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Doubts over Norman's
As Greg Norman wandered
away today from the tournament that helped make his name as a golfer, the temptation
to question his commitment to the game was more irresistible than ever.
Norman finished equal 16th in the Ericsson Masters at Huntingdale, an event he
has won six times.
It was a long way from
his worst performance and, in patches, he played great golf.
But this was the third
event in succession in Australia this summer in which he has struggled to make
the halfway cut, and the signs were that the hectic business life, the injuries
and the years might be dulling the Norman enthusiasm.
There was the almost despondent,
one-man show on Saturday morning when he played the third round alone after being
the last player to sneak into the final two days.
He breezed around in a
little over two hours and at times he hardly broke stride to play his shots.
After his final round,
a one-under par 72, he spoke of his frustration and anger.
"My game is good
my scoring sucks," Norman said.
Putting was Norman's major
problem over the four days and he said the 18th hole today, where he rammed a
one metre putt two metres past the hole, exemplified what he was going through.
He ended up with par, but
he wasn't happy.
"When you play golf
like that and walk off with a par, you don't feel great about it," he said.
"It has been frustrating.
I know it's a game and we all go through cycles like that, but..."
He did, however, give himself
"It will even itself
out," Norman said.
"When I get back to
putting well I will say 'How the hell did I ever putt so poorly at the start
of the year'.
"I know it's going
to come back, I know there is nothing wrong with my stroke."
But there was also the
familiar Norman "double speak". In one breath he says there's nothing
wrong, and in the next he'll explain what the problem is.
After today's round he
declared his putting stroke was perfectly sound.
Then: "My timing is
out, my rhythm's out".
"When your rhythm's
out like on that putt on 18, I tried hard to put it in the back of the hole,
but it didn't work."
In Thursday's opening round
it was worse he three-putted six greens.
Of the three tournaments
he has played in Australia since Christmas, Norman has scrambled to make the
cut here and in the Heineken Classic and missed the cut in his own tournament
Another aspect worth considering
is that the Shark turned 45 during the Masters, and it could be that he is further
into the back nine of his career than he'd like to admit.
There is little doubt that
Norman is the finest golfer Australia has produced in the past 40 years, and
one of the best in the world.
There is also little doubt
that the Shark is still hungry.
It just may be that he
isn't swimming as fast any more.