Norman Pulls Away for Second World Series Victory
Greg Norman has won two tournaments and more than $1 million this year on the PGA Tour, and another $1 million for winning a world match-play event.
So how do you rate 1997, Greg?
“Poor plus,” he said Sunday after riding three birdies in a four-hole span on the back nine to a four-stroke victory in the NEC World Series of Golf.
“I always have set extremely high standards for myself, ever since I was 21 years old,” Norman said after putting the finishing touches on a 3-under-par 67 that erased a two-shot deficit. “I think that’s what motivates and drives me. This year my major tournament performance was pathetic — it was pathetic for anyone — because I missed two cuts.”
Unlike two years ago, when he had to hole a 66-foot 7-iron chip on the first playoff hole to win at Firestone Country Club, Norman took command by staying out of trouble and picking his spots to overcome third-round leader John Cook and defending champion Phil Mickelson.
“The way I played from the 7th hole on was very strong,” he said after finished at 7-under 273. “I never really put myself in any position to be in trouble or to be in a struggle, except at 18. I knew Phil and Cookie weren’t going to disappear. I had to go out and do the job and I got the job done.”
He collected $396,000 and a 10-year PGA Tour exemption, continuing his mastery of the World Series while playing in heavy rains that pelted the course most of the day.
Norman is the leading money-winner ever in the tournament with more than $1.1 million in his 14 appearances — an average of $82,180 every time he has teed it up. He has finished in the top eight the last seven times he’s played in the World Series. He has 18 PGA Tour victories in his career with his other this year coming in the St. Jude Classic in June.
The 42-year-old Australian followed three pars with a birdie on the par-4 4th to gain a share of the lead with Cook and Mickelson.
Bogeys at Nos. 6 and 7 dropped Norman two shots off the pace, but he began his resurgence by hitting an 18-foot birdie putt at the 8th hole.
“At that stage, I still knew I was right in the thick of it,” he said. “When I went to the 8th tee, I knew the guys behind me weren’t doing anything.”
He rolled in an 18-foot putt for birdie at the 11th and his 5-iron tee shot at the par-3 12th ended up 7 feet from the pin. The slippery, sidehill putt gave him the lead.
After almost making another lengthy birdie putt at 13, Norman rolled in another 7-footer at 14. When Cook — who was distracted on the tee and pushed his drive far to the right — later bogeyed the same hole, Norman’s lead swelled to three strokes.
“When I wanted something to go right, it went wrong,” Cook said. “I’m disappointed I didn’t put together my best effort. I didn’t like it to end like this.”
Cook, who grew up in Akron and whose father is the World Series tournament manager, came back with a birdie on the next hole but gave that right back with a bogey at the 16th, the 625-yard “Monster.”
Norman put the tournament away by knocking his 5-iron approach at the 17th to 7 feet and hitting yet another birdie putt. He closed with a bogey after one of his few mistakes, a wild drive that resulted him chipping backwards into the 10th fairway just to have a shot at the 18th green.
Mickelson didn’t have a birdie in his round of 2-over 72, which gave him second place at 3-under 277.
“It was disappointing because I feel like I played well,” he said. “I don’t feel like I lost today. I just didn’t go out and win it, and Greg did.”
Cook faded to a 74 and ended up tied for third at 278 with Tiger Woods, who closed with a 70 in his first appearance ever at the World Series, and Fred Funk, who had a final-round 68.
“It was brutal today,” Woods said. “The rough was long and gnarly. The greens were pretty spiky. Those combinations are tough.”
Vijay Singh shot the day’s low round, a 66, to close at 279.
Only six players in the 46-man field were able to break par.
Heavy rains pounded the course for three of the four rounds and all day Sunday, creating small streams across the fairways and restricting the roll on most drives to a few feet. Because of the conditions, the players were permitted to lift, clean and place their ball in the fairway.