“This is where the game of golf, silly old pedestrian game that it is can be distressingly cruel.”: Greg Norman’s Collapse at the 1996 Masters

“This is where the game of golf, silly old pedestrian game that it is can be distressingly cruel.”: Greg Norman’s Collapse at the 1996 Masters

WHAT: 1996 Masters Tournament Final Round

WHEN: April 14, 1996

WHERE: Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, GA

WHO: Primarily Greg Norman and Nick Faldo, with some appearances from other contenders and the BBC broadcast crew

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I can’t say I really have much of a direct memory of this moment. I can remember seeing the end of the third round on Saturday and thinking it surely must be over but I don’t think I saw a second of the final round. Hey, I was 9 I obviously had a very important itinerary.

My first post on this site involved one of the biggest collapses in golf major tournament history with Jean van de Velde’s meltdown at the 1999 Open Championship. I figured for my next golf post, let’s go with something just as cheery; arguably the BIGGEST collapse in golf major tournament history. It’s all rainbows and sunshine here at Tony Pena.

Greg Norman is certainly known for some great second fiddle moments throughout his career. Despite winning 2 major tournaments, with the amount of talent he had many would argue he should have been in the double digits. He had moments like the 1986 Masters when he would have been seen as the villain the likes of which the golf world has ever seen if he were to have beaten our one true American hero. Then there was the very next year in what could be considered the unluckiest break in major championship history with Larry Mize’s chip in to take out Norman in a playoff.

By 1996 Norman was in the twilight of his prime and seemed to have decided that if he was going to finally win a green jacket he’d better leave a trail of blood along the way. He was near flawless for 3 rounds and took a 6 shot lead over Nick Faldo into that fateful Sunday afternoon. Surely this can’t go wrong. Unlike van de Velde where I only recapped the final hole, with Norman we’re going to go through the whole shebang to really get a feel for the carnage. We hand it over to our friends at the BBC.

 

 

0:00-0:40

In the U.S. the Masters CBS music is known by all that have ever flipped on the tournament for more than 30 seconds. The soft twinkling of the piano keys, the rite of spring, the number of times it’s played more than “Rocky Top” at a Tennessee game. Well today we’re rocking the BBC Sports broadcast in which the theme music and intro appears to double as a promotional video for a retirement community in Fort Lauderdale. They don’t have time for the niceties in the old empire, just invigorating golf action.

1:13-1:19

“They say that yesterday was the day he won the U.S. Masters, today surely is not gonna be the day he’ll lose it.”

The thing about surely is…..

1:39-2:35

Just like during a Cleveland sports national TV broadcast when you get to see the painful and not haunting at all ways the teams have lost in the past, we are treated to some of the greatest Greg Norman Masters hits, such as his out and out shank on the 18th in ’86 and the aforementioned Larry Mize ridiculous hole out in ’87. Peter Allis makes his first appearances on the broadcast, who you may remember from such films as “Jean Van de Velde Unbelievable Meltdown“. Of course, Peter is spitting fire:

“That really was a dreadful shot. Put to the test and found wanting I’m afraid.”

“Greg Norman must be feeling……rather sick in the tummy.”

3:21

scoreboard duffy waldorf.png

I always appreciate the players at the top of the leaderboard that you just know has the Masters officials freaked out at the prospect of them possibly winning. Like can you really imagine the Augusta Chairman bestowing a green jacket to Duffy Waldorf?

duffy waldorf

I feel like they would just declare the tournament results null and void and award the championship to someone like Davis Love III by default.

4:32

Surely it’s not a bad omen if you’re already playing “Where’s Greg Norman” after the first tee shot.

wheres greg norman.png

5:20

One hole down, one stroke given up by Norman. Hey, if he would have kept up that pace he would have lost by 12, so not all is lost, right? Right?

8:35

5 holes down, 6 stroke lead is still at 5. Hey maybe this is going to turn out alright after all.

9:19

Up to this point it’s basically been the ‘ole “Record that show and we’ll catch up live later” method, which The Masters used to always employ for the weekend rounds for some reason. Growing up it always felt like they didn’t go live to the broadcast until about the 16th hole. Turns out it’s about the 7th but hey, close enough. And we’re now live with Peter Alliss coverage:

baby hand rub

10:58

Speaking of the Number One Stunna:

jack nicklaus 1996.png

Pay no attention to the +9, in my heart Jack is always about -13 hitting an approach shot on the way to his 47th Masters victory.

12:05

We get our first Phil sighting of the day, featuring him getting grilled by Mr. Alliss for a poor chip shot. “He tried to play the right shot and you come out looking rather silly.” I wish I could carry around a Peter Alliss burn book like a mini dictionary.

13:00

david frost 9.png

Your reminder that the approach shot at the 9th looks like you have to scale the side of Denali.

13:08

Duffy Waldorf with a “very clumsy” effort at the 8th and no that terminology was not planted by Augusta officials at all no, no.

