Norman yet to conquer the quivers

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The Independent Online
GOLF

GUY HODGSON

reports from Shinnecock Hills

By his own standards, it was not a spectacular collapse. Greg Norman has thrown away major championships with greater sense of waste than the US Open he surrendered to Corey Pavin here. Nevertheless, another stain had appeared on a career that already was looking less than pristine.

There can surely now be no debate over whether the 40-year-old Australian is a choker. Put him on the back nine of a big tournament and nerves will grip the finest golfer of his generation with the sureness that autumn follows summer. Some players thrive on the pressure, he shrivels.

Norman's swing, a wonder of fluency normally, contorts into a lottery and his putter begins to push and pull with an involuntary twitch. In the circumstances it is a wonder he has won two major championships, the Opens of 1986 and 1993. He is Mr Saturday Night and misses Sunday afternoon.

On six occasions he has led going into the final round and only once has he prevailed, at Turnberry nine years ago; he has been involved in play-offs in all four majors and has yet to win any; on 25 occasions he has been within four strokes of the lead going into the final round and turned that potential into fact only twice. The figures are not kind.

At Shinnecock at least he was spared a late dagger such as Bob Tway's last-hole sand storm from a bunker in the 1986 PGA Championship or Larry Mize's 140-foot chip-in in the 1987 Masters. This time he just faded away from his position as leader with seven holes to play, losing strokes with three bogeys to allow Pavin to beat him by two shots. True, the American's two-under-par final-round 68 was a minor masterpiece in the blustery conditions but similarly Norman's demise was as anti-climatic as it was predictable. The overwhelming impression was that he had thrown it away. Again.

"I never cry over spilled milk," he said, the shark motif on his hat looking as appropriate as a pussy cat logo on Mike Tyson.

While Norman has the talent but not the temperament, Pavin points towards the opposite direction. He is small - 5ft 9in and 10st 10lb - by the standards of the modern golfer and hardly belts the dimples off the ball (150th in driving distance on the US Tour). Yet he has a wonderful short game and a tenacity that has earned him the nickname "The Bulldog".

Beginning the day three shots off the lead, the 35-year-old from Orlando edged ahead with a 10ft putt at the 15th and then produced one of the great shots in recent US Open history, a four wood of 209 yards to four feet from the 18th flag. That brought the field to their knees and Pavin, a born-again Christian, too, for a short prayer. "I just let the Lord do what he wanted to do with me there," he said. "I wanted him to know this was for him, to glorify him." And when he missed the putt? "I guess he wanted me to sweat a little bit more."

There were few congratulations flying around for Europe. On a course supposedly suited to the players used to links golf, it was a dismal showing lightened only by Ian Woosnam's appearance on the leaderboard on Saturday night and Mark Roe's splendid joint 13th place.

Roe, a 32-year-old Yorkshireman, eclipsed the likes of Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros with a 286 total that left him only six strokes behind Pavin. For that he received $30,934 (pounds 21,000) and automatic entry to next year's US Open and Masters.

"I choked a little after the turn," he said of his final-round 72, "but once I got a birdie soon afterwards I enjoyed myself."

His choke, he can be assured, was not as great as Norman's.

US OPEN (Shinnecock Hills, New York) Final collated totals and four-round scores (US unless stated): 280 C Pavin 72 69 71 68. 282 G Norman (Aus) 68 67 74 73. 283 T Lehman 70 72 67 74. 284 N Lancaster 70 72 77 65; J Maggert 69 72 77 66; B Glasson 69 70 76 69; J Haas 70 73 72 69; D Love 72 68 73 71; P Mickelson 68 70 72 74. 285 F Nobilo (NZ) 72 72 70 71; V Singh (Fiji) 70 71 72 72; B Tway 69 69 72 75. 286 M McCumber 70 71 77 68; D Waldorf 72 70 75 69; B Bryant 75 71 70 70; J Sluman 72 69 74 71; M Roe (GB) 71 69 74 72; L Janzen 70 72 72 72; N Price (Zim) 66 73 73 74; S Stricker 71 70 71 74. 287 F Zoeller 69 74 76 68; P Stewart 71 74 73 69; B Ogle (Aus) 71 75 72 69; P Jordan 74 71 71 71; B Andrade 72 69 74 72; S Verplank 72 69 71 75; I Woosnam (GB) 72 71 69 75. 288 M A Jimenez (Sp) 72 72 75 69; C Montgomerie (GB) 71 74 75 68; M Hulbert 74 72 72 70; M Ozaki (Japan) 69 68 80 71; S Simpson 67 65 74 72; D Duval 70 73 73 72; J M Olazabal (Sp) 73 70 72 73; G Hallberg 70 76 69 73. 289 R Floyd 74 72 76 67; B Porter 73 70 79 67; H Sutton 71 74 76 68; C Strange 70 72 76 71; G Boros 73 71 74 71; S Elkington (Aus) 72 73 73 71; C Byrum 70 70 76 73; 289 B Langer (Ger) 74 67 74 74. 290 B Lane (GB) 74 72 71 73. 291 J McGovern 73 69 81 68; C Pena 74 71 76 70; O Uresti 71 74 75 71; J Daly 71 75 74 71; N Faldo (GB) 72 68 79 72; B Hughes (Aus) 72 71 75 73. 292 E Romero (Arg) 71 73 75 73; T Tryba 71 75 73 73; B Burns 73 72 75 72; P Jacobsen 72 72 74 74; M Gogel 73 70 73 76. 293 C Perry 70 74 75 74; B Faxon 71 73 77 72; T Watson 70 73 77 73; S Lowery 69 72 75 77; S Hoch 74 72 70 77; G Bruckner 70 72 73 78. 294 J Gallagher 75 71 77 71; B Jobe 71 72 76 75; J Cook 75 70 76 73; D Edwards 72 74 72 76; P Goydos 73 73 70 78. 295 T Kite 70 72 82 71; T Armour 77 69 74 75; M Brisky 71 72 77 75. 296 J Connelly 75 71 74 76. 297 B Crenshaw 72 71 79 75; J Maginnes 75 71 74 77. 301 J Gullion 70 74 81 76.

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