1993 British Open Championship
Royal St George's, the scene for the 122nd Open Championship, was tamed by Greg Norman in a way which thrilled all who watched him and re-established him as one of the game's great champions. Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Corey Pavin and Peter Senior tried to stay in contention, but throughout the tense final day Norman held firm, clinching victory and reclaiming the trophy he last won at Tumberry seven years earlier.
|Venue:||Royal St George's Golf Club|
|Date:||July 15-18, 1993|
Norman Regains The Pinnacle
Royal St George's, the scene for the 122nd Open Championship, and arguably the most demanding of all the Open courses, was tamed by Greg Norman in a way which thrilled all who watched him and which conclusively re-established him as one of the game's great champions. The following excerpts tell the story of Norman's extraordinary four days.
Norman, who last one a major in 1986, did not start as one of the favorites. Despite the course's fearsome reputation, Norman proceeded to outplay the entire field, shooting the best first round, final round and the lowest aggregate score of any Open champion.
Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Corey Pavin and Peter Senior tried to stay in contention, but throughout the tense final day Norman held firm, clinching victory to become an enormously popular champion and reclaiming the trophy he last won at Tumberry seven years earlier.
To think that I started at Royal St George's with a six, a double bogey on the first hole, it goes to show that you should never get too discouraged when some thing doesn't go as you planned.
I have always been a believer in being positive, in life and on the golf course, and I have always believed in my ability to do anything I wanted to do.
My thanks go to my wife, Laura, who has shared the bad times and the good; to my coach, and to many friends and supporters who have always been behind me.
That final round was one you just dream about. I cannot say in my whole career that I have played a round and not missed one shot, but that day I never mis-hit a shot. I hit every drive perfectly, every iron perfectly, and only made a mess of one putt, that very short putt on the 17th.
I was enjoying the championship so much, I wished it wouldn't finish.
I knew I had to play well because of the caliber of golfers around me -- Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Corey Pavin, Nick Price, Peter Senior, Fred Couples and the rest, people whom we all regarded as the best players in the game. I loved that competition.
We knew from the first round that this would be one of the best Open Championships ever, and the best that anyone could ever win. I was never thinking of setting records, only of staying focused and wanting to win, and this was the best I ever played in my life.
To win this championship, the most important golf title in the world, and to win against those players, means everything.
At the height of its power, when the British Empire encircled the globe, men said an Englishman walks the earth as if he owned it. Whoever made such an observation obviously had not watched Peter Senior walk a golf course in full pursuit of the Open Championship.
A short, blocky Australian with a squarish face, a glorious moustache and a seemingly permanent scowl, Senior strides the earth not so much as if he owns it but as if whoever does may take title only when he is through using it.
As one of the early starters in the first round of the 1993 championship, Senior used the Royal St George's Golf Club very well indeed, ripping around in 66 and becoming the first of four men to shade par by four strokes and share the 18-hole lead.
Senior was followed quickly by the American Mark Calcavecchia, the 1989 champion, who began only 20 minutes behind him, and then by Greg Norman, a fellow Australian, who had won at Turnberry in 1986. Later in the day Fuzzy Zoeller, the 1984 US Open champion, fired 66 as well.
All of this turned out to be a surprising turn of events, for situated on England's southeastern coast, where unpredictable can be the kindest description of weather coming from off the English Channel, Royal St George's can be the most severe test on the Open rota.
Furthermore, with England gripped by a determined drought-rainfall for the previous seven weeks so slight it couldn't be measured-predictions indicated a high-scoring championship in which a parred hole would stand as a measure of excellence.
In the days leading up to the championship, the 122nd, by the way, the players talked quite cautiously of what they might expect. On the eve of the first round, Nick Faldo, defending the championship that had wracked him so emotionally when he won it a year earlier, pointed to the dry and bouncy condition of the fairways and predicted the Open could be won with a score over the par of 280, as Sandy Lyle had done in 1985, the last championship over this ancient ground. Faldo, and everyone agreed, rated Royal St George's as the toughest on the rota, purely because of the conditions-the lack of rain and the perpetual wind whipping across the great dunes.
He called it the firmest course since Royal Troon four years earlier, 'Maybe the firmest I've played. The downwind holes will play very short, but that doesn't mean they'll be easy; you have to stop the ball. With the bounces, this will be very tricky. Having a wedge in your hand doesn't mean you have an easy chance at a birdie.'
All that was speculation, for the players faced different conditions once the championship began. Rain fell Tuesday night and again
Wednesday, then more rain soaked Royal St George's Thursday. Pathways throughout the tented village and alongside the fairways, where spectators were forced to follow the play, oozed mud, turning walking into a hazardous exercise. One spectator slipped and lay in the muck alongside the ninth hole with a suspected broken ankle. Others were seen sliding off hummocks to undignified landings. Greens once hard as bricks that had rejected even the well-hit shot during practice rounds had turned soft and forgiving.
In its years out of the rota, Royal St George's had been criticized for its capricious character. Well-struck balls bounced erratically over the rolling, tumbling dunes, often kicking into the knee-high rough lining the generous fairways. No more. Under the changed conditions the players were able to control their shots.
Consequently the field turned in unusually low scores. Where in 1985 only 10 men had broken par during the first round, 47 shot under 70 and another 22 matched par -- 69 men at par or better. In addition to the four who shot 66, another 10 shot 67, and 14 more shot 68.
Bernhard Langer, who had won his second US Masters earlier in the year, was among those at 67, along with Larry Mize, who had won the 1987 US Masters. Fred Couples, who blazed home in 32, and Nick Price, playing at the top of his game, each were among those at 68, and after a blistering 32 going out, Faldo stumbled home in 37 and matched Lee Janzen, the current US Open champion, at 69.
Some old and favored names played some of their best golf of recent years. Seve Ballesteros, for ex ample, reached into what might be a dwindling reserve and shot 68, and Jack Nicklaus, encouraged by winning the US Senior Open only four days earlier, shot 69, along with 18 others.
Judging from his history, Greg Norman must not have felt particularly comfortable as he looked around at those tied with him after the first round; all three had beaten him in important competitions. Zoeller had thumped him in a playoff for the 1984 US Open, and Calcavecchia had beaten him in another playoff for the 1989 Open Championship when Greg had thrown away a one-stroke lead by bogeying Royal Troon's 17th and then driving into a fairway bunker on the 18th, allowing Calcavecchia to win with a birdie 3.
That leaves Peter Senior. Norman lost the 1991 Australian Masters to Senior when Greg hooked his drive to the last hole at the Huntingdale Golf Club, in Melbourne, behind a three-tiered hospitality complex. Norman pitched his ball so far over the obstruction it hit a similar structure on the opposite side of the green, bounced off, and skittered back across the green and into a bunker. Senior beat him by one stroke.
Squat and powerful at 5-ft-5, just a little taller than Ian Woosnam, Senior walks the fairways with his eyes straight ahead, muscular arms pumping, and moustache bristling. Like the juggernaut rolling over everything in its path, Senior gives the distinct impression of the irresistible force that will crush the immovable object.
He has a swing that is uniquely his own. Drawing the club back in an orthodox manner, he comes into the ball with a decided upward lurch, as if he has suddenly realized the club may be a little too long for him and he must compensate by raising himself higher.
He also uses the long putter, a club given to him five years ago by Sam Torrance, another disciple of the system. Senior holds the butt of the shaft under his chin with his left hand and strokes the ball with his right hand well down the shaft.
