Golf: Norman mindful of seven-year hitch: The Open champion seeks to ruin the US PGA Championship's reputation for being an all-American affair

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The Independent Online
GREG NORMAN, the Open champion, has mixed emotions about Inverness, the lush, green venue for the 75th US PGA Championship which starts here today. Seven years ago, in the same event on the same course, the Australian's spirit was broken in an outlandish climax.

Norman was poised to win the championship when the unknown Bob Tway holed a bunker shot at the 18th in the final round. Norman had been in a position to make 1986 his annus mirabilis but instead it became something of an annus horribilis for the Queenslander. He led all four major championships going into the final round but won only one, the Open at Turnberry.

'Seven years ago was seven years ago,' Norman said, irritably. 'As of now I'd like to drop the issue. Next question.' 'Have you ever talked to Tway about the shot?' 'No.' What Norman wanted to talk about was his triumph in the Open at Royal St George's last month when he shot 64 in the final round to beat Nick Faldo by two strokes and Bernhard Langer by three.

It was only Norman's second major triumph in a career which has been littered with near misses. 'Best thing a human being can ever do,' Norman said, 'is hit rock bottom. I hit rock bottom. Then you get a wonderful appreciation for what it's like being on top.'

At Sandwich on the final day Norman said he was in awe of himself. 'The calibre of play was superb,' he said. 'Whoever played the best won and I'm not going to let that slip through my head. It's going to stay there a long, long time. I'm a different person than I was in 1986. My attitude is a lot better now.' His dress sense a lot worse.

Norman has signed a contract with Reebok, the British company, and they have made for him what can be described as a distinctive range of clothing. Complete with the 'Rainbow Shark' logo, Norman's wardrobe is coloured with Raspberry, Lagoon and Midnight Navy, Power Pink, Solar Yellow and Friction Green. That apart, he is obviously a contender here as is Faldo, Langer, Nick Price, Corey Pavin and last, and probably least, Colin Montgomerie.

In the first round today Norman is partnered with Langer, the Masters champion, and Lee Janzen, the winner of the US Open championship. The US PGA does not pretend not to fiddle the draw. Faldo is playing with Davis Love III and Lanny Wadkins and there is no love lost there. Wadkins beat Faldo in the singles in the tied Ryder Cup match at The Belfry in 1989. Faldo is one of only nine Europeans in the field of 156 but he maintained: 'We've got enough quality to be at the top end.'

Like Norman, Faldo, who is still the world No 1, was encouraged by the events at Royal St George's. 'It has made me more enthusiastic to play again,' Faldo said. 'I'm back in the thick of things.' At Inverness in 1986 Faldo missed the halfway cut and it was at that time that he was remodelling his swing, a swing that has since won him five major championships. The odds, and the law of averages, are in favour of an American winner on an American course in American conditions.

Target golf is how Faldo calls it. Inverness is long, the rough is deep, and the greens are miniscule and fast. 'It is very different to what we're used to,' Faldo said. 'The style is simple, straightforward. I like that.' The premium is on accuracy from the tee; the approach shot has also got to be measured and it is not simply a question of putting the ball anywhere on the green. Then, of course, you have to read, and get, the breaks.

Price is not only the defending champion but a man in tremendous form, having won three successive tournaments on the US Tour. Montgomerie and Pavin are mentioned in the same breath because they have a game to score well at Inverness. They hit it straight and they putt with the homing instinct of a pigeon.

In choosing Inverness for its diamond anniversary the US PGA has come up with a gem. It is called, simply, Inverness, unencumbered by the pretentious country club appendage so beloved of the Ivy Leaguers. Members refer to their club here as the Grand Old Lady.

Not quite all American, for the place was designed by the Scottish genius Donald Ross, Inverness has seen some golf. A splendid clock at the entrance to the clubhouse bears a well worn inscription: 'God measures men by what they are, not what they in wealth possess; this vibrant message chimes afar, the voice of Inverness.' The verse was inspired by Walter Hagen in 1920 when the club, hosting the US Open, threw open its doors to the professional golfer, a species which at the time was considered to be lower on the social register than a bounty hunter.

It was at Inverness 73 years ago that a young Bobby Jones found himself paired with Harry Vardon. When Jones, the amateur, mishit a shot he embarassingly remarked to Vardon: 'Have you ever seen a worse shot than that?' 'No,' replied the hard-nosed English professional. The championship was won by another Englishman, Ted Ray. Cool Ted Ray.

He leaned over a long putt that he needed to make to avoid a five-way play-off and at the last second he backed off. His pipe had gone out. Ray stood back, reached for the tobacco pouch in his pocket, reloaded and lit up again. Then he sank the putt.

Hagen, the great showman, won the US PGA Championship on five occasions, a record equalled only by Jack Nicklaus. Prior to Hagen a bunch of pioneering Brits won the US PGA but in the last 70 years, with the exception of the odd South African or Australian, it has been an all-American affair, a result celebrated by an organisation that has 22,000 professional golfers on its books.

Davies' driving ambition, page 32

SELECTED TEE-OFF TIMES

(For first two rounds)

(US unless stated, for BST add five hours)

0755 and 1207 B Fleisher, A Forsbrand (Swe), R Zokol (Can)

0804 and 1216 B Lane (GB), D Forsman, P Senior (Aus)

0813 and 1225 A Palmer, C Strange, T Kite

0840 and 1252 H Irwin, C Stadler, B Tway

0858 and 1310 B Langer (Ger), L Janzen, G Nor man (Aus)

0907 and 1319 C Montgomerie (GB), K Green, F Zoeller

0916 and 1328 R Floyd, P Stewart, D Graham (Aus)

0934 and 1346 J Daly, J M Olazabal (Spain), S Lyle (GB)

1252 and 0831 J Nicklaus, P Mickelson, E Els (SA)

1301 and 0840 R Cochran, J Sindelar, M James (GB)

1310 and 0849 N Faldo (GB), D Love, L Wadkins

1328 and 0907 N Price (Zim), T Watson, L Nelson

1346 and 0925 F Couples, I Woosnam (GB), W Grady (Aus)

Play starts each day at 7.10am, with the last group out at 3.25pm.

(Photograph omitted)

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