Greg Norman at 64
If it’s a Tiger that puts the fear of god into a field of mere mortals in the 21st Century, then there is no doubt that its predecessor is a Great White Shark.
Tiger Woods had the gallery cheering and celebrating throughout The 147th Open at Carnoustie last year as he made his first serious run at the Claret Jug in half a decade.
His relentless success makes him one of the game’s greats and only a handful of players can rival him for that title. One who can is Greg Norman.
The Australian won The Open in 1986 and 1993, and those victories – not to mention eight other top-ten finishes in his attempts to be named Champion Golfer of the Year – make him one of the greatest players in the history of the world’s oldest Championship.
It took Norman 11 years after his first Open appearance to claim the Claret Jug for the first time – he came close at the Old Course in 1984, but despite a final-round 67 he could not catch Seve Ballesteros.
Two years later, he arrived at Turnberry as world number three, but still seeking his first major.
His second-round 63 – when only 15 players broke par on Friday – remains one of the all-time great Open cards, five-time Champion Golfer Tom Watson describing it as, “the greatest round ever played in a tournament in which I was a competitor”.
And in the shadow of the famous lighthouse, Norman closed it out to the delight of the Scottish crowd. He hit the pin with his approach into the par-four 13th and signed for a one-under 69 to win by five shots.
“Outside of Australia, Britain was the first place that accepted me as a professional golfer,” he said afterwards. “To win my first Open here in front of that gallery was the best feeling ever.
“I had already promised the trophy to my mum – she was the first person, other than me, to put her hands on it.”
One of the finest leaderboards ever seen amassed at Sandwich in 1993 – with Bernhard Langer, Corey Pavin, Ernie Els, Paul Lawrie, Nick Price, and Fred Couples all in contention.
But none of those or even his great rival, Nick Faldo, could deny Norman that week as the Shark produced his very best golf on a scintillating Sunday.
He went out in just 31, on his way to a 64 that set a new record as the lowest round to win The Open that stood until Henrik Stenson’s 63 in 2016.
Stenson broke another record set by Norman back in 1993; the Australian’s total of 267 edged out Tom Watson’s 268 in 1977 as the lowest-ever winning score.
“The rivalry was real; we were two different personalities and my way of playing golf was the antithesis of Nick Faldo’s,” he said.
What it means to be the "Champion Golfer of the Year". pic.twitter.com/khmuirPAs0— The Open (@TheOpen) February 4, 2019
“I’d be telling a lie if I said I didn’t well up a little bit [on the 18th], that’s the feeling you cherish the most and it’s the best major.”
ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK
Norman was known for his gung-ho, big-hitting game plan during the 1980s and 1990s, but it was his consistency that kept him on top of the golfing world for so long.
Always putting himself in a position to win, a 2014 study by Golf Digest found that (since 1980) Norman was a better player week-in-week-out than everyone except Tiger Woods.
But despite 88 victories in a stunning career, the Australian is almost most famous for 31 runner-up finishes – including eight times at major championships.
And while Norman admits the heartbreak was at times devastating, it also made his two Open triumphs all the more special.
He said: “I was a self-taught guy and when you’re that way, you miss a few things. There were opportunities I let slip, and if I could do it again I’d seek out more advice knowing what I do now about the mental approach to the golf game.
“My personality was to go after it and take no prisoners, and I won 91 times. I’m a big believer in destiny so I think I achieved everything I was meant to.”