Peter can be sensitive about the putter. 'Some days when I hole a lot of putts everyone thinks I'm cheating. They don't say that when I'm putting badly. If you finish 50th every week, they're not going to say anything.'
By the time Senior teed off, at 8.20, under dull gray clouds and threats of further rain, the scoreboard already showed sprinklings of red numbers, indicating holes played under par, a clear warning of what lay ahead.
After saving his par on the first by holing a nerve-wracking eight-footer, Senior began his assault by pitching to 15 feet on the second and rolling the putt home for a birdie 3. Two more pars brought him to the fifth, the hole where John Daly had driven the green in a practice round and where Harry Bradshaw had played a ball lying inside a broken bottle during the 1949 Open. Daly had flown his drive over the left hump that rises at about the distance of a good drive by anyone else.
Taking a more sensible approach, Senior laid up short of the humps with his two iron, then played a four iron inside 15 feet and holed the putt for his second birdie. Two more pars, one a missed birdie chance when his putt from eight feet skimmed past the cup on the sixth, brought him to the eighth hole, a par 4 of 418 yards. A drive and another four iron left him 30 feet from the cup, and, behold, the long putter worked-he rolled it in.
Three under par now, Senior ripped another drive down the middle and laid a nine iron 25 feet away on the ninth. Once again the long putter did its job, a second straight birdie, his fourth of the first nine. Senior had gone out in 31, matching Henry Cotton's outgoing score in 1934.
Cotton had followed with 34 on the incoming nine, but such a score stood out of Senior's reach. A misplayed approach putt on the 11th, a par 3 of 216 yards, cost him a bogey, and he could pick up only one birdie, holing a 10-foot putt on the 13th, a strong par 4 of 443 yards, close to Pegwell Bay, which skirts the outer reaches of the course.
Senior came home in even-par 35, managing to par everyone of those strong finishing holes and missing only the 15th green, where he holed a I5-foot putt for his 4.
By the time Senior finished, Larry Mize, playing the best golf he had ever shown in an Open, had already posted 67, and both Lain Ryman, the Amateur champion, and Jesper Parnevik, the Swede who had won the Bell's Scottish Open the previous week, were in with 68, and Paul Azinger had shot 69.
Then, within 20 minutes, Calcavecchia came in with his own 66, and 10 minutes later Norman stormed home with his own.
Finding Calcavecchia among the leaders surprised most spectators; Mark hadn't been at his best since he won the 1989 Open, the last American champion. His career reached its lowest point, perhaps, during the 1991 Ryder Cup match, in South Carolina, when he held Colin Montgomerie four down with four to play and lost every hole, including the 17th, a long par 3 over water, even though Montgomerie hit his tee shot into the lake. Calcavecchia hit two into the water.
Calcavecchia blamed his putting for his fall from the game's heights, saying it had turned sour as a bowl of old milk. Home inArizona, he owns at least 75 putters, and then, in April, he bought his 76th, spending US$45 to buy it. It has worked well for him ever since.
Grouped with Faldo and Steve Elkington, Calcavecchia holed from 15 feet on the second, and from four feet to save par on the fourth. Another birdie at the seventh, at 530 yards the longest of the two par 5s, and Calcavecchia was out in 33.
The trip home held more perils as the wind began to rise and rain fell seriously for a time. Off quickly with birdies on the 10th and 12th, Mark worked his way through the Trinity, that dangerous stretch of holes beginning at the 13th and ending with the 15th, then missed the 16th green.
A pitch to two feet saved par there, and his approach to the 17th rolled 60 feet from the cup, a dangerous distance. With renewed confidence in his putting, Calcavecchia rolled it close and made his par.
Another par on the 18th, and he strutted off the final green with a blemish-free 66, plared without bogeying one hole.
Norman couldn't make a similar claim, and, in fact, played a much more erratic round. He began with a poor drive into the deep rough, tried to reach the green with an eight iron and failed, took two more shots before hitting the green, and two-putted from nine feet. A double-bogey 6.
Norman was stunned, of course, but not beaten yet. He told himself he had 71 more holes to play, and he should make some birdies and work his way back to even par. He did. A three wood and sand wedge to 18 feet on the second earned one, and then a four iron and six iron to nine feet on the fifth earned the second.
Another bogey on the sixth followed by a birdie on the seventh brought him to the nine-hole turn in 35, even par. Another bogey at the 11th, where he missed the green. Now he stood one over par with the most demanding holes coming up. A par at the 12th, as close as Royal St George's comes to a birdie hole, and then Norman was off on one of the championship's great bursts of scoring.
A great pitch to 18 inches at the 13th brought Greg back to even par, and then he had a great break. His third shot missed the 14th green, but from 45 feet he holed a sand wedge.
One under par now, Norman drilled a six iron within two feet on the 15th for his third consecutive birdie, and followed up by holing a putt from 24 feet on the 16th. Four consecutive birdies, and now Greg stood at three under par. He had made up five strokes after his opening double bogey.
Still, he wasn't through. He drove well on the 17th, and on that difficult hole ripped a five iron within five feet. Another putt fell - a fifth consecutive birdie.
Four under par now, Norman missed the 18th green, but he holed from 15 feet to save par. Playing a series of sensational irons through that scoring stretch and putting like a dream over a very difficult series of holes, Norman had come back in 31 and finished with 66.
The question remained, though, whether or not he could hold up. He had played sensational rounds in the past, and yet fallen out of the chase with a championship at stake. With scores such as this so early in the day (when Norman teed off at 9 o'clock, more than 90 percent of the field still had to play), nearly everyone anticipated even more lower scoring as the day progressed. Those who counted on it were disappointed, for only Zoeller matched those early 66s, although nostalgic passions rose with the showings of both Nicklaus and Ballesteros.
To call Seve's reappearance among the game's elite nostalgic may seem to stretch a point, for he is only 36, but nevertheless he has been in a deep slump for several years, and he had struggled through a series of high scores in the 1993 season. Ballesteros himself admitted his pleasure with his position.
Playing two groups behind Ballesteros, Nicklaus too opened as if he were still in his prime, with two birdies in the first three holes, and after stumbling over the fourth and fifth, bogeying both, he played the last 13 holes in one under par. This was his best first round in the Open since 1977, when he and Tom Watson battled through four stirring rounds at Turnberry. But Jack had nothing left. This championship was left to younger men.
Even though he stood three strokes behind the co-leaders after the first 18 holes, Nick Faldo's presence caused everyone else to feel apprehensive. Going into the Open Championship it was generally agreed the final result depended on how well he played. The most dangerous player in the game, he had accumulated an astonishing record in the competitions that matter most, a record that rivaled those of the great players of the past.
Since he broke through at Muirfield six years earlier, Nick not only had won the Open twice more -- at St. Andrews in 1990 and at Muirfield again in 1992 -- he had won the US Masters twice, lost a playoff for the 1988 US Open, placed third in the 1990 US Open, missing a place in the play-off with Hale Irwin and Mike Donald by one stroke, and tied for second in the 1992 USPGA Championship.
His record in the Open stands out above his performance in every other important competition. Through 1992 he had played in 17, dating back to 1976, when he was still in his teens, and he had never missed the cut, remarkable of itself. Even with his old loose, floppy swing, he had placed as high as seventh back in 1978, and during one exceptional period, from 1982 through 1984, he placed fourth, eighth, and sixth, and fifth in 1986, the year Greg Norman won at Turnberry.
