Norman sits on 6-shot cushion His first Masters title appears within reach

April 14, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Is this a golf tournament or a coronation?

The majority of the players will have to get up off their knees for the final round of the Masters. Some fell to Augusta National Golf Club yesterday, but all paid homage to Greg Norman, who again added two strokes to his lead and showed signs that there will be no major fold from him this time.

"I'm just going out there as if nobody's got a lead," Norman said of today's final round, in which he will attempt to win his first major championship in the United States, let alone his first Masters. "I'm going to enjoy every step I take."

Norman's scrambling 71 was his highest round here, but he dropped to 13-under and stretched his lead over Nick Faldo and company from four to six strokes. Norman took control of the tournament with a course-record-tying 63 in the first round, and no one has had sole leadership of the Masters start to finish since 1976, when Raymond Floyd tied Jack Nicklaus' scoring record of 17-under.

In many respects, Norman's 71 in swirling winds was superior to the 69 he posted on Friday. Then, four players had better rounds. Yesterday, only three fared better, and none of them was within 10 strokes of Norman when the day began.

G; Duffy Waldorf and David Duval had 69's, and Nick Price,

Norman's next-door neighbor in Hobe Sound, Fla., had a 70. All who began the day with ideas of catching Norman, however, lost ground.

Corey Pavin?

The U.S. Open champion followed Friday's 66 with a 73. Scott Hoch also shot 73.

Scott McCarron and Vijay Singh?

Eight back when the day began, their long putters weren't any help. McCarron had a 72, Singh a 74.

Lee Janzen and Bob Tway?

They were seven back after two rounds, but Tway bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11, and Janzen needed two swipes to get out of a bunker at No. 12, where he double-bogeyed. Give Tway a 76, Janzen a 75.

How about the next-to-last pairing, Phil Mickelson and David Frost?

Mickelson had a 72, but the lefty again drove erratically and once had to resort to swinging right-handed with the back of one his clubs. His short game abandoned him on No. 15, where he turned what could have been an eagle attempt into a par-5. Frost, the South African, had a 74.

Finally, and most disappointingly, there was Faldo, the two-time Masters champion whose second-round 67 got everyone's attention and a pairing with Norman. Faldo is still in second place, but he had a befuddled 73 and failed to take advantage of several openings created by Norman.

Norman bogeyed No. 3, but Faldo double-bogeyed it with a pair of pitching wedges that failed to get up an embankment.

There were two pivotal holes on the back. Norman's lead easily could have been down to two strokes on No. 12, but instead he left No. 15 with a five-stroke edge.

Faldo said, "You've just got to play your own game," but he had to be affected by his partner's play on No. 12, which for the second straight day treated Norman kindly.

Norman debated his club selection there before settling on an 8-iron that wasn't quite enough. His ball hit the bank and bounced back into Rae's Creek. Faldo had too much juice on his 7-iron and went through the green. After taking several minutes to remove seed pods from his ball, Faldo's delicate chip led to a bogey.

"I was on a downhill lie," said Faldo, who got testy recounting the hole. "I had to chip to an up-slope and then down to a down-slope, and then there was water there. That sounds pretty tough to me. And it's Augusta on a Saturday."

Norman, meanwhile, took his drop at exactly 81 yards, and hit a sand wedge to within 10 feet, where he putted in and gladly took bogey.

"I've probably hit 50,000 golf shots from 81 yards, and I know how to hit them," said Norman, who added that luck had nothing to do with one of the best bogeys of his career. "I don't think that's luck. Luck is when you get a bounce off the tree and come back on the fairway."

Norman showed his resourcefulness again on No. 15, and instead of going for the par-5 in two, laid up with a 4-iron. He hit another pretty wedge from 63 yards to within six feet to set up a birdie. Faldo was on in two, but his eagle attempt was too bold, and he had a three-putt par.

Norman birdied No. 16 with his fifth one-putt green in six holes, and Faldo bogeyed it. The lead was seven strokes at that point, before Faldo birdied No. 17.

It was the first time the two had played together since the third round of the British Open in 1990, when Faldo had a 67 en route to the championship and Norman flamed out with a 76.

"We've had a good rivalry since '77," Norman said. "I think top players enjoy playing with top players."

Thus far in the 60th Masters, only one player has been on top.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

The Masters

The leader . . .

Greg Norman ..... 63-69-71203

. . . and selected followers

Nick Faldo ...... 69-67-73209

Phil Mickelson .. 65-73-72210

David Frost ..... 70-68-74212

Scott Hoch ...... 67-73-73213

Corey Pavin ..... 75-66-73214

Jack Nicklaus ... 70-73-76219

Fred Funk ....... 71-72-76219

Ray Floyd ....... 70-74-77221

Complete scores: 11D

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