The second best golfer of the modern era going by weeks at world number one, 60-year-old Greg Norman has experienced some incredible golfing highs and lows
Blond Aussie, Greg Norman, arrived on the European Tour in 1977 and wasted no time in recording his maiden victory in that year’s Martini International. He stayed in Europe for a few years before making the PGA Tour his long-term home, enjoying incredible success on both tours. His tally of 90 wins worldwide includes 14 in Europe, 20 in America and 31 in his native Australia… and of course, two Open Championships, though history suggests he could have, indeed should have, won more Majors but for himself on occasions and the audacious shots of other players on others.
Norman turned 60 on Tuesday, so here we take a look back on some of the career highs and lows of the man who has topped the world rankings for more weeks (331) than anyone but Tiger, including the whole of 1996… though that year, of course, also features in one of our ‘lows’!
1986 Open Championship, Turnberry
The year of the ‘Saturday Slam’ when Norman led all four Majors going into the final round. This was the only one he won, and he did so in style shooting a barely credible 63 in tough second round conditions, before going on to win by five. His third-round sweater left a little to be desired though…
1986 USPGA Championship, Inverness
Norman and Bob Tway stood on the 72nd hole at Inverness Club tied for the lead, but both then missed the green with their approaches – Tway in a bunker, Norman on the fringe. Tway then did this (below) holing his bunker shot, while Norman took three to get down to finish two adrift.
1987 Masters, Augusta
Few players have suffered the body blow of unheralded others holing out to beat them in two successive Majors, but that’s what happened to Norman at Augusta in 1987 when Larry Mize heaped indignity on indignity with that unlikely chip-in from right of the 11th on the second play-off hole. It would all have been very different if Norman’s putt on 18 (below) had dropped instead of narrowly missing.
1993 Open Championship, Royal St George’s
Norman confessed to being in awe of himself as he compiled a near-faultless final round of 64 to see off a strong cast of challengers and claim his second Claret Jug. Did miss an absolute tiddler on 17 though to make it a little closer than he would have liked going up 18.
The ultimate Norman heartache, when the seemingly peerless march to the Green Jacket that all his Augusta near misses suggested he fully deserved went so horribly wrong on Sunday. Six shots clear of Faldo, Norman appeared fidgety and ill-at-ease from the off, and by the 11th the lead had gone. Visits to the water on both 12 and 16 sealed Norman’s fate, though things could still have been different if this eagle chip (below) on 15 had dropped. It didn’t and Faldo went on to win by five.
2008 Open Championship, Royal Birkdale
Rolling back the years seemingly to impress new wife Chris Evert, 54-year-old Norman led The Open again by two heading into the final round, and indeed still led with nine to play. The fairytale wasn’t to be though, with a final-round 77 dropping Norman to 3rd place. The precedent had been set though, and the following year a certain 59-year-old came even closer to a phenomenal record-breaking Open achievement!
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...