Since revitalizing his swing, Faldo had won three Opens, and placed third in 1988 while Seve Ballesteros and Nick Price waged their inspiring battle at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, which Ballesteros finally won on the 72 green. Over Nick's entire Open career, which comprised 68 rounds of golf, he had played 24 rounds in the 60s, fully 35 percent, and shot his lowest round in 1992, 64 in the second round, which trust him to the front, a position he never gave up until he played some loose golf early in the second nine of the last round. Still, he had won out in the end.
This perseverance, this determination, this refusal to be beaten elevated Faldo to a higher lever. He intimidated his rivals, and when once again he played a sensational second round at Royal St. George's, a nearly flawless 63 that matched the Open record and shot him into the lead, it was clear the championship was his to either win or lose.
Heavy rain had struck the channel coast Thursday night, further weakening Royal St. George's defenses. The wind rose stronger for the late starters, blustering across some fairways, down others, and into the shot on still more, giving the field a better taste of what golf along the English Channel can be like. Although scoring did not reach the levels of the first round, 26 men shot rounds in the 60s, not as many as the 47 who had broken par a day earlier, but when the day ended the best players in the game stood at the top of the standings. In the lead position, Faldo was being challenged by Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Corey Pavin, Peter Senior, Fuzzy Zoeller and Larry Mize.
An early starter on Thursday, Faldo was to play in the afternoon on Friday. By the time he arrived, low scores had already been turned in. The day had hardly begun when Couples, who had opened with 68 on Thursday, birdied the second and third and dropped to 4-under-par for the 21 holes. By the time he had played the fifth, Langer had birdied the first. The field was off to another day of great scoring.
Couples remains an enigma, an outstanding golfer who shows very little drive. Fred projects the impression he is essentially lazy and indifferent to practice, and has a low confidence level. He said he had come into the championship without much faith in his ability to win, and admitted he had actually given himself very little chance against Faldo, Norman and Price.
Nevertheless, Couples suddenly threatened to claim the lead. After routine pars on the fourth to the sixth, where he missed a birdie opportunity from six feet, Couples rifled two big shots to the edge of the seventh green, chipped to two feet, and holed the putt for another birdie.
Three under par for the day now, and five under for 25 holes, Couples bogeyed the eighth, but quickly floated a nine iron three feet from the cup on the ninth. Out in 32, 4-under-par, Couples had dipped six under par for 27 holes and had taken over first place. Better things lay ahead.
Two missed greens but superb recoveries saved pars on the 10th and 11th, and then Couples reeled off three consecutive birdies, one of the miracle type. A long and pure drive left him in prime position for his approach to the 12th, but he made a tentative, cautious pass at his pitch and left it at least 40 feet short of the cup. No matter, Fred drew back his putter and gave the ball a good rap. It ran true to the hole and dived in for a 3.
When the putt fell, Couples rolled his eyes heavenward, turned toward the applauding gallery, and while his jaw dropped, he held out his hands, palms up- ward, as if to say he was more amazed than anyone.
He followed with a terrific pitch inside 10 feet on the 13th, reached the green of the 14th with a drive and a 225-yard three wood into the wind and birdied once again.
Now he stood 6-under-par for the round, eight under for 32 holes. Safely past the dangerous 15th, Fred played a superb eight iron that pulled up eight feet from the cup, offering the opening to drop to nine under. The putt slipped past the cup, a lost opportunity.
Now Couples had reached that demanding finish, two tough par 4s, perhaps the most severe finish in the game. They ruined Fred's day. He missed the 17th green when his two iron pulled up 20 feet short and right, then pulled another two iron left of the home green, leaving it in the depression where Sandy Lyle had found himself at the finish of the 1985 Open. Here Couples chipped his ball across the green and bogeyed. With a round of 64 in reach, he had finished in 66 instead, and posted 134 for 36 holes, 6-under-par, solidly among the leaders.
Meantime, Langer continued to play sound, error- free golf, reeling off three birdies on the first nine and making the turn in 32. When he began the second nine with a par 4 he had played 28 holes with nothing but 3s and 4s. He broke the string at the 11th, drilling a four iron to just over 15 feet and with his weird putting grip, ran the ball home for a birdie 2.
Another birdie at the 14th, where, realizing he couldn't reach the green with his second, he drove with a one iron, played another one iron short, then pitched within eight feet and holed the putt for his final birdie of the day.
Now he stood 5-under-par, on his way to a round of 65 and a 36-hole score of 132, 8-under-par, but he still had to face that dangerous finish. A drive and seven iron put him safely on the 15th for a routine par, and then another routine par on the 16th. Now for the 17th, 425 yards but playing much longer than it measured. A drive, then another one iron, hit as well as he had ever hit one, reached the green, and he two-putted from 60 feet.
One hole to go, the long and forbidding 18th, 468 yards into the wind. Reaching for all the distance he could muster, Langer hit his drive among the gallery and struck a woman. She wasn't hurt badly, but now Bernhard couldn't reach the green with his second. He bogeyed, his first 5 and only his second bogey. (He had made 4 on the 16th on Thursday.)
Langer finished with 66, which matched Couples' round, but with 133, he stood one stroke ahead of Fred over the distance.
None of that mattered very much, for Faldo was about to redefine the championship with one of the Open's greatest rounds, 63, that carried him to the top of the standings and created a new atmosphere.
Nick had been accused of playing too conservatively in the past, playing for the certain par rather than risking a stroke with a daring shot. Perhaps, but there was nothing tentative or cautious about this round.
Six strokes behind Langer when he stepped on to the first tee, Faldo played daring, attacking golf from the first blow. Driving the fairway, Nick ripped a perfectly played five iron to four feet and holed the putt for the first of his seven birdies. One stroke closer.
He followed with two routine pars, then played a two-iron approach that missed the fourth green. After a six-iron chip, he saved himself by holing a nerve-testing four-footer.
Now Faldo reeled off three consecutive birdies. A safe three-iron tee shot on the fifth, and a perfectly stroked seven iron to 10 feet earned the first birdie. A six iron to 20 feet on the sixth and a curling putt that fell earned the second; and then Nick reached the green of the seventh with two big downwind shots, a drive and a three iron to 40 feet. He took two putts and had his third.
Four under par now and closing in. A drive and three iron to 25 feet on the eighth followed by a two iron and nine iron set up two pars. Faldo had played the first nine in 31, equalling Henry Cotton's record set in 1934 and matched by Senior in the first round. Faldo wasn't through yet.
Hitting one precise shot after another, Nick set up another birdie opportunity by laying a nine iron 12 feet from the hole on the 10th green, but he missed the putt. A chance gone. A five iron to 20 feet and two putts earned his par on the 11th; a wedge to six feet on the 12th and Faldo was looking at another birdie. Once again, though, his putter failed him and he settled for still another par.
Still four under par for the round, he stood one stroke behind Couples, two behind Langer. He was on his way to 66 if he could hold his game together as the wind crisscrossed the fairways, forcing him to work the ball back and forth according to the wind's direction.
Now, though, Faldo made another move. A three wood from the tee followed by another great iron, a nine iron to four feet, and another holed putt. Five under par for the round. Now he had caught Couples with the 14th, the Suez Canal, a definite birdie hole, coming up. One more birdie and he would climb level with Langer and share the 36-hole lead.
A loose drive here almost cost him a stroke. His ball veered left and dived into the knee-high rough, safe from the out of bounds flanking the right side, but still in trouble. From there Nick tried to slash it out with a five iron, but the club turned in his hand. He cleared the Suez, but his ball settled back in the rough. From there he dug it out with a seven iron that squirted across the fairway into the light rough on the opposite side, still about 50 yards short of the green. Three shots played and still not on.
