Norman eagerly awaits an Aussie breakthrough at Augusta
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Greg Norman is breaking with tradition.
He isn’t picking up his phone. He’s not sending emails.
He’s going to give the three young Aussies in contention all the space they need and he’s going to sit back and just let this 2013 Masters play out.
Norman would love nothing more than to see Adam Scott or Jason Day or Marc Leishman slip on the Green Jacket Sunday night and normally he’d be reaching out with a good luck message or text. Just little good luck or play well. Nothing more.
After all, a few decades ago, we all figured the 58-year-old Hall of Famer would be the first Australian to win at Augusta National and he wouldn’t stop at one Green Jacket. Instead, we agonized with him through years of close calls and playoffs and that 1996 meltdown when Nick Faldo stepped up and took his third jacket.
This year Norman, who is more a part of Masters lore for what he didn’t do here than for what some players did, is watching the Masters from his home in Florida. He was at the tournament early in the week on business, but headed home and, yes, he watched every moment of Saturday’s telecast.
“I think the chances are extraordinary right now (for an Australian winner),’’ he said. “From what I saw, they are all playing exceptionally well. The weather is supposed to be great, so that won’t be a factor.’’
Scott, who has three top-10 finishes here, is a shot behind co-leaders Angel Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker (7-under 209), while Day, who tied Scott for second in 2011, and Leishman are another shot back at 5 under.
And, of course, four-time Masters champ Tiger Woods is on the first page of the leaderboard at 3 under – three behind Scott; two behind Day and Leishman – despite a two-shot penalty levied for a rules infraction in the second round.
Still, the odds are with the Aussies and, Norman said, they just have to forget about the fact that no Aussie has won and go play. They also, he said, have to block out the questions he knew the press was asking.
“There are two guys ahead of them so they just need to just be in the moment and forget about it,’’ Norman said. ‘’I’ve always believed an Australian would win in Augusta. They grow up playing golf courses like this one. They know how to play them.”
Norman watched Scott grow up, mentored him and the two developed a strong friendship. They played practice rounds together – especially Scott’s first Masters – and Scott knows Norman’s frustrations.
Hence, the question someone asked Saturday night about Scott’s generation bearing the burden for one of them to break Australia’s 0-fer-at-the-Masters streak.
“It's just a fact,’’ Scott said. “You can't not deal with that. I don't know, we've got an another great chance. We had a ‑‑ a couple of us had a look at it a couple years ago, and three of us right there knocking on the door tomorrow. So I mean, there's no better time to ever have to deal with that question again than if you go out and play good tomorrow.’’
Scott has the most experience, but also the most frustration. He tied for ninth in his first Masters, and both he and Day wound up watching their hopes disappear in 2011 when Charl Schwartzel birdied the final four holes to win.
“I felt like I did everything I could, and it wasn't enough,’’ Scott said of 2011. “That's how it goes sometimes. But it's going to take a great round tomorrow. There are too many great players right there. I know someone else is going to play well, so I'm going to need to really have a career round, and that's what, you know, these big events do for someone. It's a career round that makes them a champion.’’
This week, Norman said, all three are driving the ball well, but noted that Day “got a bit juiced up” on the 15th hole when he wound up way over the green. “He’s got to control that,’’ Norman said. “I know exactly how he feels. I did that. If he can get that under control, he has an excellent chance.’’
Scott is more “passive and subdued” out there, he said, but that’s just the way he is. He, too, is playing well and can draw on his major experience, including his collapse – four bogeys coming in – that cost him last year’s British Open.
“I don't really think I need to do too much different,’’ Scott said when someone brought up the loss to Ernie Els at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. “You know, everything I'm doing seems to be getting me there right at the end. You know, if I'm in the same position I was in at The Open last year tomorrow, then I'm obviously playing an incredible round and I'll just be trying to finish the job.’’
Norman is impressed with Leishman’s power off the tee, but noted it all comes down to playing the creative shots around the greens.
Norman plans to peek a little on the front nine just to see what’s happening, then settle in to watch the back nine where the tournament always unfolds.
“It would be great to see an Aussie win,’’ he said. “But this is great leaderboard. There are a lot of guys in the fray.
“It should be a great finish.’’
And, just maybe, Australia’s first Green Jacket.