Despite being a bit of a latecomer to golf, Greg Norman’s natural ability for the game and power off the tee helped him become a golf legend worldwide.
Greg Norman's golf history
Greg Norman only took up the game of golf at the age of 17, but within two years was already down to a scratch handicap. His rise through the professional ranks was just as quick; he claimed his first win in just his fourth tournament after turning professional in 1976.
Since that first win, he has won tournaments consistently throughout his career – 88 tournaments in total around the world, including two Majors. Greg Norman joined the European Tour the year after turning pro and won his first European tournament in the same season, the Martini International in Scotland, and finished 20th on the Order of Merit.
In 1980 Greg Norman won the first of his five Australian Open titles and beat Sandy Lyle in the final to win the first of three World Matchplay titles. His rise to becoming a golf legend also includes finishing second on the European Tour moneylist and topping the Australian Order of Merit.
Norman saw the European Tour as a bit of an apprenticeship for the lucrative US Tour and decided he was ready to take on America when he became the leading money-winner in Europe in 1982.
By the end of 1986 Greg Norman had truly achieved golf superstar status and was well on his way to becomes the golf legend he is today. That year he won twice on the US Tour, topped the moneylist with more than $650 000 in earnings and won his first Major, the Open Championship, after equalling the championship record of 63 in the second round.
The Greg Norman curse
Greg Norman has experienced some very bad luck at completely the wrong time, which may well mean he is remembered as a golf legend that should have won more Major tournaments.
For instance, he lost the 1986 PGA Championship after Bob Tway holed a bunker shot on the last hole; in 1987 he was beaten in a playoff for the Masters when Larry Mize chipped in; and in the 1989 Open Championship, after shooting a final-round 64, he was beaten in a playoff by Mark Calcavecchia.
In addition to those agonising defeats Greg Norman also lost the 1990 Nestlé Invitational after Robert Gamez holed out a 160-metre shot over water on the last hole, and just a few weeks later David Frost holed a greenside bunker shot on the 72nd hole of the USF&G Classic to beat Norman by one.
But it isn’t only luck that has held Greg Norman back; it seems that even a golf legend can be guilty of the odd choke every now and again – the quintessential example of this being the 1996 Masters tournament.
He began the event with a course-record 63 and held the lead through the first three days. With five top-five finishes behind him and a six-shot lead in the final round, his long-awaited Masters win seemed assured.
But it wasn’t meant to be, and this time luck had nothing to do with the golf legend's failure.
In what is seen as one of the worst Masters meltdowns in history – along with Ken Venturi and Rory McIlroy’s final-round 80s in 1956 and 2011 respectively – Greg Norman shot a 78 in the final round that, coupled with Nick Faldo’s 67, resulted in him losing the tournament by five shots.
Greg Norman becomes a legend of golf
Greg Norman finished 1986 officially ranked as the No 1 golfer in the world and, in total, spent 331 weeks at the top of the ranking in his career.
He started to struggle with a recurring shoulder injury in the late 1990s, which required surgery and it took him a while to fully recover from it.
Despite that, in 1998, playing a very reduced schedule, he became the first player to pass $12 million in career earnings and he was also competitive in the Masters and The Open, but on 12 September 1999 he dropped out of the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since he had broken in.
Central to Greg Norman’s astonishing talent and golf legend status is his ability to propel a golf ball vast distances off the tee. And, unlike most big hitters, he hit the ball very straight.
The hard work Norman put in definitely paid off; he earned a reputation for being one of the most reliable putters around. Greg Norman became known as ‘The Shark’ or ‘The Great White Shark’ because of his blonde hair, big stature and aggressive golf style, and will always be known as a greatly influencial golf legend.
Greg Norman: Golf Legend
Born: 10 February 1955
Full name: Gregory John Norman
First win: 1976 West Lakes Classic
Career wins: 88
US Open: 2nd 1984, 1995
The Masters: 2nd 1986, 1987, 2nd 1996
Open Championship Won: 1986, 1993
PGA Championship: 2nd 1986, 1993
Greg Norman’s Quotes
→ I always wanted to be the best I could be at whatever I did. I didn’t want to be the No 1 golfer in the world. I just wanted to be as good as I could be. I work hard, I push myself hard, and I probably even expect too much of myself.
→ I wouldn’t call it bitter. I think it’s just sweet. I’ve always believed my life seems like it’s gotten better and better as each decade has gone by. So I don’t see any bitterness about it.
→ My doctor asked me how many golf balls I had hit in my career. I’m lying there in bed calculating somewhere between four and five million golf balls I had hit.
→ On 18 you’ve got to drive it up a gnat’s ass.