Now Faldo played one of those shots that win championships. He hit a nice pitch that braked, trick- led slowly toward the hole, hit the flagstick gently, and tumbled into the cup. A birdie 4 where a par looked the best he could do. Now he stood 6-under-par for the round, 7 under for the 32 holes, and he had caught Langer. He wasn't through yet; he still had four hard holes to play.
Safely past the 15th with a drive and another precise five iron inside 20 feet, another five iron to 15 feet on the 16th, and a drive and four iron to 25 feet on the difficult 17th. Three pars, but not out of danger yet.
As Faldo strode on to the tee of the 18th he felt the fresh wind blowing directly into his face, turning the home hole into a severe test. Nick nailed as good a drive as he had hit throughout the afternoon and followed with another perfectly struck shot, a terrific two iron that bored through the wind, skipped on to the green, and pulled up just 12 feet from the cup. The putt fell, Faldo had come home in 32, shot 63 for the round, and passed Langer. He had taken command of the Open.
This was as good a round as anyone had ever played in an Open, filled with stirring shots that split the fairways and covered the flagsticks. It followed the pattern he had set a year earlier at Muirfield, where he shot 64 in the second round and took command of the championship.
Whether it would work the same effect here wouldn't be determined for two more days, but it indeed vaulted Faldo to the front and put him into the record book, for he had broken the course record set by Christy O'Connor, Jr, in the 1985 Open, and become one of six men who had shot 63 in an Open-Mark Hayes at Turnberry in 1977, Isao Aoki at Muirfield in 1980, Greg Norman at Turnberry in 1986, Paul Broadhurst at St Andrews in 1990 and Jodie Mudd at Royal Birkdale in 1991.
In with 132 for 36 holes, Faldo still couldn't feel too comfortable, for aside from Langer and Couples, Norman had suddenly sprung to life. Playing immediately behind Faldo, Norman, who had opened with 66, had gone out in 34 with two birdies and a bogey on the tough fifth, but he picked up birdies on both the 12th and 13th and missed a chance for a third at the 14th. Two crisp shots left him just short of the green, but his chip ran well past the hole. He settled for a par on a hole where he should have counted on a birdie.
Greg saved par on the 15th after overshooting the green with a five-iron second, then dropped another stroke at the hard 17th, where he drove into the rough. Back in 34, he shot 68 and fell from a tie for first into a tie for third, at 134, with Couples and Pavin, who shot 66 with six birdies and two bogeys, one on that demanding 11th.
Meantime, Senior, one of the four co-leaders, dropped to sixth place, at 135, and Zoeller fell into a tie for seventh with Mize, at 136. This was a magnificent leaderboard; six of those first eight players had won one or more of the four most important tournaments in the game. Only Senior and Pavin hadn't. Four were among the Sony Ranking's top-five golfers in the world. It all confirmed that Royal St George's ranks among the world's great examinations in the game.
Full of wonderful golf, the day, at the same time, had been cruel, for so many of the game's great figures had been eliminated. The 36-hole cut fell at 143, just three strokes over par.
Among those who would play no further, the crowds mourned the loss of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tony Jacklin and Tom Watson, who had given the galleries so many exciting moments in the past; Ben Crenshaw, everybody's favourite; Sandy Lyle, who had won at this same place in 1985; Davis Love III, who had never done well in the most important competitions; Jose Maria Olazabal; and two men who had figured so prominently in the 1992 championship-John Cook, whose missed two-foot birdie putt on the 17th at Muirfield and his bogey on the 18th opened the way for Faldo to win, and Steve Pate, who had put early pressure on Nick in the last round.
Some of them had been close to qualifying. Nicklaus slipped 5-over- par on the last seven holes and missed by one stroke. Watson worked his way back to three over with a birdie on the 16th, but then bogeyed the 17th and missed by one stroke as well.
From a total of 312 rounds during the first 36 holes, the field of the 122nd Open Championship had played 73 rounds in the 60s, which breaks down to 23 percent, a little less than one quarter of the rounds over perhaps the most difficult course in the Open rota. It appears obvious, then, that given the proper conditions, the modern professional golfer might shoot anything; he has not approached his limit.
Even the most common defenses don't guarantee to frustrate players at this level. Distance means nothing. Accustomed to courses that reach beyond 7,000 yards, the 6,860 yards of Royal St George's stood well within their range. Heavy rough, speedy greens and tough hole locations have more effect. Sandwich had all the rough even a sadist might wish for, and whilst green speed may have lagged behind some the players find in other championships, the positions of the holes caught everyone's attention.
As the third round began, the early players found the flagsticks set next to hollows, bumps and ridges. A number of putts broke twice. Nevertheless, not long in to the day the course still showed it could be beaten. Starting off around 10 o'clock, Tom Kite, returning to the site of an earlier disappointment, and Ian Baker-Finch were the first to turn in sub-par scores.
Kit had been leading the 1985 Open with nine holes to play, but he missed the 10th green, dumped his third shot into a bunker, bladed his fourth across the green, and made 6. Surely and steadily he fell from the chase. A year ago, though, he had won the 1992 US Open, at Pebble Beach, but injuries had bothered him ever since.
After opening with 72 on Thursday and following with 70 on Friday, Kite sped around Royal St George's in 68 in the third round, a boost to his morale but of no real consequence to the final result of the championship.
Tom hadn't been finished 10 minutes before Baker-Finch followed him in with a round of 67. Clearly, even though the greens had dried out somewhat and the holes had been set in baffling positions, the course would yield to first-class shot making.
The strongest signal that Royal St George's might be in for another rough day came from Wayne Grady, the 1990 USPGA champion. Playing immediately Behind Baker-Finch, Grady shot 64, and had finished before the eight leaders had begun.
To refresh memories, Grady had led the 1989 Open going into the last round with scores of 68, 67 and 69, but he slipped to 71 in the fourth round, Greg Norman roared around Royal Troon in 64, and mark Calcavecchia finished with 68. Both men had caught him. Calcavecchia, of course, won the playoff. Disappointed, Grady made up for it by winning the USPGA the following August.
He hadn't done much since then, and in fact hadn't won a tournament on the American tour. He had, in fact, missed the cut in seven of the 13 events he had entered in 1993, and had won very little money, less than US$40,000, and had fallen to 172nd place in the rankings of US money winners. Consequently, nothing much had been expected of him at Sandwich, especially after he began with 74 on Thursday, a score that clearly placed him in danger of missing the 36-hole cut. Pulling his game together, he rallied by shooting 68 in the second round and saved himself.
Still, he represented no threat just yet. At 142 he stood well behind the leaders, trailing Nick Faldo by 10 strokes, but he continued to fight and began his third round with two birdies, reaching the right rear of the first green with an eight iron and holing from six feet and following with a sand wedge to another pin position close to the ridge edge and rolling home the putt from 10 feet.
Grady had his biggest moment on the seventh. After a solid drive, Wayne ripped into a three wood that rolled on to the green about 25 feet from the hole, tucked only four paces from the left edge. Grady's putt tumbled into the hole. An eagle 3; two strokes gained on one hole.
Now he stood four under par for the round, but still a long way from the lead. Determined, he continued to plug away and played a stunning six iron into the eighth that braked just 10 feet from the hole. Another putt fell and another 3 went down on his scorecard, his sixth of the round. He was five under through eight holes. When he played a routine par 4 at the ninth, he had gone out in 30, the best nine-hole score of the championship. Anything seemed possible now.
