"Old" has been the buzzword in golf for the last week – and for Greg Norman at Sunningdale yesterday the old habit proved impossible to break. This was the ninth time he had held the lead going into the final round of a major. And for the eighth time the Australian could not convert.
Admittedly, this was "only" the Senior Open and Norman's failure was in no sense as catastrophic as, say, the 1996 Masters when he turned a six-shot advantage over Nick Faldo into a five-shot deficit. But this last-day shortfall would still have hurt, if only because it would have reminded him of all those other anticlimaxes he has suffered.
A one-over 71 does not sound too disastrous but on the comparatively short Old Course it was mediocre enough to send the 54-year-old down into a tie for sixth, three behind on nine-under. Norman was out of the gate by the time a three-man play-off began for the £222,000 first prize which was eventually collected by the American Loren Roberts.
The player nicknamed "the boss of the moss" for his proficiency on the greens, beat off Fred Funk and Mark McNulty, the latter taking Roberts all the way to the third extra hole before succumbing. It was the 54-year-old's second Senior Open title, having prevailed three years ago at Turnberry.
With respect to Roberts, however, it was the depressingly familiar Norman collapse most were talking about as the Berkshire course cleared last night. Last year at Birkdale, he famously turned back the clocks to take a lead after 54 holes at the Open but a Sunday 77 predictably did for his challenge. This time around Norman was right in contention until the 17th. A double-bogey on the penultimate par four saw him crash out of the picture.
Norman's showing can still be seen as an achievement. He does not play anything like a full senior's schedule, yet still manages to pitch up and resemble his old self. Saturday's 64 was classic Norman, steaming through the field with dashing panache. It delighted the organisers, whose attendances on the first three days were swelled by Tom Watson, the heroic runner-up at last week's Open, figuring on the leader board.
A third-round 70 left the 59-year-old with too much work to do yesterday, but a 67 was a tremendous effort considering the fatigue he must have been operating under and a tie for eighth was the least he deserved. Watson must wait until the end of the week to discover whether he will receive a USPGA Championship invitation in a fortnight's time, although the feeling is he may well turn down the trip to Hazeltine even if he does get the call.
Sam Torrance took the honours for leading Brit, finishing fifth on 10 under par.