First published in The Age on July 21, 1986
Norman’s Open by five strokes
TURNBERRY, 20 July — Greg Norman rode a wave of confidence to a five-shot victory in the British Open today, his first win in a major championship.
The blond and beaming Queenslander became the first Australian to win the Open since Peter Thompson in 1965.
British Open winner Greg Norman and wife, Laura, kiss the trophy.Credit:AP
As Norman strode up the 18th fairway, the reception befitted one who had too often knocked on the door of the world’s biggest events, only to be shut out by the brilliance of others and his own lapses.
But there were no lapses today and Norman was brilliant. Those who said he lacked quality to win at the highest level were left to choke on their predictions.
At no point was Norman’s confidence better illustrated than on the 15th fairway after his tee shot had landed in the rough. Faced with the option of playing safe and shooting short of the brook, or going for the pin, Norman gave It everything, and himself a birdie chance which was only narrowly missed. Norman finished with a final round 89 for an aggregate total of 280, even par.
In second place, five strokes behind, was Briton Gordon Brand, with Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam a further stroke back.
Norman’s overnight lead of one stroke increased to three strokes when his playing partner, Tommy Nakajima of Japan, double-bogeyed the first hole.
And it increased to five when Norman, pumped up by a supportive crowd of more than 25,000, brilliantly holed from a bunker 11 metres out to birdie the third. NakaJima bogeyed the same bole.
Although Norman bogeyed the fifth, he sank a four-metre birdie putt on the eighth.
Norman’s strong start today came after he survived blinding rain late yesterday to retain his lead in the championship by one stroke going into the final round.
For the second time in three days, Norman suffered the worst of Turnberry’s cruel summer yesterday. But today the sun was shining and he was again the Shark.
In yesterday’s conditions, he was happy with his third round of 71, giving him a total of 211, one over par for the tournament.
Norman said his club twice slipped from his grasp as he played shots and that the rain from the 15th fairway made it almost impossible to see. “Every time you looked up from your ball to see where you wanted to line up, it hit you straight in the eye with a sting,” he said.
Norman went into the final round with a one stroke lead over Nakajima and a three-stroke lead over Brand and Woosnam. Bernhard Langer, Raymond Floyd and David Graham were all on 218, seven strokes behind him.
While Norman fought to stay in control yesterday, most of the big names slid out of contention, some of them firing verbal shots along the way.
Seve Ballesteros yesterday launched another attack on the course, saying it was so tough that it was not good for the game. But he proved just how playable the course was in today’s better conditions with a round of 6-4, one stroke off the course record equalled by Norman on Friday.
Jack Nicklaus was gracious in defeat and said the conditions and course had separated the good players from the bad – “and I’ve been in the latter category this week”.
“If you shoot a bad score maybe you should just keep your mouth shut,” said Nicklaus, a three-time winner. “It hasn’t reduced my enthusiasm for the open or Turnberry.”
Nicklaus’ last round of 71 for a total score of 298 left him two shots clear of Tom Watson, the man who beat him in the classic played here. Watson’s last round was also 71.
Norman, meanwhile, said he was confident of winning irrespective of the conditions today. “I’m playing well and very confident in my ability out there to tackle any conditions that are thrown at us.”
Victory for Norman would make him the first Australian to win the open — acknowledged as the world championship of golf even by the majority of America’s top players — since Peter Thomson won his fifth open in 1965 at Royal Birkdale.
One factor in Norman’s favor going into the final round was the absence of proven rivals within striking distance.
Of the seven Australians beside Norman In the final 78, only Graham was in touch with the leaders.
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