There have, unfortunately, been many golfers who have had a chance to win a big tournament coming down the final few holes only to fall short.
Usually it is nerves or anxiety that affects them under pressure and they make mistakes that can cost them victory.
There are so many examples of this – Phil Mickelson at the 2006 US Open comes to mind, when he made double bogey on the 72nd hole to lose by one. Or even our own Adam Scott at the 2012 Open Championship when he made bogey on the final four holes to lose by a stroke.
And on and on we could go.
But the one that really sticks out for me is Greg Norman at the 1996 US Masters. The “Great White Shark” went into the final round with a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo. Having scored a 63 in the first round, Norman played some incredible golf over the first three days.
Having had many close calls over the years at the Masters, Greg Norman was supposed to have a leisurely stroll around Augusta National on Sunday afternoon. We all expected to see him leave wearing his new green jacket. Well, that’s not what happened at all.
It was a different man that showed up that day. He said years later he woke up and just didn’t feel right. His pre-round warm–up was not up to his own high level; his swing didn’t feel right; he started to panic early on.
His first tee shot went into the left trees having taken a very long time over the ball to get ready. He missed a shot putt to make bogey and the slide had begun. By the time Norman and Faldo had gone through the 7th hole, the lead was still four. But Norman then played the next five holes in five over as his lead disappeared.
Norman’s tee shot found the water at the famous short par-three 12th where he took a double–bogey and fell two strokes behind Faldo. Norman seemed in shock and looked like a man who had no control of his game.
He almost made eagle on the 15th hole and his birdie gave him a slight chance of still winning. That was until he dunked his tee shot at the par-three 16th into the water. Another double–bogey meant his chance of winning was completely gone.
It must be said that Faldo shot a flawless 67, but Norman’s 78 was one of the day’s worst scores.
Every moment was heart–breaking to watch. The whole world felt sympathy for Norman; even Faldo. The two rivals famously embraced on the last green. It was a day the golfing world will never forget. I am sure Norman must think of it regularly.
The fact is the pressure of possibly winning his first green jacket sent Norman out of his usual routine. He took longer over every shot as the pressure built.
A sad day for a legend of the game.