Golf: Norman conquers fever

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The Independent Online


reports from Singapore

Greg Norman has had a lot to get off his chest here this week. Mainly, it has been the infection which was picked up from his son before leaving home on Sunday. That he played at all in the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic, so earning a reputed pounds 200,000 appearance fee, was a surprise after reports the previous day of his temperature soaring into the 100s.

Then, there was the misclubbing at the 15th on Tanah Merah's Garden Course which landed in the water. His caddie, Tony Navarro, got the blame for that, if not quite the club round his throat. "The worst part," Norman said after a one-under-par 71, "was not having seen the course before. Some holes I didn't know where to go, like on the par-five 15th. I was told to hit it 200 yards and it went 200 yards, straight into the water. You don't like to make stupid mistakes, especially when laying up on a par five. Tony was glad to see me get mad because he said that means I care. You have to get it off your chest."

Two years ago, in Phuket, Norman won the title after missing his practice rounds. Then he opened with a 75 to be nine shots behind the lead. This time he found himself only five adrift of his fellow Australian Bradley Hughes and Sweden's Olle Karlsson. "Two years ago, at least, I had been round in a buggy. This is the first time I have played a course blind in a tournament. On Wednesday it was very doubtful whether I would play. Friends said I should go home to Australia to rest for the weekend, but I felt I was improving."

Norman, like all the afternoon starters, was not helped by a thunder and lightning storm which suspended play for almost two hours. This event may be only a third European (and a third Australian and a third Asian), but there were enough Englishmen around to appropriate their national cricket team's ability for drought relief. The downpour meant 45 players failed to complete their rounds after the resumption.

The delay prevented Ernie Els joining Ian Woosnam in being honorary bartenders serving the Black Label at a charity do, but the South African will not have worried after producing a bogey-free 67. Woosnam, too, was probably unconcerned after an opening 69. Bernhard Langer and the defending champion, Fred Couples, are both lurking on 68, but the round of the day (relatively) belonged to John Daly. The Open champion joined Els on five under, in contrast to his 80 (with an eight at the first) in the same sponsor's World Championship a month ago.

First-round scores,

Sporting Digest, page 23