Faldo's glory after Norman's capitulation

Golf

Nick Faldo, the Masters champion in 1989 and 1990, won another Green Jacket yesterday as Greg Norman suffered the most dramatic, and the saddest, collapse in the history of the Masters. The Great White Shark has a reputation for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and here he showed the world why. Followers of blood sports would not have found this a pretty sight.

Norman, who led by six strokes going into the final round, was overtaken by Faldo as early as the 12th hole at which point the Englishman held a two-stroke lead. Faldo rose to the occasion with a 67 and Norman had a 78. At the end of it Faldo engaged Norman in a long embrace and repeatedly patted him on the back. Both were in tears. "I let it get away," Norman said. "It's not the end of the world. I screwed up but I'm not a loser. I've got 40m bucks." Faldo said: "I didn't think it would end that way. I feel genuinely sorry for Greg. It was unbelievably nerve-wracking."

Norman bogeyed the ninth, the 10th, the 11th, and when he double-bogeyed the 12th, he had dropped to seven under par for the tournament and was two strokes adrift of Faldo. Norman was already gutted when he walked to the tee of the 12th, the Golden Bell which, at 155 yards, is the shortest hole at Augusta National. Norman came up short, his ball pitched on the bank and rolled back into the lake. On Saturday he had done the same thing but got away with it with a brave pitch and putt. Yesterday he recorded a double bogey five. In the first three rounds Norman gave the impression that he could walk on water. Yesterday he may as well have been playing in wellingtons.

In a head to head with Faldo the Shark was out of his depth. Norman had five successive fives from the eighth and the beginning of Amen Corner, the 11th and 12th, finished him. When he again hit it into the water at the short 16th for another double-bogey five, it was simply confirmation that all the qualities he had displayed in the first three rounds-timing, nerve, courage and confidence, had completely evaporated. He was almost ready for burial at sea. When Norman disturbed the turtles at the 16th even Faldo showed signs of embarrassment. He ran a hand through his hair and stared at the ground. A boxing referee would have stopped the contest.

This time last year, Norman walked into the bar of the clubhouse of Augusta National, ordered a six pack, placed them in a plastic bag, accompanied with ice cubes, tipped the head barman $50 and took his takeaway onto his private jet for a flight back to the sunshine state.

He'd shot his third successive 68 of the 59th Masters for an aggregate of 277 and once again had come up short. Ben Crenshaw fitted into the Green Jacket with a score three strokes better than Norman. It was a familiar scenario for the Great White Shark, the perennial world No 1 who could beat the best in the world on his day but his day never came at Augusta. At 41, he was poised to become the oldest first-time winner of the Masters and the first Australian. Norman seems destined to wear a hairshirt rather than the Green Jacket. It is difficult to see him winning another major after this experience.

Norman led by four strokes from Faldo after the second round at 12 under par and by six after the third when the Englishman failed to make an impression. In 1990, they were paired together in the third round of the Open Championship at St Andrews and Faldo destroyed him with a 67 to a 76 en route to a comfortable victory. For 1990 read 1996 and change the set but not the scenario.

Yesterday Faldo had the encouragement of early signs of fallibility from Norman. There could have been a two-stroke swing on the first hole but Faldo left his birdie putt short. Norman was in a bunker at the first and dropped a stroke and he was lucky at the second where his approach shot ran through the green into the crowd. Norman, just off the green, chipped to within a matter of inches of the cup to secure a birdie and Faldo also got a four there.

Norman, having got back to 13 under par, dropped a shot at the short fourth where he found a bunker and his lead over Faldo was down to four. Just when he needed to maintain the pressure, Faldo played an ill-judged shot at the fifth, his ball ran through the green and nestled in a bunker. He came out to about seven feet and missed, making his first bogey of the round. It was also his last. Faldo has now won six majors, three Opens and three Masters, and Norman has been restricted to two Opens. The statistic that sticks in Norman's craw is that he has led major championships on six occasions after three rounds and won only one of them, the Open at Turnberry in 1986. He had a four shot lead there going into the final round.

The only time Norman led the Masters entering the final round was 10 years ago. He shot 70 but a pushed approach shot on the 72nd and final hole cost him a bogey and a chance to take Jack Nicklaus into a sudden death play-off. In 16 Masters appearances, Norman has finished second three times and third twice. In 1987, he went into a play-off with Larry Mize and Seve Ballesteros and after seeing off the Spaniard on the first extra hole, he had Mize on toast. Norman was safely on in two at the 11th and Mize missed the green, badly to the right. Then he chipped in for a birdie three and the colour, not for the first time, drained from Norman's cheeks. "I've been there before and there is no better feeling than having a chance of winning a major championship," Norman said. "I'm going to enjoy the moment." He did not look as if he was enjoying it yesterday. When Faldo birdied the eighth, Norman's cushion was less comfortable: three strokes and that was reduced to two when the Australian dropped another shot at the ninth. Norman went to the turn in 38, two over, Faldo in 34. Now it was Faldo who was scenting blood, not the Great White Shark. Norman missed the green at the 10th, his chip was too strong and he missed the putt coming back: bogey five, another shot dropped and his lead was down to one.

Colin Montgomerie was probably experiencing deja vu. On Saturday he went to the turn in 35, came home in 40 and had a triple bogey eight at the 15th. Yesterday he went to the turn in 35, came home in 40 and had an eight at the 15th. He finished at eight over par.

Frank Nobilo, a New Zealander who plays on the European Tour, made his debut here last year and missed the cut. Yesterday he had four birdies in a row from the eighth and finished fourth behind Faldo, Norman and Phil Mickelson.

Final scores from the Masters

276

N Faldo (GB) 69 67 73 67

281

G Norman (Aus) 63 69 71 78

282

P Mickelson 65 73 72 72

283

F Nobilo (NZ) 71 71 72 69

284

S Hoch 67 73 73 71

D Waldorf 72 71 69 72

285

D Love III 72 71 74 68

J Maggert 71 73 72 69

C Pavin 75 66 73 71

286

D Frost (SA) 70 68 74 74

S McCarron 70 70 72 74

287

B Tway 67 72 76 72

L Janzen 68 71 75 73

E Els (SA) 71 71 72 73

288

F Couples 78 68 71 71

M Calcavecchia 71 73 71 73

289

J Huston 71 71 71 76

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 73 80

295

F Funk 71 72 76 76 76

J Haas 70 73 75 77

B Langer (Ger) 75 70 72 78

V Singh (Fiji) 69 71 74 82

296

C Montgomerie (GB)

72 74 75 75

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

US unless stated

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