15:48

bernhard langer hat.png

Didn’t know Bernhard Langer tried rocking the Greg Norman hat for a bit. You don’t want that juju, Bernhard. Also, what is the name of the Greg Norman hat? Just straw hat? Greg Norman hat is definitely a lot better, so at least he has that going for him.

16:51

jack nicklaus 9 over

“Normally +9 wouldn’t be quite good enough to take home the title but it’s Jack so we’ve decided to hand it to him anyway.”

21:06

fred couples 16.png

Fred Couples on the 16th tee, from 1996 or 2016? Or 2036 when Freddie is inevitably still contending? Hell he’ll probably have one of those Futurama Nixon heads and still be competing in 2216.

27:19

“Nobilo goes to five under, playing in his second Masters. Very stylish swinging New Zealander and a very nice person.”

Wish I could get more of this during other sports commentary. “The Spaniard Pau Gasol with the rebound, and what a swell guy.”

28:31

Nick Faldo with a birdie at the 8th and ruh roh:

nick faldo 3 back.png

scoreboard 3 back

At this point it’s not as if Norman has done anything egregious, only being 1 over for the day and Faldo has done what he had to do get back into contention. But this ride’s uh about to get bumpy.

37:35

greg norman yo yo.png

You mean you’re *not* supposed to treat the ball like a yo-yo on the 9th and bring it right back to where you’re standing?

38:45

ian woosnam

Our first Woosie sighting! Woosie is fun for 2 reasons, that every time he swings he looks like he’s swinging a tree branch, and for his famous club throw in the 2001 Open Championship when he had too many clubs in the bag. I don’t see the problem, my dad plays with about 23 clubs in his bag and it doesn’t seem to give him any sort of competitive advantage (zing!)

ian woosnam club throw.gif

43:22

scoreboard 2 back.png

Welp, it’s a 2 shot lead at the turn. Just about as good as Homer’s pig.

47:20

“Out in 38 and looking decidedly ragged.”

Peter will always give you the bow on it.

53:55

greg norman gir.png

Is that not optimal?

57:04

“And another shot is dropped, and there’s just one in between now, and all those previous demons that must start going through that man’s brain, it’s all to be cool and calm and so you try your best on feeling comfortable and all the rest of it but no use in being too comfortable at this moment.”

I can’t tell if this is nonsense babble from Peter or the secret meaning of life. Both, definitely both.

57:41

phil mickelson missed putt.png

They try to build up the “Hey maybe Mickelson has a chance” but it inevitably turns into “Oh, nope, a crucial missed birdie opportunity” that would go on to play out 438 more times during Phil’s career.

1:00:29

“They seem to be hitting into these greens with just medium to long irons these days, which I find quite extraordinary but…..all the equipment is alright, nothing is illegal but in general, more power to them.”

Well uh, just wait until next year Peter….

1:01:06

Didn’t realize Duffy was rocking a MILLER LITE logo.

duffy waldorf miller lite

you the real mvp.png

1:07:00

jack nicklaus interview.png

There’s fun, there’s enjoyable and there’s Jack Nicklaus conducting a “get off my lawn” interview with English golf broadcasters. Who wouldn’t bestow pay-per-view prices to see Jack ceremoniously dress down someone like Skip Bayless in an interview for ridiculous questions.

1:11:08

Tied. All aboard the bogey train, kind of the opposite of the Back to the Future III train. 

greg norman missed putt

“This is where the game of golf, silly old pedestrian game that it is can be distressingly cruel. Distressingly Cruel. Demons flying through his brain at the moment.”

Sounds like the perfect engraving outside the World Golf Hall of Fame to me.

1:15:39

greg norman water ball.png

#NotIdeal. It’s all fun and games until a ball goes in the water. Those that have played golf have all had low points where they wanted to just bury a 50 foot hole in which to hide. Mine was making a 17 on the 2nd hole of a middle school match when I couldn’t get ball after ball after ball over the water off the tee. Chipped in for that 17 though. I can’t even begin to imagine having that moment in front of thousands in person and knowing millions were watching throughout the far reaches of the world. Shout out to Greg for not just

homer hide

The next few minutes of hushed tones from the commentators are akin to that of a funeral and well, like Peter said it’s just a silly old pedestrian game but really brings out the dark.

1:19:08

Geez Phil we get it, you like the pine straw on 13.

1:22:21

greg norman double bogey

It’s safe to call upon one Pete Campbell in these matters:

pete campbell not great.gif

1:29:42

greg norman glove.png

We go live to the broadcast if I were Greg Norman:

“And certainly you have to be wondering what’s going on in that mind of Gates. The voices, they take over. He appears to be taking a liking to that glove, chewing on the fingers. It appears he’s chewed the end of one part right off……Dear he’s unvelcroed and commenced eating the glove whole. Glove eating is frowned upon by Augusta officials so he seems to be throwing in the tow- oh now he’s commenced eating a towel as they escort him off the grounds. A noble exit.”

