Norman's Ego May Have Caused His Downfall

Posted: April 14, 1986

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Greg Norman's ego got the best of him, and it might have cost him the Masters championship.

The Australian, known as the "Great White Shark," got hungry at a crucial point yesterday and opened the way for Jack Nicklaus.

Norman was the leader when the day began, stumbled midway through, but came on strong in the pressure-packed finish with four straight birdies to grab a share of the lead. All he needed on the final hole was a par to face Nicklaus in a sudden-death playoff.

Norman never got the par or the playoff. He hammered a 4-iron approach into the gallery. It resulted in a bogey that left him one shot behind the Golden Bear at the end.

Norman's approach shot, oddly enough, was reminiscent of his finish in the 1984 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when he hit a 6-iron second shot into the stands on the last hole. He salvaged a par on that one to tie Fuzzy Zoeller, but lost a playoff the following day.

"I was going for the win here," said Norman. "The pin was all the way back and I tried to get the ball back there . . . Maybe my ego got the better of me. Maybe next time I'll be content to putt from 60 feet."

Norman played his third shot from the gallery area, and he had hopes of getting close for a one-putt save.

"I wanted to get it below the hole," he said, "but it stayed up."

Norman missed the 15-foot downhiller and chalked it up to experience, although it might be many a tour stop before he encounters the electricity of the 50th Masters.

"The crowd was unbelievable, especially when Jack is involved," he said. ''Compared to Augusta National, Winged Foot is a graveyard. Jack actually owns this place."

To his credit, Norman could have folded when he double-bogeyed the 10th hole to fall two shots behind Seve Ballesteros. But he hung in for a closing 2-under 70 and 280 total for the tournament.

"I stuck to my guns and I gave it my best shot, 101 percent," Norman said. "After the double bogey some might say, 'Let's just finish.' But I felt I could have won and I tried."

Despite his disappointment, Norman joked to the end. "Someday I'm going to

break Jack's record of six Masters," he said with a smile.

Fine. But who says Nicklaus is stopping at six.

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