Norman Registers 74th Tournament Title
Greg Norman kept his perfect record in Adelaide intact when he scored a one-stroke victory over Frenchman Jean-Louis Guepy in the $A300,000 Ford Open at Kooyonga Golf Club.
In front of the biggest crowd ever seen in South Australian golf, Norman added the win to victories in the 1976 West Lakes Classic and this title 10 years ago.
Norman won for the 74th time in a remarkable career that started here in 1976 with rounds of 74, 72, 69 and 69 while fellow Aussies Peter O’Malley and Glenn Joyner finished two shots behind him in third place.
He began the day one shot behind Guepy, Joyner and former Australian Masters champion Bradley Hughes and reeled them in with birdies on the first two holes. Another birdie at the fifth, a bogey at eight and an eagle from a drive, a four iron and a 35-foot putt at the 500-yard ninth gave him a two-shot lead and he was not headed.
“I was more nervous out there playing the last three holes that I have been for a long time,” he said after accepted the $A54,000 winner’s check. “I put a lot of expectation on myself and there were a lot of people who had placed a lot of hope in me to play well this week. The last time I felt like that was at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock (last June). It is a great way to start the year. As the other events come up, you can remember how you hit the shots under pressure.
“I never felt like I was going to win this week. All I set out to do was remain patient, stay near the lead and pose a few problems for the guys around me. I think my shot on 17 (punched with a 5-iron from under a tree off a bare lie about 114 yards from the green to save par) was my shot of the week. Then I knew that if I played 18 OK, I would be in with a chance.”
Asked how he found the motivation to play well in a small event off the beaten track of world golf, Norman replied: “I’ll answer tha twith one word — pride. When people ask to come and play, you have to perform. I have felt like an adopted son here in Adelaide this week.”
Guepy had a putt from 15 feet that would have forced a playoff, and about 20,000 people gave an agonized groan as it pulled up short, then burst into applause for the winner. “I have learned something since I started playing here,” said the man who almost won the Australian Open and Greg Norman’s Holden Classic at the end of last year. “It is that when I play well, Greg Norman is in the field. But when you are beaten by Greg, you know you have played pretty well.
“I did everything I could to win and I ran second. Three-putting the (par-5) 16th for bogey was costly but I holed a bunker shot for birdie at the next hole to give myself a little more hope. I did not hit a good putt at 18 for the playoff but maybe I will get lucky next week in Melbourne (at the Australian Masters). For a start, Greg is not playing. I think the course will suit me. It is long and tight and I am driving quite well now.”
Joyner, 31, did not lose any admirers with a courageous performance and should win a title in his hometown if Norman stays away. He played brilliantly on the first two days, producing rounds of 67 and 70 in gale force winds but let it slip with a five over par 77 on Saturday, which included four double bogeys.
“The score probably does not reflect it, but I played better today than earlier in the tournament,” he said. “I hit the ball welland am not unhappy with the performance. I lost it on Saturday with all those double bogeys. But I have taken a lot of confidence from this weekand got a big boost from all the Adelaide people who turned out to wish me well and see me play. It was a wonderful experience.”
One of the tournament sponsors is Australian Major Events, an arm of the South Australian Government, which puts money into attracting sporting events to make up for the loss of the Formula One Grand Prix that will be staged in Melbourne next month. In light of the attendance figures — 59,000 this year with Norman and 18,100 last year without him — the Government’s Sports Minister, Graham Ingerson, said at the presentation ceremony that the Government would be backing the title for another two years.
Norman did not rule out coming back next year. “My schedule has not been worked out for 1997,” he said. “If it means playing four events in a row, I probably will not be here. But if it fits in to other things I am doing, I could be back. If they want me again, and it fits into the schedule, I will gladly come back.”
The circuit now moves to Melbourne for the Australian Masters at the Huntingdale Golf Club where Peter Senior is the defending champion.