Well, no he didn’t do it. Greg Norman didn’t win the British Open. It would be easy to snicker and ironize about the number of times Norman has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by losing last rounds of major tournaments and I’m sure there are thousands of little bloggers clicking away happily on their keyboards as I write.
Padraig Harrington did everything correctly and it paid off on the back nine. He constructed his round with the type of technical prowess which was needed to cut through the appalling conditions as Royal Birkdale was constantly battered by gusting winds. The Open ended as Harrington landed a 300 yard fairway wood about 5 feet from the hole on the 17th.
Norman did everything wrong. He kept pistol-whipping the ball with his driver from the tee and he found himself in the position of having to come up with long saves around the greens to slink away with bogeys. I probably would have taken a putter from the tee in the conditions and I winced every time Norman took out the driver and winced harder every time the ball ended in ankle-deep rough or in bunkers which seemed to suck in his drives like a magnet.
But at the end of the weekend what is left? Norman could have played out the tournament safely and he probably would have been overtaken anyway by the fast finishers and by Harrington’s last nine, or he could have gone for it. And he went for it. In one of those fantastic all or nothing blow outs Norman is famous for won’t lose sleep wondering if he could have thrown anything more at the tournament. He literally threw caution to the wind and it didn’t pay. He’s 53 years old, his caddy is 58 he’s happy and has nothing to prove and what the hell, this wasn’t one of those Sunday rounds for 5 bucks a hole with drinking buddies, this was the British Open.
And imagine if it had worked. If Norman had succeeded in punching some of those monster drives through the howling gales coming at him at Royal Birkdale and threading them through the fairways. He’s done it before and I’m glad that at 53 and after 331 weeks as the world’s number one he still decided to play like that young tear away who won his first tournament at the 1976 West Lakes Classic at the Grange Golf Club in Adelaide all those years ago.
Sometime stories with happy ends aren’t the only ones worth listening to.
Photo credit: John Biever/SI