Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP : Norman Is Dealt a Zinger--Again : Golf: History repeats itself at Inverness, where this time he misses a four-foot putt on the second playoff hole to give Azinger his first major title.

August 16, 1993|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TOLEDO, Ohio — The ball sat undisturbed 18 inches from the hole, as if Greg Norman no longer wanted any part of it or, for that matter, the 75th PGA Championship.

By then, Norman had made a beeline for Paul Azinger and begun the familiar and painful routine of congratulating someone else, of wondering when exactly he'll get to hold the PGA's Wanamaker Trophy above his head, or hoist the U.S. Open hardware skyward, or slip on a green Masters blazer.

It happened again Sunday. Norman lost . . . at Inverness . . . at the PGA. He lost because he missed a four-foot putt for par on the second playoff hole. The ball curled around and past the cup and finally settled 1 1/2 feet away.

Norman didn't bother picking it up. After all, he has enough second-place mementos in major championships.

Fuzzy Zoeller beat him in a playoff at the 1984 U.S. Open. Bob Tway beat him by holing a bunker shot on the 72nd hole of the 1986 PGA. Larry Mize beat him in a playoff by chipping in from 140 feet at the 1987 Masters. Mark Calcavecchia beat him in a playoff at the 1989 British Open.

Norman has hit for the cycle when it comes to major disappointments. He is the owner of two British Open silver jugs, but double that in heartbreaks.

This time, it was Azinger who received Norman's congratulatory handshake. They stood there on the 10th green, the crowd beginning to descend upon them, and tried to comprehend the moment.

"I don't think he said much," said Norman, who shot a two-under-par 69 for the day, to Azinger's 68. "I think he was as shocked as I was."

Norman and Azinger were tied at 12-under-par 272 going into the final hole of regulation, the 357-yard, par-four 18th. Azinger, who carried with him the added weight of a reputation--"the best player never to have won a major championship"--had first crack at No. 18.

He put his drive in the right rough, hit a sand wedge to about 12 feet and then missed the birdie putt for the lead.

Norman, who began the day as the leader, was next. His drive found the fairway and his second shot found the middle of the green, about 18 feet or so from the cup and victory. His putt went in, and as if he hadn't been teased enough in his career, somehow spun out at the last moment.

Norman couldn't believe it. He tossed his putter, sending it cartwheeling into the stifling air. Then he tapped in for par and prepared for a playoff.

As Norman sat inside the scorer's room tabulating his card, a PGA official tried to shoo Azinger to the 18th tee, site of the first playoff hole. Azinger would have none of that. More nervous than an expectant mother, Azinger stayed put near the 18th green. He tinkered with a wedge, stretched, stared out into the crowds.

This was the day he had been waiting for. Like Norman, he had a history. He blew a chance to win the 1987 British and also skittered away opportunities at the 1988 PGA and assorted U.S. Opens.

But this was worse.

"My heart was beating so hard and so fast that for a while there, it was like a flash going off in front of my eyes every time my heart beat," Azinger said.

So stifling was the heat and pressure that Azinger found himself gasping for air at the end.

Earlier in the day, as the tournament seemed to be slipping slightly away, he began to doubt his chances for victory. Only one stroke back at afternoon's beginning, he bogeyed No. 5 and was soon three behind Norman.

Then on Nos. 15 and 16, as he stood at 11 under and Norman at 12 under, he examined his game and his desire once more.

"I questioned whether I would allow myself to perform," he said. " 'Am I going to throw up? What am I going to do?' I was really sucking air. I'm not afraid to admit it. That's part of the deal."

Not to worry. Azinger birdied the 435-yard par-four 17th and could have won it on No. 18.

Norman and Azinger were carted off to the 18th tee for the playoff. When they arrived, another PGA official stepped forward. He held two pieces of paper, each with a number written on them. Low number shoots first.

Norman looked at the official's hand. It was shaking.

"Your hand's shaking worse than ours," said Norman, who drew the No. 1 and had honors.

Once again Norman reached the green in two and faced a nearly identical putt to the one he barely missed in regulation. Azinger also placed it on the green, this time about 15 feet away.

Norman sent his putt toward the hole. From the edge of the green, Azinger took a peek. He had to watch.

"I thought with two feet to go it was in," he said.

Instead, it spun out again, causing Norman to drop his putter in disbelief and Azinger to throw his hands up in relief.

Azinger missed his attempt. On to the 10th hole.

Both players hit irons. Norman ended up in the first cut of rough, while Azinger stayed just in the fairway. As they walked toward their drives, someone from the gallery yelled out, "C'mon, Greg, this isn't '86."

In a way it was worse.

Norman's second shot ended 18 feet from the hole. Azinger, who had the better lie, was able to stick his wedge shot within seven feet.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|