1:34:40

Faldo takes an amount of time to hit his 2nd shot on 13 that would make Sergio Garcia blush and Alliss wonders aloud if they might get put on the clock. 21 years later and there is still not a more toothless threat than putting someone on the clock in golf. You’re more likely to see Duffy Waldorf drink a Budweiser than actually see someone get penalized for time in a big situation.

1:41:12

greg norman birdie.png

Norman makes birdie on 13, which hey, to make birdie after officially blowing a 6 stroke lead in incredibly heartbreaking fashion is to be commended. But the roar from the crowd felt a liiiiiittle too much like when the walk-on makes a three in college basketball garbage time. That and Faldo puts a birdie in right on top of it. And the hole took them 3 hours to play. I had time to eat 4 golf gloves.

1:46:56

mickelson sun.png

Watching this I’ve been surprised at the the number of players at the time that elected to forego hats. Who wouldn’t want to emblazon their head with a non-descript financial institution for a healthy chunk of cash? Phil would eventually come around but why would you also not want it in these situations, and to keep those extra UV rays out of your face? Now I’ve become every professional player’s mother. SPF 50 at minimum!

1:55:43

greg norman look down.png

“No I wasn’t wishing you to miss that putt Nick, no, no, no. Why would you ever think that I wanted you to pull that putt just a little to the left with every single fiber of my being? How could you think of such a thing?”

1:58:45

frank nobilo bunker

Oh man, the gloriousness of the shot I would inevitably dump into the bunker in this scenario would be magnificent. I would just throw it in the bunker to spare myself.

2:01:25

nick faldo hair.png

As a wild hair aficionado myself I have to say Nick has about an hour’s time before it all devolves into a Big Ern situation.

big ern hair

Better hope it doesn’t go to a playoff.

2:04:45

hat crowd.png

Say what you will about Greg Norman’s hat but once you start to scan the crowd in Augusta a little bit, you begin to realize maybe it was just kind of an Abe Simpson wearing an onion as a belt situation, just the style at the time.

Oh yeah Norman makes birdie on the 15th….but so does Faldo. Faldo is the big brother who “borrowed” that shiny bumblebee nickel from little brother Norman and you just know he’s never getting it back.

2:07:52

masters album

Not sure how this album didn’t go triple platinum. There’s still time.

2:10:06

They bring Frank Nobilo in for some questions and commentary and you can see why he’s become a regular on the Golf Channel (yes I know the regulars on the Golf Channel, hey as poet laureate Bubba Sparxxx once said, “I ain’t choose to rhyme, rhyming chose me). He certainly deserved a better fate than having to constantly argue with the Skip Bayless of golf.

chamblee

Anyways, Frank gives this nice personal story about how he feels for Greg and although he’s in a tough spot there’s not another player in the world better suited to make this comeback than him. Shoot he has me pumped Norman can maybe do it, just needs a good tee sh-

greg norman water 16.png

The ball’s not supposed to go there.

2:11:18

“Oh man I shouldn’t have looked at that car wreck.”

nick faldo lookaway.png

2:18:07

scoreboard duffy waldorf

masters leaderboard

Looking at those leaderboards you’re struck by one thought:

Geez Scott McCarron really choked, right off the first page.

2:25:24

duffy waldorf finish

Our one true hero Duffy finishes in a tie for 4th, good for $95,000. By my calculations, that’s approximately 4,318 cases of Miller Lite. Miller time indeed.

2:28:00

Peter Alliss goes on a monologue regarding Faldo not being boastful over the course of this meltdown, which part of me just saw as BBC rubbish propaganda. Upon further review there is merit. Most people detested Faldo for his success throughout his career, as some people still do today. But this tournament kind of started the re-imaging campaign of Faldo as more of a people person and not the robot he was projected to be by all. This eventually led to him becoming the head color guy for CBS golf coverage, which he’s had for well over a decade now. So yeah, he ends up getting the Masters jacket and rebranded image while Norman gets one of the biggest meltdowns in major history and a wildly unsuccessful year with Fox golf coverage in 2015. Splendid for all parties.

2:35:53

“Now Norman, needs a 4 to finish second.”

Just how he planned it all along.

2:38:59

greg norman finish

Hey 63’s and 78’s show range. Variety is the spice of life.

2:39:39

nick faldo win.png

Well not only is big brother not going to give back that nickel, he just found a dollar on the ground too.

2:40:11

faldo norman embrace.png

The Bill Murray-Scarlett Johansson embrace of the golf world, leaving us guessing forever what was uttered between the two. I like to think Nick said “This accent is a sham.”

2:41:00

masters final leaderboard.png

Duffy has some beverages to share with you, Greg.

And that’s that. This would prove to be one last day in the sun for the early 90’s dominant players like Faldo and Norman, as each would go one to win 1 and 2 more times respectively. The next year this guy arrived on the scene and well, wins were a little sparse to go around.

tiger woods masters.jpg

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