Grady began the homeward half still playing remarkable golf. He threaded a nine iron on to the elevated 10th green within five feet of the cup, set dangerously close to the right side, where the ground falls away down a slight slope. The putt dropped and he picked up still another 3. A par at the 11th and he had his eighth 3 and only three 4s. He was playing stunning golf.
Now he stood six under par with seven holes left. He had been playing such precise irons and had putted so well, holing every makeable putt, that his gallery had the feeling he might shoot anything.
Now the wind grew stronger, still coming in from the southwest, as it had throughout the week. Grady made par figures through the next six holes, and then stepped on to the 18th tee feeling the full force of the wind coming directly at him. He lashed into his driver and drilled his ball within 240 yards of the green. Not sure he could make the green from that distance, he drew out his driver once again.
He was right; he couldn't make it. His ball pulled up about 40 yards short of the green, but a nice pitch to 10 feet saved the par. He had come back in 34, and his 64 raised him to the fringes of the contenders, at 206 for 54 holes, within reach of the leaders. He had played a remarkable round made up of nine 3s, eight 4s and one 5, a par on the 14th. Sensational as it had been, Grady's round could have been even better; putts grazed the lips of the holes on the 16th and 17th, but didn't fall.
As Grady worked his way among the leaders, two others made significant moves as well. While Grady played those last treacherous holes, Nick Price set out on his way to a round of 67 that put him solidly into the chase at 205, but the big move was made by Corey Pavin, a pint-sized American with an unorthodox swing and a deadly putting stroke.
Starting out two strokes behind Faldo, at 134 for 36 holes, Pavin shot 68. When Faldo came in later with an even-par round of 70, Pavin had tied him for first place, at 202, one stroke ahead of Bernhard Langer, who matched Faldo's 70, and Greg Norman, who shot 69. With 70, Peter Senior dropped to a tie for fifth place, with Price, while Fred Couples shot 72, a round that would cost him heavily. He dropped into a tie with Grady and the young South African Ernie Els.
At first glance, Pavin gives the impression he has no business competing against the best players in the game. He lists his height at 5-ft-9, but he's probably an inch or so shorter, and his weight at 10 stone, which might be overstating it. Nevertheless, he had performed well enough in both his amateur and professional careers to have won places on both the Walker Cup and Ryder Cup teams and won every one of his singles matches.
Nor is he prone to intimidation. During his professional career he has won 10 tournaments, five of them in play-offs. He's lost only two.
The other US players consider him the most reliable clutch putter in the game, and he has holed some remarkable shots in spite of a jerky-looking swing that finishes with his hands low and almost wrapped around his left shoulder. His most gritty moment may have come at the end of the 1992 Honda Classic, in Florida, where he holed a full eight-iron shot to tie Couples, then won the play-off by holing a 20-foot putt.
A month later he placed third in the US Masters, helped considerably by a hole-in-one on Augusta National's hazardous 16th.
Not a big man himself, Langer speaks highly of Pavin's ability, saying, 'He's a tremendous competitor for his size. If I had to put anybody on the line to make a putt for me, I would choose him every time.'
Price called Pavin one of the smartest players in the game, saying, 'He was not given a lot to play this game with. He's not as long a hitter as I am, nor Norman nor Couples, but he's a fierce competitor.' Nor is Pavin, like most Americans, unfamiliar with links golf. He played the European Tour for three and a half months during 1983, shortly after he became a professional and before he qualified for the American tour. During that period he won twice and placed 13th on the Order of Merit. Once he qualified for the American tour, he became the first player since Jack Nicklaus to win a tournament in each of his first five years. Seven years after joining the tour, he became the 1991 leading money winner.
Fully confident in his ability to compete at the game's highest levels, Pavin, who was paired with Senior, made his move early, playing a nice little pitch to 10 feet on the second for one birdie. Then, barely on the fourth green following a drive and a four wood, he holed another putt that must have covered 50 feet.
Eight under par now, he had caught Faldo, who was off to a shaky start. With Prince Andrew, a certifiable golf nut, in his gallery, Nick bore up under an uncomfortable moment on the first tee. Just as he reached the top of that fluid backswing, a spectator, obviously intending to distract him, unleashed a piercing whistle. Nick flinched coming into the ball and hit the shot a bit thin, although it flew straight enough. His features set in a grim expression, Nick marched down the fairway while the Prince snapped, 'That was appalling.'
The culprit was chased down and expelled from the course.
Nick, meantime, had matched Pavin's birdie on the second with an even better approach, laying a wedge inside seven feet, taking over the lead once again at nine under par, but the course struck back, taking. a stroke away from him on that hard fourth hole, where the drive must clear a high mound pitted with what must be the game's largest bunker.
Faldo avoided the bunker, but his ball landed in the high rough, leaving him no option other than a safe seven iron and a wedge to 20 feet. With the bogey, Faldo fell back to eight under par, even with Pavin once again, and with Langer, who was paired with him.
Now Norman was closing in as well. Driving as well as he ever had (he didn't miss a fairway all day), he laced a six iron to 10 feet on the first, dropping him to seven under par and within one stroke of the lead, but he missed a great chance for another on the seventh. Perhaps the longest straight driver in the game, Norman drilled another long tee shot that brought the green of this 530-yard par 5, within six- iron range. His ball stopped about 25 feet from the hole, but Greg three-putted, losing a chance to pull even with Faldo and Pavin.
While Norman was giving away an opportunity, Couples, who was paired with him, struggled with an inconsistent game. A bogey on the fourth, where his approach rolled down the slope to the right of the green, dropped him to five under, and then he drove into a fairway bunker on the seventh. His ball lodged among the layers of sod, giving him very little chance to playa reasonable second. From there he advanced the ball only about 30 yards, his third shot ran to the back of the green about 40 feet past the hole" and he too needed three putts. Another bogey, and Couples fell further back, now only four under par for 43 holes.
As Norman and Couples struggled, cheers from behind them led their gallery to believe Faldo was doing great things, but it turned out the cheering had been for a save by Langer on the fourth hole, where he drove into the rough and needed two more shots to reach the green before holing from 12 feet.
A big drive on the seventh and a four iron to 18 feet set up a two-putt birdie, and when Faldo couldn't answer, instead pushing his second shot into a bunker and struggling to hole a three-foot putt to save a par, Langer slipped into a tie for the lead at eight under par with Faldo and Pavin.
As quickly as he tied for the lead, though, Langer dropped behind. His drive on the eighth drifted into the right rough, and he followed with an inexcusable shot, a four iron pushed far right. His ball skimmed along the line of spectators held back by ropes that cordon off the fairways, barely missed a woman leaning over to watch him, flew behind the head of an observer seated on a shooting stick inside the ropes, and disappeared into a lonely, full-bodied hawthorn bush sitting on a hillside at least 15 yards short of the green, and perhaps 15 yards to the right. It was a4 terrible shot, and Langer was lucky to find his ball.
But he did. It was clearly unplayable, and it cost him a double-bogey 6. He was two strokes behind Faldo and Pavin now.
Up ahead, Pavin, had gone out in 33 and started back by saving a par on the 10th with deft work around the green, chipping to four feet after missing with a five-iron approach, and holing the putt. He stood eight under par, still even with Faldo.
