Friday, July 18, 2008

I'm a Believer

Greg Norman is the club house leader after finishing his second round of the British Open.

Now there is a sentence I never thought would be written again.

I want to write it again, just to savour it:

Greg Norman is the club house leader of the British Open.

The guy is 53, plays bugger all tournaments a year, spent most of the last month organising a lavish wedding for himself and his new bride Chris Evert (now there's a sentence I know I never expected to write!), and now after two rounds of the greatest golf tournament in the world (I know there is the US Open and Masters, but I think links golf is a sterner test than the lovely American courses) he is in the lead. Amazing.

Now he is a long way from winning this thing, and not even I am going to suggest he is more than an outside chance to be contending come Sunday afternoon, but the thrill I got watching his round tonight ensures I'll be glued to the TV for his next round.

The only person who ruined more mornings of my adolescent life than Norman was my Dad who liked to start up the lawn mower on Saturdays to give me an all too subtle hint that it was time to earn my allowance.

Look at Norman's record in the US Masters from 1986-89: Tied 2nd, Tied 2nd, Tied 5th, Tied 3rd. So that's four Monday mornings that I would have gotten up at sparrow to watch Norman contend and then falter. In 1986 he also came tied 12th in the US Open, and 2nd in the US PGA. That's 2 more anti-climactical early mornings. And given I was serious about sport I would have watched the first 3 rounds of all these tournament so lets make that at least 24 mornings in the 1980s that ultimately ended is despair.

There's no accounting for why some people affect millions while others don't.

Take Ian Baker-Finch. Nice guy, excellent commentator. But I tell you if it was he who was in the lead of the British Open, I would think that it's pretty interesting, but would not be thinking of investing any hope in a win.

Greg Norman has no equal with any other Australian sportsperson when it comes to being the cause of hours of lost sleep. For a few good years Pat Rafter at Wimbledon had us staying up till 2 in the morning; Leyton Hewitt likewise; but Norman did it year after year - late nights for the British Open; early mornings for the US majors.

And so while others may like to criticize Norman for being too American, not playing in Australia enough (as incorrect an argument as ever was made), or for being a choker, I don't. Adam Scott is supposedly our best golfer since Norman, and I can't recall losing a minute of sleep for him.

Norman for all his faults kept you believing, kept you hoping - in fact that was his biggest fault; regardless of reality when you saw him saunter down the fairway you thought maybe this time. Maybe.

And though it's been 5 years since he even finished in the top 20 of a major, and I thought the feeling long gone, it just took one look at the leaderboard to realise it is still there.

I have no confidence it'll end well, but I'm hoping. And I'm happy to lose some more sleep - just for old time's sake.

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