Golf: Norman again conqueror

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THE STRONG field and the once-monstrous Miami course could not stop Greg Norman. They could not even slow him down. Armed with a six-shot lead at the start of play, Norman was not threatened yesterday in his march to a four-stroke victory in the Doral-Ryder Open.

Norman, who led or shared the lead all four days, played a solid last round in 70 and led by a minimum of four shots over the final 18 holes. 'It just shows that I'm getting back to where I want to be,' said Norman, who ended a 27- month slump with a victory in Canada last year.

He won with a 23-under-par total of 265 on Doral's Blue Monster course, which suddenly became so benign and compliant it prompted Nick Faldo to enquire, 'Where has the monster gone?'

It was a valid question. Norman's total was a record, five shots better than Hubert Green's four- round aggregate in 1976. But this was a different, altered course. It was stripped of hundreds of trees by Hurricane Andrew six months ago, and for three of the four days of the tournament, it was favored by gentle southerly winds that makes the course play at its easiest.

Mark McCumber and Paul Azinger tied for second on 269. Neither American, however, was able to put any appreciable pressure on the runaway leader. McCumber shot a 67 and Azinger returned a 68 in the last round. The South African David Frost was fourth on 270 after a four-under-par 68, with Sandy Lyle fifth after matching that round for 272.

Faldo finished his first American tournament of the season with a 66 to tie with the Masters champion, Fred Couples, on 272.

In the previous 31 Doral Opens, only Couples three years ago had played four rounds with scores in the 60s. This time, Azinger, McCumber and Lyle all took advantage of the defenseless course and matched Couples' feat.

Norman, too, was in line to do it until he made a bogey at the last. His drive there was well to the right, away from the lake, and came to rest near the trunk of a banyan tree, leaving him no option but to play it back to the fairway. He missed the green in three and had to get it up and down for bogey.

Norman, however, was smiling broadly as he walked up the final fairway, knowing he could take an eight on the hole and still win.

'This shows to me that I'm capable of getting it back,' said Norman, once ranked the No 1 player in the world. 'I'm getting there. I'm getting closer.'

DORAL-RYDER OPEN (Miami) Leading final scores (US unless stated): 265 G Norman (Aus) 65 68 62 70. 269 P Azinger 67 66 68 68; M McCumber 69 67 66 67. 270 D Frost (SA) 70 64 68 68. 272 S Lyle (GB) 69 67 68 68. 273 N Faldo (GB) 72 65 70 66; F Couples 68 67 71 67. 275 T Kite 66 73 69 67. 276 S Hoch 71 67 69 69. 277 C Beck 70 72 72 63; J Nicklaus 69 68 67 73; S Elkington (Aus) 68 72 67 70; L Janzen 71 71 70 65; J Adams 72 67 70 68; E Humenik 67 71 69 70. 278 K Perry 71 69 70 68; P Stewart 74 67 69 68; K Gibson 73 69 68 68; A Magee 71 69 69 69; W Grady (Aus) 71 68 70 69; B Glasson 70 69 69 70; N Price (Zim) 70 71 67 70; K Green 69 70 68 71.