Corey continued to play error-free golf until he reached the 15th. He drove well, leaving himself 162 yards short of the green, but from there he evidently under-clubbed. Three bunkers cross the fairways like pearls in a necklace a few yards short of the green. When his ball caught the top of the bunker's face, killing its forward momentum, Pavin cried, 'Oh, no.'
His ball pulled up a good 10 feet short, and he bogeyed, dropping a stroke behind Faldo and Norman, who by then had birdied the 11th with a long, 30-foot putt.
Pavin is a fighter, though; he doesn't give up easily. Realizing he needed a birdie, he rifled a five iron to the 16th about 30 feet from the cup. As confident a putter as ever lived, Corey stroked his ball into the cup. Back to eight under par, tied with Faldo.
Just as Pavin was birdying the 16th,Norman, immediately behind him, missed the 15th green to the right, putted up the slope, and bogeyed, dropping back to seven under. Routine pars on both the 16th and 17th brought him to the trying finishing hole. There he hit a screaming drive that seemed would never come down. When it did, Norman had nothing but a five iron left on a hole where Grady couldn't reach the green with two drivers. Greg's approach rolled off the back of the green, but a chip to five feet and a nerveless putt earned him his par.
That is how Norman finished, shooting 69, tying Langer, who shot 70, at 203, one stroke behind Faldo and Pavin, the co-leaders at 202, eight under par.
As machine-like as ever, Faldo had ground out 14 consecutive pars after his bogey on the fourth, and he struggled for only three of those-on the sixth, where he holed from six feet after mis-hitting his tee shot; on the seventh, and on the 16th, where he ran in another six-footer.
Playing much better than anyone could have anticipated, Senior shot 70 and matched Price at 205, and Seve Ballesteros shot 69, not low enough to make him a threat but plenty good enough to delight his fans.
If it is true that the quality of any golf course is measured best by the quality of the players who rise to the top in the serious competitions staged over its grounds, then Royal St George's must stand very high in the rankings. With only a few exceptions, the group that led the 122nd Open Championship into the fourth round comprised the best players in the game.
As the day began under lowering skies and the threat of still more rain, 11 men stood within five strokes of one another. Nick Faldo and Corey Pavin shared first place, followed by Greg Norman and Bernhard Langer, then Nick Price, Peter Senior, Wayne Grady, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, John Daly and Fuzzy Zoeller.
Drawn from golfers throughout the world, these included the top five on the Sony Ranking list and eight members of this extraordinary group represented winners of 14 of the game's four principle competitions - four Opens, one US Open, six US Masters and three USPGA Championships.
With three Opens and two US Masters, Faldo had won more than any of the others. Langer had one two US Masters, Couples one, and Zoeller a US Open and a US Masters. Grady, Daly and Price had one the USPGA, and Norman had won the 1986 Open. Of the leading 11, only Pavin, Senior and Els hadn't won on the big occasion.
No one could recall seeing such a stunning leaderboard. With so many clustered so closely together, a tight, spirited battle seemed inevitable.
Those predictions were realized, for we were about to embark on a day like few in this old championship's memory, a wild and wonderful day of exquisite shotmaking, incredible scoring and a triumphal march down the broad, grandstand-lined avenue of the final hole by Norman, who once again climbed to the peak of the game after toppling during the previous few years.
It was a day that saw the young South African Els become the first man in the Open's history to score four rounds in the 60s and yet place no higher that a tie for sixth place; a day in which 27 men broke par for a record total of 116 for the championship; a day that saw Iain Pyman, the Amateur champion, shoot 281, the lowest score ever by an amateur n the Open; and a day when Paul Lawrie, a young newcomer to the European Tour, drew lusty cheers from the throng lining the 17th by holing a full-blooded three iron for an eagle 2 on his way to a round of 65 that lifted him into a tie for sixth place.
It was a day that began with Payne Stewart, far out of the race at first, ripping around Royal St George's in 63 strokes, equaling the record low Open score that had been matched earlier in the week by Faldo, and that ended with Norman shooting 64, and with 267 breaking Tom Watson's inviolable record of 268, then, when it was done, stating flatly, "I am in awe of myself."
No one could remember a day quite like it with so many of the game's great names playing their absolute best, turning the championship into a test of nerve as well as astounding golf. Langer demonstrated once again his fighting qualities, struggling back from another double bogey - this at the 14th where he drove out of bounds - and battling back into contention by birdying the next two holes.
Then there was Faldo trying for a consecutive Open, the fourth of his career, beginning the round a stroke ahead of Norman, shooting a superb 67 under enormous tension, and yet losing by two strokes.
The whole day left those who played such extraordinary golf, as well as those who only watched it, emotionally limp and yet exhilarated. We must wait to see if its memory will live as long as recollections of that wonderful year of 1977 at Turnberry when Watson and Jack Nicklaus matched stroke for stroke through the final 36 holes, Watson winning with 65- 65 against Nicklaus' 65-66, or perhaps the last wrenching round at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 1988, when Seve Ballesteros and Price played one glorious shot after another until Ballesteros finally won on the home green. The afternoon at Sand, wich certainly is a candidate.
The round had hardly begun when Stewart started working his miracles. The 1991 US Open champion and a winner of the USPGA Championship before then, Stewart had often played well in the Open, placing second to Sandy Lyle at Sandwich in 1985, and to Faldo at St Andrews in 1990. Runner-up to Lee Janzen in the US Open a month earlier, Stewart had shot what appeared to be reasonable scores of 71, 72 and 70 at Sandwich, but with 213 for 54 holes, he had been left far behind, 11 strokes behind Faldo and Pavin, the co-leaders.
Playing superb approaches and putting like a man possessed, Stewart birdied four holes on the first nine, dropping a 50-foot putt on the fifth, and raced to the turn in 31.
Coming back he holed from 20 feet on the 13th and from six feet on the 14th. Six under par now, he pulled his putt and missed from 15 feet once again at the 15th, but on that difficult and demanding 17th, Stewart played a wonderful six iron within 10 feet and holed the putt for his seventh birdie of the round.
One more birdie would break the Open's 18-hole record. Stewart drilled a long drive and followed with a four iron to 25 feet. For a heart-stopping moment his putt looked as if it might fall for the 62, but it veered away and Stewart shot 63. He had finished with 276, four under par, but only a miracle could make it mean something.
Rain had fallen heavily since Stewart had reached the 15th, and a chilly wind blustered in from the Channel. Soon, though, by the time the leaders stepped on to the first tee, the rain clouds had drifted off and patches of sky showed through the overcast. The drama was about to begin.
Everyone knew that whoever was to win this Open would have to beat Faldo, for no one in the game is more dangerous or more intimidating with an important championship at stake, especially when he holds or shares the lead. The result would depend on how his challengers would hold up under the unrelenting pressure he was sure to apply.
Norman was paired with Langer in the next-to-last group, followed by Faldo and Pavin. Many of those who remembered the Saturday round at St Andrews three years earlier felt Norman had the most to prove, for Faldo had embarrassed him that afternoon. Greg had played two superb rounds of 66 while Faldo had shot 67 and 65; but on that mild and pleasant day, Faldo had shot another 67, and in the face of that superb round, Norman had struggled to 76. Greg had not been the same since. This, then, was his time for reprisal.
Greg wasted no time sparring; he attacked from the first stroke, nailing a driver into center fairway, lofting a nine iron within nine feet, and holing the putt. At the same time, Langer rolled in a 20-footer for a birdie of his own. Both men slipped to eight under par, tied with Faldo and Pavin. Moments later Pavin played a terrible approach, missing the first green by miles, bogeyed, and fell one stroke behind.
