Date: March 14, 2009
Author: Dean Wedlake, Sportal

Norris’ amazing recovery

Australian Jason Norris knows he is lucky to be alive, let alone be leading the New Zealand Open at the halfway stage. Norris received horrendous facial injuries in an incident at the 2007 Coolum event which doctors said left him within a centimetre of death. While waiting for a taxi at a late-night &aposCut Party&apos, Norris hopped on a bicycle and careered down a hill into a concrete slab he could not see in the dark. He broke his jaw in 13 places, his nose almost went through his brain and five plates were required to be fitted into his skull. Norris had previously been considering giving the game away due to the effects of a wrist injury, which soon paled into insignificance. The road back to the professional scene was a long and hard one, which he seriously considered turning away from, but the mental and physical pain has all become worth it. If the affable South Australian was sick of regaling a story he has undoubtedly told countless times since that fateful day, he hid it well on Friday. “It was a tough seven or eight months, not only in my life but also in my golfing career and it&aposs still hard to think about it,” Norris said. “Things are moving on. I think mentally it helps me because you go back to the time and remember how hard it was and how much pain (there was).” “I think having the accident definitely helps me. If you&aposre going bad you can always look back at those times.” Given that dark day occurred on a Friday back in late 2007, it is somewhat ironic that Norris has dubbed himself &aposMr Friday&apos in reference to his hot second-round form of late. “I&aposve had about a six-under average for my Friday rounds over the last six months so I might just play Fridays,” he joked. That was again the case in Queenstown as he shot a superb seven-under 65 to share the halfway lead with playing partner Jeff Gove. The pair have built up quite a friendship, having played together in the first two rounds at last week&aposs NZ PGA Championship and combining for a total of 16-under on Friday with Gove carding 63 – the lowest round of the Open so far. Norris admitted they were able to feed off each other&aposs birdie barrages as he made five in a row from the 12th while Gove rattled off four birdies and an eagle in an incredible stretch from the 14th to the 18th. Their new-found friendship will again be on show in the third round as they tee off in the final group off the 1st tee at 1:50pm (NZT).