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You Could Look It Up: Norman Equals Resilient

September 14, 1997|RON SIRAK | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Next to the word "resilient" the dictionary says: "tending to recover form or adjust easily to misfortune or change." It should simply say: "Greg Norman."

There may be no more resilient athlete in all of sports.

After so many setbacks that would have ruined most careers, there was Norman at the Canadian Open, bouncing back once again, finishing second once again.

"That's what it's all about, isn't it?" Norman said. "You put yourself in position to have a chance and then just try to hit the best shots you can."

While the ultimate evaluation of Norman's career will focus on what he nearly won rather than what he won, it would be a huge disservice to overlook the determination and talent that put him in the middle of the fray so many times.

His second-place finish in Montreal was the 31st time Norman was runner-up on the PGA Tour. And so many of those near misses were much like the ones last weekend when a mere par would have put him in a playoff with Steve Jones.

But hitting first with a chance to pressure Jones, Norman--one of the best drivers in the history of the game--knocked it into the right rough.

After Jones could move his ball only 50 yards in the thick rough, Norman not only missed the green but missed it on the short side, leaving a very difficult chip over a mound to a pin cut close behind the hump.

The best he could do was get the ball to 18 feet, missing the putt and enabling Jones to win with a bogey.

In fact, the Canadian Open was a quicky primer on Norman's career.

He fought back, making three birdies after falling four strokes behind with a double bogey on No. 11. And he made a great shot when it was absolutely necessary, rolling in a 45-foot putt on No. 16 to pull within a stroke.

All he needed was one good shot on the final hole--either off the tee, with the approach shot or with the chip. Yet, Norman was unable to find one good shot anywhere in his considerable arsenal of talent.

This latest episode came with another plausible yet unsatisfying explanation.

"The wind came from an entirely different direction," Norman said of his errant drive on No. 18. "It went where I wanted it to go. I just picked the wrong line."

It sounded like the "between clubs" explanation at the Masters in 1986 and '95, or the "too much sand in the bunker" insight at Shinnecock in '95.

Norman can be exasperating at times like that. But, if anything, that exasperation comes from the burden of expectation. Norman has delivered so much it seems as if he should deliver all of the time.

By the numbers, Norman's career is astounding.

He has won $1.25 million on the PGA Tour this year--third on the money list despite playing only 14 tournaments--and his average check of $88,872 per tournament is second only to the $108,328 by Tiger Woods.

Since coming on tour nearly two decades ago, Norman has won a record $11.8 million--an average of more than $47,000 per event--and has made the cut 91% of the time. He has finished in the top three in nearly one out of every four tournaments.

Yet, his two British Open victories are overshadowed by the eight times he was second in the four major championships.

And there are memories of Norman hitting a six-iron into the water on the final hole to lose at Doral in 1995 and now the bogey that came up short at the Canadian Open.

But how many people would have bounced back from his crushing collapse at the Masters last year? How many players after missing the cut in the Masters and the U.S. Open this year at age 42 would get two firsts and a second in their next six events?

Norman is a man of emotion who lives for the moment. He is truly in this for the thrill of the hunt.

In the third round of the Canadian Open he wore all black in honor of Princess Diana and said images of her funeral earlier that day came back to him while he was on the course.

"What her brother said at the funeral should make us all think that we are not alone in the world," Norman said.

And golf fans should appreciate that they've been fortunate enough to watch the singular struggle of Greg Norman through a truly amazing career.

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