Australian golf legend Greg Norman has relived the most painful moment of his career in raw scenes captured in a new documentary.
Greg Norman has relived the most painful moment of his golf career in an excruciating but must-watch piece of television.
The Australian golfing legend is the subject of a new ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled Shark, which unpacks his numerous final-day collapses, culminating in his heartbreaking meltdown at the 1996 Masters.
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The documentary, which features interviews with Norman himself as well as several golf legends and leading commentators, chronicles the times he let a lead slip during a final round on Sunday.
Norman finished runner-up at majors eight times — the fourth most of any player — behind only Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Arnold Palmer.
He finished second at the Masters on three occasions — in 1986, 1987 and 1996 — and developed a reputation through his career of conceding sizeable leads in final rounds.
Norman was labelled the master of the “Saturday Slam” because he frequently led after three rounds but couldn’t finish off tournaments. But in Shark, he strongly rejects the argument he was a “choker”.
“I have a lot of pushback on the word ‘choker’ because ‘86 was a year I played 27 tournaments and I won 11 of them,” he said.
“If I won two of the majors, was I still going to be a choker? I don’t know.”
The documentary discusses the theory Norman was “snakebit”, or cursed by a series of miracle shots from unheralded golfers that robbed him of glory at major championships.
Australian golf fans are still haunted by Larry Mize’s impossible chip in to beat Norman at the 1987 Masters, as well as Bob Tway’s bunker shot at the 1986 PGA Championship, plus several others.
“It was tough, it was really tough,” Norman said of the result at the 1987 Masters.
“I went home and I cried on the beach. All these questions go through your head for months and months.”
During his playing days, Norman felt he was cursed by the golfing gods but but he is far more philosophical today.
He recalled thinking: “God what did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong? Why is it happening to me on a regular basis and nobody else?
“All these stupid things come rushing into your mind and it was very difficult for me.
“(But) if people want to look at it from a snakebit standpoint, maybe there are other things in life that have been pretty good for me too. What you lose on one hand, you might pick up on the other.”
In an excruciating piece of TV, Norman re-watches the final round of the 1996 Masters for the first time, in which he gave up a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo in the most harrowing collapse of his career.
Norman puts on a steely face but grimaces when he sees footage of his shots going in the water, falling short of the green, or just missing the hole.
He said: “When you look at it, of course you feel gutted about it all because that’s not the golfer I know, right?
“It’s just a moment in time where it was a confluence of c**p in that period of time — that Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon — absolute misery. There it is right there.”
In the documentary, present-day Norman was even allowed to play the course at Augusta National and managed to hit shots much better than he did back on that fateful day in 1996.
When he nails an approach shot on the ninth hole, he quips: “I would have taken that on Sunday in ‘96. What a difference 25 years makes.”
Norman won two British Opens but he never won the Masters, despite coming so close on so many occasions.
The 67-year-old is clearly now at peace with the fact he never got to wear the famous green jacket.
“Destiny has blessed me with a lot of things,” Norman said.
“Would my life be different today if I had a green jacket? No. It would be beautiful to have in my trophy case but it would not have changed one bit of my life. I was lucky and I was unlucky.
“What happened in ‘96, it’s part of history. I’m good with it now. It did sting for quite a while but now I can speak very openly and emotionally about it.”
Watch Shark: Greg Norman and the collapse of ‘96 on ESPN via Kayo.