Date: November 16, 2006
Author: Luke Buttigieg

Nathan’s Norman nerves

By Luke Buttigieg, Sportal Had anyone witnessed Nathan Green&aposs final preparations for the MFS Australian Open, they could have been forgiven for thinking he would struggle on the opening day rather than grab the outright lead with a brilliant 67 at Royal Sydney. Green admitted after his round that he had woken in the middle of the night and been unable to get back to sleep, nervous about his 8:20am date at the 10th tee with one of his childhood idols in Greg Norman. Then to add to the difficulty of the day Green and the rest of the field were also confronted by tough conditions in Sydney, with strong swirling winds, heavy rain and low temperatures. But Green shrugged off the prevailing weather and his nerves in sharing the spotlight with Norman to grab six birdies – including four on the front nine after he started at the 10th – and just the one bogey at the 18th. “I was actually really nervous because I&aposd never played with Greg before and I woke up early and couldn&apost get back to sleep. I was a bit worried about my game,” he said. Green and Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal were beaten by world No.1 Tiger Woods in a playoff at the Buick Invitational in late January, but the 31-year-old said playing with Norman was a more nerve-wracking experience. “He (Woods) introduced himself on the first hole (of the playoff) but for me that was like playing with the Shark (Norman) today, it was an intimidating feeling. It could even probably be Greg for me,” Green said when asked which of the two he found it more daunting to play with. “Today was a bit of an unknown for me as far as I&aposd had two weeks off, didn&apost know how I was playing and to tee it up with a bloke who you&aposve idolised your whole life, it was definitely tough. But he&aposs a real nice guy, it was a good day.” Describing himself as a steady player rather than a flashy one, someone who is happier quietly going about his game away from the headlines, Green nonetheless has gained plenty of confidence from his performances in the US this year, including finishing 41st on the money list. “A lot of confidence, I went over there thinking that I sort of didn&apost feel like I belonged on that tour, even though I&aposd taken a long while to get there,” he said. “I went in there with a similar attitude to this week, on a really tough golf course and that&aposs probably where I perform better, on tougher courses where one, two-under, three-under par is a really good score and yeah just got myself into contention there and I was able to stick with them.” “I think my game is getting to the point where I think I might be able to stick with the better players if I&aposm playing well. That&aposs what I got out of it.” “I didn&apost feel like I was totally on top of my ball striking either but just managed my game really well and that&aposs just something I took onto the rest of the year and I was pretty comfortable being there after that.” Judging by his performance though Green was obviously not overawed playing with Norman, and was happy to be a spectator on a few occasions watching the five-time Australian Open champion in action. “I saw him playing at The International this year as well and he still strikes the ball really well and hits a lot of good shots, he just doesn&apost have that sort of match fitness,” Green said. “It&aposs pretty hard when you&aposre playing two or three events a year to be really sharp but he&aposs definitely still got it, it&aposs just whether he has the hunger to do it that much any more. It was just great to watch him play and you definitely learn a lot how he goes about his game.” “Even though things weren&apost going well for him he stayed pretty focused. It was just a really good experience.”