Not playing up to the standards he had set earlier in the week, he would never catch up, although he bounced back right away by birdying the second. A second bogey at the fourth cost him another stroke, and although he hung around the fringes, he never again played a significant part.
Faldo, meantime, played a gorgeous pitch to the second that almost fell into the hole. His birdie dropped him to nine under par just after Norman drilled a four iron dead at the flagstick on the third and holed from 25 feet. Both men stood at nine under par now.
Faldo fell behind on the fourth by missing the type of putt he never misses when it matters. His approach ran over the back and his chip hit the hole and lipped out, spinning about five feet away. His putt for the par hit the hole again and once more spun out again. A bogey 5 and back to eight under. Stunned, his gallery groaned.
Faldo fought back, playing a nice six iron on the sixth and birdying, but Norman had already made his own birdie there, dropping to 10 under par, still a stroke ahead.
Three under for the round now, Norman missed a great chance to birdie, or perhaps eagle, the seventh. His four-iron second ran on to the green, but the radical contours turned the ball away, off the side and down a gentle slope.
Taking his putter, Norman rapped his ball a touch too gently; it climbed the slope but lost momentum near the crest, hung for an instant, then rolled back down again. A stroke wasted. Once again Greg rapped the ball with his putter, this time hard enough to roll on to the green a few feet from the cup. He holed the putt, saving a par 5, but this was a hole he should have birdied.
While he had given away one stroke to the field, it didn't matter to the outcome of the championship, for moments later Faldo parred the seventh as well, driving into a fairway bunker, hitting the top of the bunker face with his recovery, and leaving it in the rough no more than 30 yards farther on. A pitch and two putts and Nick too had his 5.
Langer, meantime, birdied, picking up a stroke on both men.
Now Norman led at 10 under par, with Faldo and Langer one stroke behind at nine under, and Pavin two strokes further back at seven under, along with. Price, who had gone out in 33. Five men stood within three strokes of one another with 10 holes to play.
Quickly, though, Norman pulled further ahead. After a struggling par on the eighth, he lofted a 135- yard nine iron to six feet on the ninth for his fourth birdie of the day. Out in 31, he had fallen to 11 under par and opened a lead of two strokes over both Faldo and Langer.
Only Norman, Faldo and Langer mattered now. Price had stumbled, bogeying the 10th, 11th and 12th; Pavin could make no headway at all, and Senior had waited too long to make his move.
The wind had picked up strength, scattering the clouds, and the sun broke through the overcast, taking much of the chill from the air. The great gallery had broken into two groups, one moving with Norman and Langer, the other lagging behind, cheering on Faldo, urging him on in his pursuit of that fourth Open Championship. With each succeeding hole, though, Nick's hope grew dimmer. Playing flaw- less golf, Norman was giving him no opening. Nick would have to make birdies.
When Faldo did birdie, he did it with flair. His tee shot to the 11th, a strong 216-yard par 3 playing toward the glittering waters of Pegwell Bay, rose in the sunlit sky, dropped dead on line to the hole, and hit the flagstick. With better luck he could have holed in one, but his ball ran a few feet past the hole, and the putt fell.
Ten under par after the birdie fell, Faldo had picked up no ground, for Norman played a marvelous sand wedge to four feet on the 12th, and the ball could do nothing but fall. Twelve under now, five under for the round, and still two strokes ahead of both Faldo and Langer, who suddenly began making birdies.
After bogeying the 11th and dropping three strokes behind, Langer had played an even better pitch to the 12th, a foot inside Norman's, and matched Greg's birdie. Not through yet, he added another at the 13th, playing a 443-yard hole with a driver and pitching wedge to eight feet. Now Langer stood 10 under par, two strokes behind, with the 14th, a certified birdie hole, coming up.
Here he made another major mistake, like his double bogey from the hawthorn bush the previous day.
The 14th runs alongside Prince's, the neighboring course where Gene Sarazen had won the Open 61 years earlier. Prince's is out of bounds. Langer made a bad swing and pushed his ball beyond the white stakes marking the boundary. Langer was shaken, of course, and the gallery wondered how his bad drive might affect Norman. Watching Langer play such a bad shot might cause him to playa cautious shot. But Greg had been playing better than he had ever played, hadn't mis-hit a shot all day, and had missed only one fairway in two rounds.
Trusting his swing, Greg ripped his drive far and true down the fairway. A three wood into the light rough lining the right of the fairway, and then a precise pitch nearly fell into the cup. It rolled only inches away, Norman tapped it in, and he had his sixth birdie of the round.
Langer finished the hole in 7, another double bogey, and dropped five strokes behind, back to eight under par. Norman stood 13 under par now, three strokes ahead of Faldo.
Still Faldo fought on; he wouldn't give up until the holes had run out. While Norman strode down the 15th fairway, Nick birdied the 14th. Eleven under par now, still two strokes behind, he had to have Norman's help to catch up.
He nearly had it at the 15th. After another long and straight drive, Greg's six iron slipped off the edge of the green and rolled down a steep slope. Since the ball lay in fairway-height grass, Norman putted up the slope toward the hole. Suddenly the ball swerved off line, curled away from the hole, and rolled 10 feet away. '
This would be no easy putt; it could mean a lost stroke and the opening Faldo needed. Still confident, Norman rolled his ball into the cup. Moments later he struck a magnificent five iron to the heart of the 16th green, within four feet of the hole, and added another birdie. Greg had gone 14 under par for 70 holes, and seven under par for the round. Two more pars and he would shoot 63.
Now Norman had put the championship out of Faldo's reach, but we still had a struggle for second place, and Langer was striking back. After his 7 on the 14th, he played a wonderful four iron to 10 feet on the 15th and a five iron to 20 feet on the 16th. He holed both putts and moved back to 10 under par, challenging Faldo for second place. If Nick should slip, Bernhard might catch him.
Perhaps overconfident by then, Norman made a mistake on the 17th. Reaching the back of the green with his approach, he putted within a foot and a half, but then, perhaps carelessly, he lipped out, losing one stroke of his lead. He said later he couldn't remember ever missing so short a putt.
It didn't really matter, though. His long blond hair ruffling in the wind, Norman drilled a perfect drive down the 18th and struck a perfectly played four iron to 18 feet. He had won the championship.
Langer appreciated what he had just seen even more than the gallery. As he and Norman strode through the wildly cheering crowd, he moved to Greg's side and told him, 'That was the greatest golf I've ever seen in my life. You deserve to win.'
Norman had hit every shot squarely on the face of the club, hit every fairway, and the four greens he missed cost him nothing, except for a possible birdie on the seventh. He shot 64 for the round, which, combined with his earlier rounds of 66, 68 and 69, added up to a 72-hole score of 267. He had played every round in the 60s, becoming the first Open champion ever to do so, and had beaten Faldo by two strokes and Langer by three.
Fighting to the end, Nick had played the 15th through the 17th flawlessly and even at the end, with the championship out of reach, he refused to yield. He pulled his drive on the 18th close to the metal fence holding back the gallery, chopped his ball from the wild rough well short of the green, and pitched perhaps 15 feet from the cup.
There would be no Open Championship now, but he needed this putt to secure second place. It never occurred to him to do anything but try his best to hole the putt. He studied the line, took his time, and in a demonstration of championship style, he willed the ball into the hole, ending a day that must rank among the greatest the old game has ever known.
