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Doubts over Norman's future continue

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 hope.

"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 in Sydney.

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.


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