Greg Norman is professional golf's all-time leading money winner. He was the first golfer to reach $10 million in earnings and from 1986 through 1990, was ranked number one four times. He won the British Open in 1986 and 1993. Norman, nicknamed the "Great White Shark," during the 1981 Masters tournament, is extremely popular with the public and the media.
Yet Norman's knack for failure in many big tournaments, particularly the Masters, is legend, and he has lost a playoff in each of the four major tournaments. In 1993, he actually led all four major tournaments entering the final round but only captured the British Open. In 1996, he led the Masters by six strokes only to shoot 78 in the final round losing to Nick Faldo by five strokes. Fate worked against him again in 1987 when Larry Mize beat him for the Masters championship with a miracle chip shot. "Norman remains an enigmatic figure, a man whose talent was never questioned but whose heart often was," Ron Flatter wrote in a sports-century biography for ESPN.com. "Much the same way as (baseball's) Bill Buckner and (football's) Scott Norwood are remembered for singular plays, Norman's good name is underscored by eye-popping failures."
Two British Titles, Many Failures
Norman was raised in Mount Isa, Queensland, an Australian mining town, and caddied for his mother for six years. He earned his first professional victory in 1976, his first year as a pro, when he captured the West Lakes Classic outside Adelaide. He won about 20 tournaments overseas before his first victory in the United States, the Kemper Open outside Washington, D.C. in 1984.
His first disappointment in a major tournament came two weeks later at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. After forcing an 18-hole playoff with a 40-foot putt-inducing Fuzzy Zoeller to wave a white "surrender" handkerchief-he shot 5-over par in the playoff and lost to Zoeller.
Norman won his first major title, in 1986, when he captured the British Open. He rode a second-round 63 to a five-stroke victory at Turnberry, but he blew the other three majors in what Flatter called the "Saturday Slam." (Golf tournaments hold the next-to-last rounds on Saturdays). In the Masters, it was less of a Norman fold than a Jack Nicklaus charge. Nicklaus was in ninth place entering the last 18 holes and shot a 30 on the back nine holes; still, Norman fell to Nicklaus by missing a 15-foot putt on the final hole.
At Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y. that summer, Norman fell all the way to 12th with a 5-over-par 75 the last day as Ray Floyd became the oldest U.S. Open champion. He also stumbled at the PGA Championship at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio, ending with a 76. Tway won with an against-all-odds chip shot from a greenside bunker and prevailed by two strokes.
Ironically, Norman engineered one of the great final rounds in major championship history when he took the 1993 British at Royal St George's. Starting the last day one stroke behind co-leaders Faldo and Corey Pavin, Norman shot a 6-under par 64 to offset a 67 by defending champion Faldo. Norman triumphed by two strokes. "Yeah, I would like to say I beat Bob Tway. I would like to say I beat Larry Mize and those other guys, too," Norman said. "I didn't. But I hung around, and I came back."
Agony at Augusta
Three frustrating finishes in 1986 paled in comparison to Norman's nightmarish defeat in the 1987 Masters. "As if losing one major to an unlikely shot were not punishment enough, Norman would experience golf's
version of the cruel and unusual in the very next Grand Slam tournament," wrote Flatter. In the second playoff hole, Mize's pitch shot from 45 yards rolled down a slick green and into the hole. Norman missed a 30-foot birdie putt. Norman cried when he returned to his Florida beach home that night
Norman's other loss at Augusta in 1996 drew an avalanche of public sympathy. He led by six strokes entering the last 18 holes, only to suffer an 11-stroke turnaround. "Golf is the cruelest game, because eventually it will drag you out in front of the whole school, take your lunch money and slap you around. Golf can make a man look more helpless than any other endeavor," Sports Illustrated 's Rick Reilly wrote of Norman. "I don't know many people who watched the final round of The Masters and enjoyed what they saw," Billy Faires wrote. "Well, except for the sports reporters, who covered it like the media hounds who covered the Jessica Dubroff flight—in the hopes that she would crash and they would have a great front-page story.
Even the man in the green jacket, symbolic of a Masters triumph, was sympathetic. "I don't know what to say," Faldo told Norman in an emotional gathering. "I just want to give you a hug. I feel horrible about what happened. I'm so sorry." Still, others questioned Norman's killer instinct. Said former caddie Bruce Edwards about Norman on ESPN Classic 's Sports Century series: "We were walking up the 17th fairway, and Greg turns to me and says, 'I guess it's better to be lucky than good.' And I was stunned. Faldo had outplayed him all day. And so I turned to Greg and said, 'I just want to caddie for someone who has heart.'"
Still Hugely Successful
Despite his legendary near misses, Norman can boast of 20 PGA Tour victories, including his two British Opens, and 66 international titles. He played a lighter schedule in 2002, competing in only 13 Tour events, making the cut 10 times and withdrawing once. A year earlier, he won $1 million at the 2001 Skins Game, shutting out Tiger Woods , Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik. And, in 2000, despite playing less because of medical reasons (his right hip has bothered him for several years), he was 84th on the money list. His last victories were the St. Jude Classic and the World Series of Golf, both in 1997. He was third in the Masters in 1999.
