Let your imagination run riot and the script will not match the drama of events to come. On the morning of the final round of the US Masters, even the dogwood and azaleas tingle with anticipation.
Not this Sunday. The press room was hard at work. "Greg Norman yesterday buried the demons of Masters disasters past - Larry Mize et al - to become, at 41, the oldest first-time winner of a green jacket..." For those working against a five-hour time difference, the story was already written. In Australia, it was already rolling off the presses.
Everyone was unanimous. Not even the Great White Tadpole could lose this one from six in front. "Greg, not even you can muck this one up," the late lamented Peter Dobereiner told Norman on Saturday evening. If Dobereiner has ascended to a better place, Norman still does not have the key to the upstairs champions' locker room at Augusta.
That afternoon, Norman, who had equalled the course record with a 63 in the first round, took possession of the record for the biggest lead ever lost in a major championship. His pulled drive at the first hole, setting up a bogey, may have only cut his advantage over Nick Faldo from six to five shots, but it showed the Australian's game was just a fraction off. At Augusta, that is too much.
The course was playing hard and fast, the landing area for approach shots on the greens no more than five square feet (and not necessarily anywhere near the hole). While Norman went for the flags as usual, Faldo finessed his way into the target areas. While the overall result recalled the third round of the 1990 Open, Faldo recreated the brilliance of his last four holes (after he had let a comfortable lead slip to John Cook) at Muirfield in '92. Except he did it for all 18 holes.
Six shots changed hands from the eighth to the 12th. Norman's approach spun off the front of the ninth green, his chip was too strong at the tenth and he missed from 18 inches at the next. At the short 12th, his tee shot was sucked into the water off the bank. Two ahead, Faldo produced an inspired two-iron at the par-five 13th, and when Norman again found water at the 16th it was all over.
Faldo shot a 67, the best score of the day, Norman a 78, an 11-shot swing. On the 18th, the adversaries embraced. "I told him I didn't know what to say, I just wanted to give him a hug," Faldo said.
Norman added: "What he said brought tears to my eyes. He's gone way up in my estimation." He added: "I played like shit". Two days later, he went ahead with a party on his yacht, Aussie Rules II. If his form has not quite recovered then, nor has Faldo's reached such a peak again. At the time Faldo said he hoped the day would be remembered for him winning, but realised that Norman losing would be the story.
Eight months later, Faldo said: "My final-round 67 is really being recognised now. It was one of the best rounds anyone has ever played in a major".Reuse content