1997 FedEx St. Jude Classic
TPC at Southwind
Memphis, Tennessee
June 26-29, 1997

Norman Birdies Final Three Holes to Earn Victory

Frustrated and stuck in a pack, Greg Norman decided that he had had enough. The man whose last tour victory came at Doral in March 1996 birdied the final three holes – the last with a 30-foot putt – for a one-stroke victory in the St. Jude Classic.

“I don’t know whether it’s relief,” Norman said ofpicking up the $270,000 winner’s check. “I think it’s more elation morethan relief because I knew I was playing well and to me the game of golf isthe challenge, the competitive nature which we have to play the game, but… put it all together and win, that’s what it’s all about.”

The Australian star did win his fifth Australian Open title in November (1996), and also took the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf in January (1997). But he had been having trouble onthe PGA Tour despite three top-five finishes in eight previous events this year.

Repeated rain delays forced all of the field to finish the third round Sunday morning, and Norman played 15 holes for a 69. Withan hour’s rest, he then turned in six birdies and a bogey for a 5-under 66.

With the victory, Norman became the first player to top $11 million in earnings; he also extended his streak of consecutive years with a victory to six.

Norman finished at 16-under 268, a stroke ahead of Hart,who shot closed with a 66 for a 269 total. Craig Parry (66) and third-round leader Robert Damron (70) finished two strokes back.

But Norman nearly missed his chance thanks to his putter. He missed several birdie opportunities early in the round and had ninestraight pars. With Damron falling back into a pack of six others at 13-under and Hart in the locker room, Norman finally started his charge onthe par-4 16th.

“Everybody seemed like they got to 13, 14 and stopped. Except Dudley,” Norman said. “… So nobody could really get to him. So that gives you a bit of encouragement.”

Norman sent his second shot on No. 16 into a greenside bunker, but chipped within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie. He then hit a 4-iron 4 feet from the flag at the par-4 No. 17 and made the putt to tie Hart.

On No. 18, Norman used a 6-iron from 190 yards from the flag on his second shot and landed the ball 30 feet right of the pin.

“About 10 feet out I knew it was going in. It was one of those putts that came right out of the putter perfect speed so I looked up. I knew it was going in,” he said.

Hart had left the locker room when Norman hit his secondshot on No. 17 and was warming up on the driving range when he heard the roar from No. 18.

“As it turns out, I could have stayed in the locker roo minstead of going out and getting hot again,” said Hart, whose previous best finish this year was a tie for sixth in the Colonial.

“Hats off to Greg. To birdie those last three holes is impressive. They are tough.”

With the victory, Norman becomes the first player to top $11 million in earnings with $11.1 million. He also extended his streak of consecutive years with a victory to six (1992-1997).