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Five Australians in this week’s Masters field, 25 years after Greg Norman’s epic final-round Masters collapse, still feel his legacy at Augusta National.
“What the Shark did for Australian golf was huge for us,” Australia’s former world No.1 Jason Day said.
“This is probably why we have so many players on tour now, because of him.”
Australia’s representation at this week’s Masters tournament includes 2013 winner Adam Scott, 2015 PGA Championship winner Day and 2020 Masters runner-up Cameron Smith.
Norman’s poor luck at The Masters is well known. He had three legitimate opportunities to snare the green jacket that always escaped him. Norman won the 1986 and 1993 British Opens, and was a dominant world No.1 for several years, yet his career is best known for his colossal collapses on the sport’s biggest stage. He was beaten in 1986 by Jack Niklaus and was edged by a 140-foot Larry Mize chip shot to go down in a playoff in 1987.
Yet, 1996 was by far his most infamous loss. ‘The Shark’ buckled in the final round after holding a six-stroke lead going into the final day, eventually losing by five shots to playing partner Nick Faldo.
“We don’t want to even think about that,” Day added.
“It was unfortunate the couple of times that he had here with Faldo and Larry Mize.”
Aussie Matt Jones remembered feeling deflated while watching the back nine collapse of ’96.
“I was definitely disappointed,” Jones said. “But I was so busy at that time playing so many other different sports that golf wasn’t a focus for me. I was busy playing soccer and cricket.”
Day was surprised at how long it’s been since an Australian has come up big at Augusta as he discussed Scott’s great triumph of eight years ago.
“That’s amazing. That just goes to show for such a small country that we’ve got a lot of talented players,” Day said. “I feel like most Australians have a really good short game and they’ve got a really good chance this week.”
The only Aussie winner of a green jacket has been Scott in 2013. He scored the career defining win when he beat Angel Cabrera with a birdie on the second playoff hole. He said the greens will be the key.
“The greens are fiery, almost all of them,” Scott said.
“If that’s a sign of things to come, we’ve got to buckle up for this week.”
He recalled them as the fastest since a 2007 practice round with Norman.
“Poured some water on the (16th green) slope and the water just trickled all the way across and off the green,” Scott said. “It never got absorbed.”
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