Norman rolls back the years as Choi sets the Open pace
Through the wind and the rain, the howls and the wails, the carnage and the shattered dreams, emerged one of the game’s most uplifting stories here last night. A 53-year-old was doing it for the old guys, for all those who figured the good times were in the rear-view mirror. Yes, Greg Norman was lying second in the second round of the Open. And he was clearly having the time of his life.
The scoreboard here at Royal Birkdale is certainly something straight out of his fantasy. There stands the champion of 1986 and 1993 on level par, just the single stroke behind the only player under par, K J Choi. A shot further back lies Camilo Villegas – a Colombian of all things – and then comes a group of seven including the defending champion, Padraig Harrington. It is Norman providing all the wow factor, though.
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What makes his feat seem all the more remarkable – as he so almost became the first man in his 50s to lead the Open – is that Norman has not played a major for three years or, for that matter, barely any golf whatsoever of late. In fact, since hitching up with Chrissie Evert last year he has concentrated mainly on playing her in tennis. Well you would, wouldn’t you?
Norman’s new bride was in the galleries that gave their pacesetter was one of the most rousing receptions in recent history of Open Fridays. Indeed, the standing ovation Norman received when he reached the 18th green was louder than many champions have experienced on a Sunday evening. And in many respects they deserved to be as the evergreen Australian has overcome conditions better than any of the supposed golden generation of professionals. Choi being the ominous exception.