Scott singles out Norman for special praise
New champion Adam Scott has singled out boyhood hero and also Masters near-hero, Greg Norman for special praise shortly after ending a 77-year winless drought to become the first Australian to win at Augusta National.
Norman finished runner-up in the Masters three times, the first occasion in 1986 and then again in 1987 to an unbelievable Larry Mize chip-in and then in horrific manner in 1996 after leading by six shots heading into the final round but self-destructing and shooting a final day 78 to lose by five to arch rival Nick Faldo.
Adam Scott (Credit: Anthony Powter)
And it was Norman, that helped inspire Scott to success on the Georgia golfing gem, that Scott says ‘inspired a nation of golfers’.
“Greg inspired a nation of golfers, anyone near to my age, older and younger,” said Scott.
“You know, he was the best player in the world and he was an icon in Australia. Everything about the way he handled himself was incredible to have as a role model.
“And just that was enough, but he’s devoted so much time to myself and other young Australian players who came after him. Incredibly generous.”
“And you know, most of us would feel that he could have slipped a green jacket on, for sure, and I said part of this is for him because he’s given me so much time and inspiration and belief.”
“I drew on that a lot today. I somehow managed to stay in each shot when I needed to.”
Norman was not at Augusta and he purposely also did not seek to contact or text the three Australians in contention – Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman.
However, Norman was among the first to contact his fellow Queenslander to congratulate Australia’s first Masters champion.
“I am so happy for Adam,” said Norman said from his home in South Florida.
“I think he has the capability of winning a lot more majors. I want Adam to be the most successful golfer in Australian history. I’m very, very proud of him. I was a very proud stepfather in a way.”
However when Angel Cabrera nearly chipped in on the 18th hole during the playoff, Norman said, “I went to my knees. I really put myself in the moment. The emotional swings were incredible.”
And when the winning putt dropped? “So happy for him.”
Norman was supposed to be spending the day with stepdaughters, but instead, blocked out the 2-7:30 p.m. timeframe, sat with his Australian-born wife, Keke and son Greg Jr., and put himself through the wringer.
He even had to step away and work out in the gym around the time Scott made the turn but still kept an eye on the TV.
And the most crucial moment? It was when Scott was lining up the winning putt and caddie Steve Williams waved him off.
“I could tell Steve was telling him no, no, no,” Norman said. “He was changing the read. For Adam to listen to him, that just tells you how good Steve is. Steve gave Adam the confidence to hit it.
“They both deserve this victory.”
Norman sent a brief text to Scott, who he knew wouldn’t be able to talk for hours. He did get through and talk to Williams, who confirmed the final putt scenario.
“And he told me what Adam said to him – ‘You’re a legend.’”
Williams was 15 when Norman hired him as a caddie and Scott was 15 when Norman took him under his wing.
Afterward, Scott talked about how incredibly generous Norman was; how much time he gave to all young players. How they all grew up idolising him and how – to a man – they had all expected him to win Australia’s first Green Jacket.
Instead, that honour – finally – went to Scott. And it was Norman who was piling on the accolades.
He talked about the fire in Scott’s system. About how no one on the planet was striking the ball better. And, the Hall of Famer said, “I think he’s a better driver of the golf ball than I ever was.
“Nobody ever gives him that recognition. The last 74 holes, he was blistering them down the middle. That gives you the confidence to approach your second shot.”
If anyone understands the pressure, it’s Norman. All those close calls at majors, all those rumblings here about an Aussie never winning.
“He probably had more pressure on him today than any other player on the planet because he was playing for not only the millions of people in Australia,” Norman said.
“He was playing against the entire field – like every other player – but there was more pressure on him because no Australian has ever done it.”
And when they finally get together Scott was asked what he might say to Norman, who came close on three occasions to winning the one tournament to elude him.
“No, I haven’t had time to think of anything and I’m trying to come up with some good stuff for you guys (laughter) at the moment,” said Scott.
“But hopefully at some point I’ll get to sit down with Greg and have a chat and go through it all. I’m sure he’s really happy. A phone conversation isn’t going to do it for us.”
“We are really close, and I’d love to share a beer with him over this one.”