Hall of Fame set for Shark attack

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2001

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Ben Hogan pursued perfection. Sam Snead had that sweet swing. Jack Nicklaus set the standard for greatness with his 18 major championships. Arnold Palmer and his swashbuckling style brought golf to the masses.

Greg Norman will take his place among the game's best players Sunday when he is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Not many can argue about his credentials -- 75 victories worldwide and two majors, the only player to win the money title on the PGA and European tour, No. 1 in the world ranking longer than any other player since its inception in 1986.

It is Norman's legacy that is so difficult to define.

He turned in one of the greatest closing rounds in major championship history, a 64 on wind-swept Royal St. George, to win the 1993 British Open. He produced a spectacular collapse, a 78 in the 1996 Masters, to squander a six-stroke lead against Nick Faldo.

He won two majors. He let 10 others slip away.

''I think of how great he played,'' Davis Love III said, ''and if he got a few breaks, how incredible his record would have been.''

The Shark won the Saturday Slam in 1986 as the third-round leader at all four majors.

He wound up with only one of the trophies.

A bad swing cost him a chance to win the Masters. A bad final round cost him in the U.S. Open. Bad luck was to blame in the PGA Championship when Bob Tway holed out from the bunker on the 72nd hole.

Champion or underachiever?

''In the majors, definitely, he was on the short end of the stick,'' Love said.

Norman has 18 victories on the PGA Tour. He has 31 second-place finishes.

He had the best score after 72 holes in four majors. He is the only man to lose all four majors in a playoff.

Success or failure?

''The first thing that comes to mind is what an exciting player he has always been for the fans,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. ''He wins in exciting ways, and he loses in exciting ways. He looks like a great warrior out there.''

Norman headlines a class of six being inducted at the World Golf Village.

Equal in style was the late Payne Stewart, known as much for his knickers and tam o'shanter caps as his three major championships and Ryder Cup spirit. He was killed in a plane crash two years ago, four months after winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

The other inductees are Donna Caponi, who won 24 times, including four majors, on the LPGA Tour; the late Karsten Solheim, a pioneer in the equipment industry with his Ping clubs; Allan Robertson, the first known golf professional who specialized in making the featherie ball; and Judy Bell, the first woman to be elected president of the U.S. Golf Association.

Norman never gave the Hall of Fame much thought until the last several weeks, when he was inundated with mail from friends and fans.

''When I think about what I have taken out of the game and being in the Hall of Fame, it's the support I've had in the public,'' Norman said. ''Through thick and thin, high and low, agony and ecstasy, they've been with me. I'll never forget that.''

His favorite victory was his first one, the West Lakes Classic in Australia in 1976. It was his third tournament as a professional.

''I won $7,000 and felt like I was the richest guy in the world,'' Norman said. ''I had enough money to buy airline tickets and go to Japan and Europe. And I had confidence in my ability to play.''

By the end of his second year, he had won on three tours and was on his way to becoming the premier global player of his time. He won the European tour money title in 1982, joined the PGA Tour a year later, and won the first of three money titles in 1986.

''He was the most dominant player of his generation,'' Brad Faxon said. ''He was intimidating. He had that look. The picture I always have is of him driving, the swing, that high finish, the way he lashed at the ball. I love the way he went at it. He had a flair for the dramatic whether he was winning or losing.''

Norman did a little of both.

He relishes his 1994 victory at The Players Championship. Norman needled Stadium course designer Pete Dye before the tournament, mocking the course and predicting he would shoot 24 under par. He did just that, breaking the record by six shots.

The '93 British Open was his greatest moment, a rare occasion when all the best players were in contention in the final round -- Faldo, Corey Pavin, Fuzzy Zoeller, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer.

''Everyone was firing at you, coming hard,'' Norman said. ''The thing that is most powerful in my mind is a statement I made to myself going to the 10th tee with a one-shot lead. I said, 'Do what Larry Bird has always said -- I want the ball with two seconds left, one point behind.' I wanted the ball in my hands.''

The losses are equally memorable. Larry Mize's chip-in at Augusta. Tway from the bunker at the PGA. Norman waving the white towel at Zoeller in the 1984 U.S. Open. Norman hitting his drive so long that it found a fairway bunker in the '89 playoff at Royal Troon.

Other players have squandered a shot at glory and never were heard from again.

The Shark kept circling.

''My resiliency has been my strength my entire life,'' he said. ''What's done is done. You cannot change history, even though you want to blame yourself for some and blame history for others. I've never really dwelled in the past.''

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