Shark fails to find his bite

Andy Farrell watches a fish out of water on the back nine
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The Independent Online
This was meant to be a Gregorious sort of day. After two quiet rounds from Greg Norman, in which at one point on Friday he was in danger of missing the cut, surely now he would be swimming in more familiar waters? A third-round charge from the Shark would add an interesting extra bite to an already meaty Open leaderboard.

He was still quiet early on. There was little facial expression under the trademark wide-brimmed hat. Finding sand off the first tee was not the start we were looking for, but he got up and down for a par. Quickly it was clear this was a different day from the first two. The breeze was up and gusting.

Norman was playing with Michael Welch. The all-conquering boys champion of 1990 is in his rookie season on tour. Not only did the 23-year-old from Shrewsbury start level with the world No 1 at three under par, but he was soon one ahead when he rolled in a putt from 12 feet at the second.

If Welch was not overawed by playing with his illustrious partner, more concerned with fighting a pull off the tee, Norman just went on his own way.

His seven-iron approach at the fourth was the perfect shot, pulling up three feet from the hole for his opening birdie. The WPC following the group nodded at her male colleague. Perhaps they had a bet on. The short fifth was a mirror image for the Australian of the first, until his longer putt for par refused to fall. By this time the day before, he had made three bogeys to be three over for the championship.

When he failed to birdie the par-five sixth, he gave himself a good talking to. Three birdies to finish the front nine was the result. This is the part of the course to make hay, because much of it has got so withered by the sun and trampled by the spectators. In places, rough is as exaggerated a name for what is a minor irritation as Death by Chocolate in a high- street cafe.

Norman drove right at the sixth this time, a spectator's bag proving a useful backstop, and from there he was just short of the green and two- putted for a birdie. At the next, another par-five, he was again in the right rough but hit the pin with his second and again two-putted. At the ninth, he overcame his par-three difficulties and hit a nine-iron to two feet for another birdie.

Out in 32, two behind the leaders as they teed off. It was not enough. As Tom Lehman and the rest started to blitz, Norman went quiet again. A three-putt at the 14th prompted the first of three bogeys that undid all the good work of earlier on.

He was in a green-side bunker at the 16th, came out to six feet and missed the putt, and was buried in fairway sand off the 18th tee. "It was frustrating more than anything else," he said of his 71. "I didn't hole anything all day. Coming home, I didn't always do the right things. All the guys behind were scoring well."

Back at three under, the chances of Norman adding to his two Open titles are slim. Will the Shark bite back today? "You can't throw caution to the wind on this course," he said. "You could end up shooting 80." An air of inevitability clouded a day that promised more than it eventually delivered.

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