Greg Norman creates a theme for a dream

July 20th, 2008 - 10:19 am ICT by IANS  

By V. Krishnaswamy
Southport (Britain), July 20 (IANS) Greg Norman, playing his first Major in three years, is well and truly on a honeymoon as he goes into the final round of the British Open as the sole leader by two clear shots. Married only last month to tennis legend, Chris Evert, Norman, called the ‘Shark’, was two ahead of Korean K.J. Choi (75) and defending champion from Ireland Padraig Harrington (72) Sunday.

Norman, who has lost each one of the Majors at least once in a play-off and led into the final round of each one of the four at least once, turned the clock back as he came from one shot behind at the end of the second round to two shots ahead at the end of the third.

The 53-year-old Norman, who has written many a golf story losing Majors by a whisker in his glittering career, the heyday of which was almost two decades ago, may well be on way to writing a winning dream story at the British Open on Sunday.

The two-times British champion in 1986 and 1993, Norman was followed around the course by Evert, who herself has 18 Grand Slam titles in tennis, and is now motivating her man to reach new peaks.

“Physically I am not tired. Mentally I am not tired. Where you really had to work hard was on putts a foot long and 18 inches long. You had to concentrate and focus so much on those. I think that takes a little bit extra out of you. But I don’t feel drained at all,” said Norman, defying all signs of an age, at which he would have been more likely to have contended for the Senior British Open at the Troon next week and the US Senior Open, the week after in Colarado.

In fact Norman admitted he expected this week to be a practice for that. “I came here to really practice and get ready for he next couple of weeks. You know to experience the British Open the way we have this week on a great golf course has obviously tuned me up both mentally and physically, so I am looking forward to next two weeks.”

Simon Wakefield (70) took the sole fourth position and behind him were four others in tied fifth and that included another man from the past, Ben Curtis (70), the 2003 champion, who has done little else. Three other lesser known youngsters, Englishman Ross Fisher (71), American Anthony Kim (71) and Swedish Alexander Noren (75) were tied with Curtis at seven-over in tied fifth place.

First round co-leaders Rocco Mediate (76) and Robert Allenby (76) were in the bunch tied for ninth alongside Henrik Stenson (70), Graeme Storm (72) and Ian Poulter (75) and an English amateur Chris Wood (73).

With high winds blowing hats and umbrellas away and leaving the marquees and nerves quivering, the discussion is no longer around Tiger Woods but the silver-haired Norman, who has had more surgeries than Major trophies in his cabinet.

The Asian powerhouse Choi, hoping to win the first Major for the world’s most populated continent, was tied with Norman after at the turn in the third round.

Choi turned in three-over as he had one bogey and one double bogey while Norman with two bogeys in first three holes and a birdie turned in two-over to come alevel with Choi.

They stayed together as they mirrored each other’s double bogey on the tenth but from there Norman charted his own path, refusing to be blown off the course by winds which at times crossed 45 miles per hour.

Over the last eight holes, Norman birdied twice more and almost holed his pitch from he fairway on the 18th and Choi had just one birdie and one bogey to shot for the same stretch. And that meant the lead for Norman was two with 18 holes to go on Sunday.

What of the defending champion Harrington, who may not even have been there at the start of the week. Showing no signs of the wrist injury which threatened to throw him off course, Harrington shot a 72 with four birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey. That may seem an awful lot of shots thrown away but on this day, it was a creditable round indeed and it kept him in the hunt for his second successive British Open title.

And on the final Norman will tee off in the final group with Harrington, while Choi goes out with Wakefield.

There were no sub-par rounds on a day when it almost seemed to ask someone to play golf and bringing in the par rounds were Stenson, Davis Love, Wakefield and Curtis. Curtis raised hopes of a good score by turning in three-under, but three bogeys in a row from the 11th ended that. His eagle was the result of a second shot finding its way straight into the hole at the 451-yard third for an eagle two. He then added birdies on the fifth and seventh, dropped a bogey on the sixth in between.

Simon Khan, who had grabbed one of the last berths into the Open finished with a very creditable 71.

Ernie Els and Lee Westwood, two of golf’s biggest names had a miserable time. Els had a 74, which was a lot better than his first round 80 and he is now 13-over. Westwood had a 78 and was now 17-over for three rounds.

Els who has been having a disappointing 2008 said, “It’s been a tough year up to now, so I’m going back to basics. I’m going to see Butch Harmon in Vegas for two days to work on my short game.”

He was full of praise for the way the course was set up for what was always going to be a tricky day. He said, “If they’d cut the greens short, we wouldn’t be playing today. The balls didn’t move, so they’ve done a good job. They’ve also moved the tees up, so they’ve made it playable. If you play proper golf on here you could even shoot par - but I think anyone four, five or six over still has a chance to win.”

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