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THE MASTERS | NOTES

At Least He Found a Sense of Humor

April 11, 1999|MIKE PENNER | From Staff Reports

This time, Greg Norman recovered from near-disaster--losing his ball in the bushes above the 12th green Saturday--so after he entered the interview room one stroke behind leader Jose Maria Olazabal, Norman was in a joking mood.

Before a question could be asked, Norman leaned into the microphone and said: "I'll give 500 bucks if anybody can go out there and find that ball."

Someone asked if Norman had any idea where the ball wound up.

"I don't know where it is," Norman replied. "Not a clue. I thought it was going to be about 80 yards past the flag. Who knows where it is? It's just mystifying."

Someone else asked what was going through Norman's mind as he frantically looked under branches while the clock ticked against him.

" 'Find the . . . ball,' " Norman said with a laugh. "That's what I was thinking."

And on the way back to the 12th tee?

"I was saying to myself, 'Just accept it. You hit a good shot, that's just run-of-the-mill. Those things happen.' . . . Then I put my tee right next to the divot that I just hit before. I aimed to the right of the same tree, the ball went exactly the same line. And it landed 25 yards short."

*

After Steve Pate shot a sensational--and remarkably mellow, for him--round of 65, Pate's caddie was asked what happened to his boss's trademark fits of temper.

"That's changed," Allan Mellan said. "People call him 'The Volcano,' but I call him 'The Dormant Volcano.' It's not active. But like any dormant volcano, there can be seismic activity."

Pate erupted in a different sense, reeling off a Masters-record seven consecutive birdies, eclipsing the previous mark of six, shared by Johnny Miller (third round, 1975), Mark Calcavecchia (fourth round, 1992) and David Toms (fourth round, 1998).

*

Norman and Olazabal became friends, pen pals of sorts, after Olazabal was forced off the tour for 18 months in 1996 and 1997 because of career-threatening foot pain.

"When I was having problems with my feet, he was always in touch," Olazabal said of Norman. "He wrote a note. He somehow wanted to know what the situation was."

Olazabal returned the favor in 1998, when Norman spent eight months away from the tour after undergoing shoulder surgery.

"He was one of the few players who called or dropped a note," Norman said. "And that means a lot, because it shows he's not only a competitor of yours, but a friend.

"[Today] will be a great day for both of us, regardless of what happens. Because we've put ourselves back in this position in world golf.'

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