," Norman said. "Nick's gone way up in my estimation." Norman had turned a six-shot lead into a five-shot deficit with a 78 to Faldo's 67, the biggest collapse in a major championship and one of the greatest man- made disasters seen in America since the Wall Street Crash.

Norman tried to put it in perspective. "It's not the end of the world," he said for about the tenth time. "I let this one get away. I'll wake up still breathing, I hope."

Faldo won his third Green Jacket but this was the first that came with a black armband. "This one's amazing isn't it?" Faldo said. "I hope it will be remembered for my 67 and storming through and not what happened to Greg."

It was a fair enough request, but the fact is the 60th Masters will always be remembered as the one that got away from the "Great White Shark". On the course a silence descended as Norman staggered through the Cathedral of Pines and grown men stared at the ground. It was like attending a bereavement. When Faldo rolled in an unnecessary putt for a birdie at the last, the reason why this will be remembered as the gutting of the Shark rather than Faldo's renaissance was perfectly clear.

Traditionally the winner of the Masters cherishes the moment and receives a hero's greeting from the crowd. On Sunday evening the spectators weren't sure whether to laugh or cry and Faldo's first response was not to raise his arms but to throw them around his opponent.

"I played like shit," Norman said. "That's probably the best way of putting it. I really got a good old ass whipping. I put all the blame on myself. I made a lot of mistakes. My swing was out of sync, my putting was out of sync. My thought pattern was good but my rhythm was out."

His mind was in turmoil. After taking bogeys at the ninth, 10th, 11th and a double-bogey at the 12th, Norman's thought pattern was not good. He hit another errant drive down the 13th and from a poor lie thought about hitting a wood. His caddie had to talk him out of it.

At the same hole Faldo, now holding a two-shot lead, had 228 yards to the flag and he addressed the ball with a five-wood. He changed his mind, took out the two-iron and rifled it to the heart of the green, perhaps the best shot he had played in the tournament. "That was for the whole shooting match right there," Norman said.

Not really. When he walked off the 12th, the Golden Bell, with a five after dumping his tee shot into the water, the game was up. "Of course I'm very disappointed," Norman said. "Nick played great golf and I played poor.

"There's not a whole lot of anguish. My life is pretty good. I'm happy. I've got pretty good control over the situation. It's not the end of my world. I'll enjoy my life, I'm very philosophical about it. You learn and you try to understand why and what happened. I may not want to learn about this one. Maybe I just screwed up bad enough with my own mistakes."

Maybe the Faldo factor got to him again. In the third round of the Open Championship at St Andrews in 1990 when they were tied for the lead, Faldo shot 67, Norman 76 and it took the Australian a couple of years to recover from the experience. Norman has gone desperately close to winning the Masters on numerous occasions, but what made his disintegration here all the more shocking is that in the third round when he was paired with Faldo he shot a 71 to the Englishman's 73 to increase the lead he had established with a record-equalling 63 in the first round.

The assumption was that Faldo - the only time he three-putted in the entire tournament was at the 15th on Saturday - had blown his chance but we reckoned without the F factor.

Faldo was in good spirits despite his 73 because he was still in second place and therefore would be paired with Norman again. "My goal was to shoot a 65 or a 66. I was trying to chip away at him."

As well as Faldo played - his 67 was the best round on Sunday - Norman gave the impression of being the biggest choker since the Boston Strangler. I am quite sure that had he been paired with, say, Phil Mickelson, in the final round, Norman would have dispelled the demons that have been haunting him around Augusta National.

Being paired with Faldo is one of the ultimate tests. For one thing he is extremely slow (he was warned about slow play here, his seventh warning on the US Tour this season), a grinder and an intimidating force to have in your shadow when all you want to do is slip into a Green Jacket and change in the champions' locker-room with the other Masters.

There is ample evidence at Augusta National of the Faldo factor. In 1989 Scott Hoch (the name rhymes with choke) went into a sudden death play- off with Faldo and missed a two-foot putt at the first extra hole, the 10th, which would have won him the Masters. Faldo finished him off at the 11th.

The following year Faldo was in another play-off and this time the victim was Ray Floyd. Again the denouement was at the 11th where the American hit his second shot into the lake. Floyd on fish. When poor old Norman got into a play-off here in 1987 an anonymous Augustan by the name of Larry Mize chipped in at the 11th to deny the Australian.

In 1989, Faldo's aggregate was 283, in 1990, 278, and on Sunday it was 276, 12 under par, a target he had predicted earlier in the week would be sufficient to win. "I didn't think I would win this week," Faldo said. "My goal was simply to have a good tournament. The big thrill is to go out and do it on the day. You never know when you've got another win in you. It's a great feeling to know you still have it.

"The Masters has excessive pressure. The course requires the highest degree of accuracy and strategy. I was in control of things. I never left myself any scary putts. There's a fine line between shooting in the 60s and in the 70s. I hit all the shots where I intended to.

"Once I realised Greg was in trouble I got harder. Not on myself, just doing everything a little bit better. The pressure was immense."

Faldo said of Norman: "He's a great player,a great competitor. He's a credit to the game and the game needs him out there all the time.

"I genuinely feel sorry for him. What he's been through is horrible. It's hard to repair that but he'll be all right."

The first crack in Norman's game appeared as early as the first hole where he missed the fairway, hit his second into a bunker and dropped a stroke. He went to the turn in 38 to Faldo's 34 and suffered a particularly cruel blow at the 11th where his putt for a birdie shaved the hole and he missed the short one coming back. The 11th has been good to Faldo. When Norman walked to the 12th tee he was out of control. Faldo, though, was aware that the 41-year-old Australian had lost it at the 10th where he mis-hit a chip shot.

