Norman Tops Lyle to Win Match Play
Greg Norman birdied the 36th hole Monday to beat Sandy Lyle of Britain 1-up for the Suntry World Match Play Golf Championship and a prize of $69,000.
Lyle pulled back from two holes down and went to the last hole all square, but found the rough. He had to sink a 20-foot birdie putt to save the match, but missed.
It was revenge for Norman, 25, who led the European Order of Merit for most of the season but was narrowly edged by Lyle for top honors.
Norman was the third Australian to win this prestigious head-to-head knockout tournament, following David Graham and Graham Marsh. No Briton has ever won it.
The tournament finished a day behind schedule because of heavy rain, which caused postponement of Saturday’s semifinals. The final — one of the few in the history of the event without an American — was watched by 3,400 people over Wentworth’s 6,945-yard, par 35-37–72 course.
Norman took a 3-wood. “It was 260 yards to the hole, and my ball landed on the green about 10 yards short,” he said. “It was the most important shot of the day for me.”
Lyle was in deeper rough and took three shots to reach the green. Norman putted to 2 feet past, and Lyle had to sink one from near the edge of the green to stay alive. Lyle’s ball rolled past the hole, and he immediately conceded Norman’s putt.
Keizo Saji, President of Suntry, the Japanese sponsor, announced at the prize presentation that his firm will back the tournament again next year.
This was one of the few occasions in the 17-year history of the World Match Play when no Americans reached the final. Lyle failed narrowly to become the first British golfer to win the head-to-head knockout competition.
Norman was one of four seeded players who entered the tournament in the second round. Lyle and seven others played from the first round, so he had to come through four 36-hole matches in five days, compared with Norman’s three.
The match was always close and see-sawed back and forth in the best traditions of the tournament. Lyle was two holes up by No. 10 in the morning round, but Norman came back to go 2 up by the lunch interval after winning four of the last six holes — including birdies on the 17th and 18th.
Norman lost his lead, but went 2 up again by the 31st hole, again the result of two straight birdies. However, his putting let him down and he lose the lead once again.
Lyle won the 33rd hole, when Norman three-putted, and the 35th, when Norman missed from only 3 feet. Then came the drama of the final hole.