Norman, in a recent interview with the The Golf Channel, echoed the concern of many PGA Tour players as professional golf tournaments, just coming off a growth cycle, scramble for sponsors amid a sluggish economy. "I see the bubble growing at such an exponential rate—about 10 to 13 percent a year since 1999—that it's going to burst. Everything else is on the drop, but we're on the up, so when you have this disparity going on, it doesn't take too long before you get sailing close to the edge."
Norman, also a highly successful businessman, is chairman of Great White Shark Enterprises, a multi-national corporation whose ventures range from golf course design to clothing and yachts. "The shark logo-a multicolored image of a shark—and the Norman name are among the most potent business symbols in the world," Adam Schupak wrote on the PGA.com Web site. He is also an active course architect and has a strain of turfgrass named after him.
|1955||Born in Mt. Isa, Queensland, Australia|
|1984||Ties U.S. Open on 40-foot putt but loses 18-hole playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller|
|1986||Leads all four major tournaments entering final round but wins only British Open|
|1987||Larry Mize miracle chip shot in playoff proves decisive as Norman drops Masters by one stroke|
|1993||Leads all four majors entering final day but wins only British Open|
|1996||Blows six-hole lead on final day of The Masters; Nick Faldo wins tournament.|
|2002||Competes in only 13 PGA Tour events; announces late in year that he will rejoin PGA Tour in 2003.|
The Normans, who married in 1981 and live in Hove Sound, Florida, have two children, Morgan-Leigh and Gregory. He and his wife, Laura, are active in many charities and have received the Hands of Hope Award from the National Childhood Cancer Foundation. Norman's hobbies include hunting, fishing and scuba diving.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY NORMAN:
Norman, Greg and George Peper. Shark Attack: Greg Norman's Guide to Aggressive Golf, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Norman, Greg and George Peper. Greg Norman's Instant Lessons, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1976||Earns first professional victory, West Lakes Classic in Australia|
|1984||Wins Kemper open, first pro victory in United States|
|1984||Loses U.S. Open playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller Wins British Open, 1986, 1993; Arnold Palmer trophy as PGA Tour's leading money winner|
|1988||Wins Vardon Trophy for lowest average score on PGA Tour Wins Vardon Trophy and Arnold Palmer Trophy; 1989, 1994|
|1999||Becomes first PGA Tour player to pass $12 million in earnings|
|2000||Receives honorary life membership on European Tour|
|2001||Earned $1 million at the Skins Game, shutting out Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik.|
Advanced Golf/Greg Norman, Rutland, Vt.: Journey Editions, 1996.
Litke, Jim. "Shark Shakes Loser's Stigma." Daily Freeman (July 19, 1993): 14.
"Stormin' Norman: Shark Attacks Past, Wins British Open." Daily Freeman (July 19, 1993): 13.
Berlet, Bruce. "Title Search: Tour Sponsor Situation a Growing Concern." Hartford Courant, http:/www.ctnow.com/sports, (December 15, 2002).
Faires, Billy. "On Greg Norman's Fall at The Masters, 1996.#x201D; McCallie School, http://www.mccallie.org/bfaires/columns/norman.html, (December 17, 2002).
Feherty, David. "Feherty's Mailbag: Spectator Mounds." CNN-Sports Illustrated, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/golfonline/columns/feherty/email/2003/0103, (January 3, 2003).
Flatter, Ron. "Major Failures Overshadow Norman's Conquests." ESPN.com, http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Norman_Greg.html, (December 29, 2002).
"Greg Norman." PGA.com, http://www.golfweb.com/information/norman_indepth.html, December 29, 2002).
"Greg Norman-Biographical Information." http://www.golfweb.com/players/bios/1876.html, (December 16, 2002).
"Greg Norman Biography." www.shark.com/sharkwatch/biography (December 27, 2002).
Oliver, Darius. "The Great White Shark: Greg Norman." Ausgolf, http://www.ausgolf.com.au/theshark.htm, (December 27, 2002).
Reilly, Rick. "The 1996 Masters Tournament," CNN Sports Illustrated.com, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/augusta/history/online_coverage/1996/, (April 17, 1996).
Sketch by Paul Burton
Greg Norman: Golf's Survivor
The last 20 minutes were unlike any seen in the previous 59 Masters. Norman became a kind of dead man walking, four shots behind and all his dreams drowning in Augusta National ponds behind him. Spectators actually looked down, hoping not to make eye contact, as Norman passed among them on his way to the 18th tee … "I screwed up," Norman told the world's press, smiling. "It's all on me. I know that. But losing this Masters is not the end of the world. I let this one get away, but I still have a pretty good life."…Whatever this day had done to him, it hadn't destroyed him. He is golf's black box, its unmeltable survivor.
Source: Reilly, Rick. Sports Illustrated, April 22, 1996.
Greg Norman (Gregory John Norman), 1955–, Australian golfer, b. Mt. Isa, Queensland. Noted for his power, the "White Shark," a professional since 1976, is tremendously popular with the gallery. Although he has won dozens of tournaments, the 1986 and 1993 British Opens are his only major victories, and he is famous for losing leads in the final round, most notably in the 1996 Masters. Norman won the 1994 Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average on the Professional Golfers Association tour. In 1995 he became the PGA's leading career money winner.