Norman agreed this was the most disappointing single round of his career. "I've seen what the game gives you and what it takes from you. Maybe these hiccups that I inflict on myself are meant for another reason. I don't know. There must be a reason. I think there's something waiting for me down the line that's going to be good for me.

"My life's not over yet. Something good is going to happen before my career is over. I really believe that. All of this is just a test. I'm a winner, I just didn't win here. I'm not a loser in life. I'm not a loser in golf tournaments. I'm a perfectionist. If I wanted to be a brain surgeon I could."

Norman has just made $40m (pounds 26.4m) from shares in the golf club company, Cobra. "You see, there's a good thing about life. I've got something that other people haven't got. I've got 40 million bucks. God, I'd love to be putting the Green Jacket on. I'm sad about it, I'm going to regret it but it's not the end of the world for me."

He's got 40 million and he can't buy a Green Jacket.

NORMAN'S CHOKES

Greg Norman has led seven majors going into the last round and has won only one of them.

1986 Masters led by one, bogeys the last to lose by one to Jack Nicklaus.

1986 US Open led by one, shoots 75 and finishes 12th, six behind Ray Floyd.

1986 Open led by one, shoots 69 and wins by five.

1986 US PGA led by four, shoots 76 and loses when Bob Tway holes from bunker in play-off

1993 US PGA led by one, shoots 69, but loses play-off to Paul Azinger.

1995 US Open co-leader, shoots 73 and finishes second two behind Corey Pavin

1996 Masters led by six, shoots 78 and loses by five to Nick Faldo.

EUROPE AND THE MASTERS

1980 SEVE BALLESTEROS

1981 Tom Watson

1982 Craig Stadler

1983 SEVE BALLESTEROS

1984 Ben Crenshaw

1985 BERNHARD LANGER

1986 Jack Nicklaus

1987 Larry Mize

1988 SANDY LYLE

1989 NICK FALDO

1990 NICK FALDO

1991 IAN WOOSNAM

1992 Fred Couples

1993 BERNHARD LANGER

1994 JOSE-MARIA OLAZABAL

1995 Ben Crenshaw

1996 NICK FALDO

THE ALL-TIME GREATS

18 majors Jack Nicklaus (6 Masters, 4 US Opens, 3 Opens, 5 US PGAs)

10 Walter Hagen (2 US Opens, 4 Opens, 4 US Opens)

9 Ben Hogan (2 Masters, 4 US Opens, 1 Open, 2 US PGAs)

Gary Player (3 Masters, 1 US Open, 3 Opens, 2 US PGAs)

8 Tom Watson (2 Masters, 1 US Open, 5 Opens)

7 Arnold Palmer (4 Masters, 1 US Open, 2 Opens)

Bobby Jones (4 US Opens, 3 Opens)

Sam Snead (3 Masters, 1 Open, 3 US PGAs)

Gene Sarazen (1 Masters, 2 US Open, 1 Open, 3 US PGAs)

6 NICK FALDO (3 Masters, 3 Opens)

Harry Vardon (6 Opens)

Lee Trevino (2 US Opens, 2 Opens, 2 US PGAs)

5 J H Taylor (5 Opens)

James Braid (5 Opens)

Peter Thomson (5 Opens)

Seve Ballesteros (2 Masters, 3 Opens).

1996 FINAL SCORES

US MASTERS (US unless stated)

276 N Faldo (GB) 69 67 73 67 (pounds 300,000). 281 G Norman (Aus) 63 69 71 78 (pounds 180,000). 282 P Mickelson 65 73 72 72 (pounds 113,000). 283 F Nobilo (NZ) 71 71 72 69 (pounds 80,000). 284 S Hoch 67 73 73 71; D Waldorf 72 71 69 72 (pounds 63,500 each). 285 D Love III 72 71 74 68; J Maggert 71 73 72 69; C Pavin 75 66 73 71 (pounds 51,966 each). 286 D Frost (SA) 70 68 74 74; S McCarron 70 70 72 74 (pounds 43,350 each). 287 B Tway 67 72 76 72; L Janzen 68 71 75 73; E Els (SA) 71 71 72 73 (pounds 32,233 each). 288 F Couples 78 68 71 71; M Calcavecchia 71 73 71 73 (pounds 28,300 each). 289 J Huston 71 71 71 76 (pounds 26,700). 290 P Azinger 70 74 76 70; M O'Meara 72 71 75 72; T Lehman 75 70 72 73; N Price (Zim) 71 75 70 74; D Duval 73 72 69 76. 291 L Mize 75 71 77 68; L Roberts 71 73 72 75. 292 R Floyd 70 74 77 71; B Faxon 69 77 72 74. 293 B Estes 71 71 79 72; J Leonard 72 74 75 72. 294 J Furyk 75 70 78 71; J Gallagher Jnr 70 76 77 71; H Irwin 74 71 77 72; S Simpson 69 76 76 73; C Stadler 73 72 71 78; J Daly 71 74 71 78; I Woosnam (GB) 72 69 83 80. 295 F Funk 71 72 76 76; J Haas 70 73 75 77; B Langer 75 70 72 78. 296 C Montgomerie (GB) 72 74 75 75; V Singh (Fiji) 69 71 74 82. 297 S Lowery 71 74 75 77; J Nicklaus 70 73 76 78; 299 S Ballesteros (Sp) 73 73 77 76. 302 A Cejka (Ger) 73 71 78 80.

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