We categorize our heroes and heroines on the basis on one incident, one anecdote. The single moment that defines them in our mind's eye may be unfair or inaccurate but it remains just that, the moment on which we base our feelings for that person.
Thus, Tom Kite is the man who left an uphill putt short on the 68th hole of a US Masters when to have holed it would have given him the lead. Thus, Seve Ballesteros is the man who hits his tee shots into car parks. And thus, for me, Greg Norman is the game's most gracious loser. Or was until Sunday, 18th July 1993.
It was at the Johnnie Walker World Championship in Jamaica in 1992 that the moment occurred. Norman had just missed a three-foot putt and lost a play-off to Nick Faldo. All the old ghosts were hovering: the specters of 1986 when he had led after 54 holes of all four major championships and won only one; of his driving into a bunker in the playoff for the 1989 Open; of all the other occasions when Norman had been about to win, only to lose.
Almost any golfer in the world would have wanted time to compose himself after having Faldo snatch the championship from him. No more than one minute after signing his card and shaking Faldo's hand, Norman had agreed to be interviewed by television and radio. What stoicism, I thought, at the same time as I was wondering for the umpteenth time whether such gentlemanliness in defeat was diminishing his chances of victory?
A red, raw streak of nerve was exposed briefly when Norman said to the interviewer, 'I'll talk but don't cut me, understand,' meaning he didn't want any more 'There you go again, Greg, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory' type of questions. But that was all. He had lost. It was time to face the next challenge, to hold his head up high, to find merit even in defeat.
Is this the incident by which I remember Norman? Partly, but not entirely. A few years ago I was anxious to talk to him after his wonderful round at Doral, 62 I think, on the famed and feared Blue Monster course. I tracked him down to the Far East but kept missing him as he made his way home again. Messages were left in hotels across Asia but the return calls never came.
Then one morning the telephone rang, and after I had answered it, a familiar voice said: 'This is Greg Norman. I tried you a couples of times but there was no reply.' We talked for 15 minutes about his round, his thoughts about the upcoming US Masters, about himself. He could not have been more helpful. If, as was later suggested, he was talking to me on his car telephone while driving near his home in Florida, then that increased the level of my gratitude.
The telephone incident with Norman was brought into focus a couple of years later. The then-current US Open champion was at home when my request to interview him prior to the Open was relayed to him by his management company. 'Give me your telephone number,' his manager had said. 'He is quite good about calling back. If he has time I'm sure he'll do so.'
Nothing happened for three days and then around 11.30 one morning the telephone rang. When I answered it the operator asked if mine was the number he had dialed. I said it was. 'Will you accept a reverse charge call from America?' he asked. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. A fellow journalist once received a reverse charge call from a player 15 miles away.
All this came to mind on this Sunday in July as Norman played the round of golf he has shown himself to be capable of playing many times but never to win a major championship. Was this to be Norman's Open? It was.
This time Norman proved that nice guys can be winners and that he can win by beating the best players in the world. He played 63 near-perfect strokes on this day, one missed 14-inch putt being his only blemish. No one backed off to give him the 122nd Open. No one folded. He went out and, as he has threatened to do so many times around the world, he wrestled this course into sub- mission with an awe-inspiring display of golf.
Bernhard Langer said as much, not me. As he and Norman walked up the 18th, their 72nd hole, as Norman was leading by two strokes, Langer said: 'That was the greatest golf I have ever seen in my life. You deserve to win.'
His most challenging moment might have been on the 14th tee when he watched Langer, his playing partner, drive over a fence separating Royal St George's from Prince's. A man waving a red flag indicated it was out of bounds. In the past Norman has had a tendency to block shots out to the right when under pressure.
If ever he was under pressure it was now, with the world's two best players breathing down his neck. He could have been excused if he had taken a one iron for safety from the tee and smashed his ball an enormous distance down the fairway into the prime position from which to attack the green.
By doubling the total of his major championships, Norman saved his career, indeed perhaps jumpstarted the second phase of it. Three years earlier, after Robert Gamez had holed a full seven iron from the 72nd fairway of Bay Hill and David Frost had holed from a bunker on the 72nd hole at New Orleans, both to snatch victory from under Norman's beaky nose, Norman had explained what his philosophy was.
'I've developed the ability to blot crappy things out of my mind,' he said. 'It doesn't matter whether it's on or off the course. There is no point in stewing over them. If I hit a bad shot five minutes ago, I say, "Hey, that never happened." I've taught myself that over the years. I have always been a believer in being positive. Never have anything that is negative. That's true of life and also on the golf course. If I screw up myself I can get mad at myself. When somebody does it to you, forget about it.'
He went on to say why he was looking at the new decade with such enthusiasm. 'I look at the 1980s as a complete learning experience. I feel like I've just turned the front nine and shot about 33. I'm looking to shoot 31 or 30 on the back nine.'
For a while, though, he looked as though he would struggle to break 40. No matter that his attitude was magnificently optimistic; in private he was depressed. He was making a huge amount of money off the course but not fulfilling his enormous potential on it. 'I was thinking of concentrating on designing golf courses,' he said. 'I was as low as can be. I was ready to quit.'
Whoever said it was darkest before dawn was right. Clich�s often are. That's why they become clich�s. One day in 1992 Norman examined himself in the mirror. 'What do you want to do?' he asked the face that stared out at him. 'Give up the game or fight back and be the best you can be?' The answer was he wanted to regain the form he had shown in the late 80s. There and then he decided to re- dedicate himself to golf. 'I love to play golf,' he said once. 'The question of winning will be decided by my own level of commitment.'
Just as Faldo had gone to David Ledbetter in the mid-80s to help him build a swing that would withstand the unyielding pressure of the closing holes of a major championship, so Norman went to Butch Harmon to have his swing overhauled. Harmon did not just give Norman a lick of paint. 'He changed everything, 'Norman said. 'My swing, my putting, everything.
A key swing change has tightened up my swing. I had been loose before, with my body not in sync with my swing. I tightened up my body rotation with Butch. That is why I have great control of distance and flight. All the things that should work together are now working together. I've worked harder than I did when I was 21 or 22.'
Norman himself noticed the change in the Open at Muirfield in 1992, when he started to receive positive feedback. That encouraged him to work still harder. His results prior to this year's Open were nothing to write home about. They were patchy: a missed cut in the US Open and 33rd place in the US Masters to be set against a victory at Doral and second place in the Western Open, two weeks prior to Sandwich. Then he started the Open with a double-bogey 6. It was an- other occasion to be positive. Norman hitched up his trousers and got to work.
'I see myself as coming to my second decade,' he said. 'I've blown some winning positions and no doubt will do so again, but not so of- ten. I am ready to attack the 90s. I am prepared for all the toil that will be necessary to meet the goals I've set myself for major championships. I will go through it all because I love to play golf and that's my work. Scuba diving is my pleasure. I am recovering my old aggression on the course. I know the rules. I live by the sword, so I must be prepared to die by the sword. But the time to judge me is not yet. I will be 46 at the end of this decade. Judgment day for Greg Norman the golfer will come in the year 2000.'
Between now and then will Norman win a third, fourth and fifth major title? I'll hedge my bets. I will only put my wife, my car, my house and my over- draft on his doing so. The game is not so strong it can do without the most exciting golfer since Ballesteros was in his prime; the longest, straightest driver since Jack Nicklaus; the greatest money earner in golf since Arnold Palmer. Golf needs the aura that is Greg Norman as much as Norman needs the opium that is golf. Well done, Greg. Good on ya, mate. It was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.