Aussie legacy rolls on 25 years after Norman’s Masters fall

AUGUSTA, UNITED STATES (AFP) – A quarter-century after Greg Norman’s epic final-round Masters collapse, his legacy is still felt at Augusta National and in an epic 33-year PGA win streak for Australians.

Five Australians are in this week’s Masters field, including 2013 winner Adam Scott, 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day and 2020 Masters runner-up Cameron Smith, the only player with four rounds in the 60s in one Masters.

“What the Shark did for Australian golf was huge for us,” Day said on Monday. “This is probably why we have so many players on tour now, because of him.”

Norman won the 1986 and 1993 British Opens but his hard-luck history at the Masters is the stuff of legend.

Jack Nicklaus edged him at age 46 in 1986 to become the oldest Masters winner. In 1987, Larry Mize holed a 140-foot chip shot to beat Norman in a playoff.

In 1996, Norman carried a six-stroke lead into the final round of the Masters and lost by five to playing partner Nick Faldo of England, the Aussie shooting a closing 78.

File photo shows England’s Nick Faldo and Australia’s Greg Norman walk off after Faldo won his third Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. PHOTO: AP

“We don’t want to even think about that,” Day said. “It was unfortunate the couple of times that he had here with Faldo and Larry Mize.”

Aussie Matt Jones “vividly” recalled watching the back nine breakdown.

“I was definitely disappointed,” Jones said. “But I was so busy at that time playing so many other different sports that golf wasn’t a focus for me. I was busy playing footballand cricket.”

Jones, who became a full-time golfer when he went to college at Arizona State, sustained a 33-year United States (US) PGA win streak by at least one Aussie by taking last month’s Honda Classic.

“It’s great. Hopefully I’m not the last this year and I’m sure I’m not going to be the last for many years to come,” Jones said.

“We’ve got a lot of great Australians coming up. There will be more wins, and hopefully we continue that streak to 50 or 60.”

Day was shocked at so long a win run by the Down Under golfers.

“That’s amazing. That just goes to show for such a small country that we’ve got a lot of talented players,” Day said. “I feel like most Australians have a really good short game and they’ve got a really good chance this week.”

The only Aussie winner of a green jacket was Scott, whose breakthrough came when he beat Angel Cabrera with a birdie on the second playoff hole. He sees lightning-fast greens this week.

“The greens are fiery, almost all of them,” Scott said. “If that’s a sign of things to come, we’ve got to buckle up for this week.”

He recalled them as the fastest since a 2007 practice round with Norman.

“Poured some water on the (16th green) slope and the water just trickled all the way across and off the green,” Scott said. “It never got absorbed.”

Smith shared second last November by becoming the first player to crack 70 all four days on a rain-softened layout.

“The course is already so much different to what it was last year,” Smith said.

“Nonetheless, looking forward to the challenge.”

He played nine holes on Monday alongside Scott, learning some lay-up options on par-five holes.

“He knows a lot more about the course than what I do,” Smith said. “Pick his brain a little bit here and there.”

Day has battled nagging injuries for years but says his body feels “tremendous” and his green jacket dream is intact.

“It has always been a goal of mine to win at Augusta,” Day said. “I feel good about myself. I’ve just got to be patient.”

Jones is just happy to be back at Augusta after his only other trip in 2014 the after winning the Houston Open.

“It’s a long time between drinks, but it was worth the wait,” Jones said. “I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen again.”