Twitter: GeoffShac
  • The 1997 Masters: My Story
    The 1997 Masters: My Story
    by Tiger Woods
  • The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup
    The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup
    by John Feinstein
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant and Irreverent Quotes, Notes, and Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant and Irreverent Quotes, Notes, and Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Sports Media Group
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Sleeping Bear Press
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
« Slideshow: "Mid Pines has truly been reborn" | Main | Letter From Saugerties: USGA-Fox Sports Deal »

Shark: Bad Back Morning Of '96 Masters

Mark Hayes with the big reveal from the second part of Australian Story that just aired Down Under: Greg Norman says he woke up with a bad back prior to the ill-fated 1996 Masters final round and told his coach it was not going to be easy.

Hayes reports and then offers this:

It may baffle some golf lovers that it’s taken so long for Norman to reveal the back injury.

Just last year the Golf Week website revealed a conversation between Norman and a respected sports psychologist in which the Shark explained that he felt he had "lost control of my ball" on that final day, but didn’t mention anything about a bad back.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (38)

Strange also that the Great White Shark didn't mention a "bad back" when he met Golf World UK's Peter Dobereiner at the urinal inside the clubhouse? As they were relieving themselves, prior to that fateful round, Dobereiner commented: "Even you can't f*** this one up Greg!"
09.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjock howard
How many athletes have become so hard to like in retirement?
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead
wow, this is a bad excuse.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBlue Canyon
I watch a lot of the Masters that week. Gregs putts were rolling into the dead center of the hole at an astonishing rate Thurs-Sat, it was a "center cut" exhibition -- usually at perfect speed. I remember calling my father and told him to watch where the ball was disappearing. Everything changed on Sunday. Maybe his putter's name was "back" that is what he means when he says he woke up with a bad "back".
Wow!! Norman keeps getting worse. He's becoming a parity.
Sad really.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
"The older I get the better I used to be".

Shark needs a memory jolt.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStanley Thompson
The scourge of soft beds. I predict the Select Comfort Championship.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterForeright!
This one goes out to Greggy:
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRM
what you said, tighthead

he should be called The Great White Blowhole
09.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchicago pt
I was a huge Norman fan back in the day, and the fourth round of the 1996 Masters was the most painful viewing ever. It makes me sad to hear Greg saying this now. There was no indication whatsoever of a bad back during that fourth round. This is a man who should have won a half dozen majors at least and who, in my view, never recovered from the Mize chip-in. If that goes down, Greg wins in 1996 for sure.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSari
These guys get lost in their own fantasy worlds. "I remember I woke up that morning and Jesus was sitting on the edge of my bed and he said to me, 'I need you to throw this one for me Greg. If you can do that, I'll make sure all of your business dreams become reality.' I mean, what do say when Jesus asks your for a solid? Of course I was going to help him out."
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris from DE
His back appeared to be fine as he fell backwards and onto the ground in disappointment after missing his chip for eagle on the 15th in that final round. I mean, guys with aching backs don't typically do things like that, they're not quite that animated.

If nothing else, I'm sure he got a chuckle out of Faldo with this sudden revelation.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPA PLAYA
The picture of Greg Norman under the word 'class' in the dictionary just got scrubbed out.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris
The myth of Greg is so much greater than the record.

Especially pronounced when his "bad luck" gets discussed. Folks recall Tway holing that 72nd hole sand shot @ Inverness - what few recall is that 3rd-round leader Greg shot 5 over in the last round - including a 40. That kind of score traditionally does not win major championships.

Also was there when he blew himself out of that Open Championship playoff in 1989 by hitting driver on the 18th and going OB long. This on a hard dry course that was running - and a hole that he had already played 4 times in regulation. That was the playoff won by Calcavecchia over Greg and Wayne Grady.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTed Ray's Pipe
Norman was fun to watch. He went for it. I still like the guy, shortcomings, bad BS and all.

He was entertaining, plain and simple.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
He's entertaining now as well, except for all the wrong reasons.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
Hubris gets worse with age, apparently. His problem that day was in a different metaphorical part of the anatomy, of course.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
Whatever the reason, it's a shame he never won the Masters as I believe he'd have contended well into his 50s.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLip Out
At the '89 Open playoff, I best remember he birdied the first two holes of the 4-hole playoff. Hit the ill-fated driver on #18 (4th playoff hole) and drove it into a fairway bunker. Bladed it out of the bunker out of bounds. He didn't finish playing the last hole- he was IHP (In Hip Pocket) Am I close? Digs will know the details.

Very, very Good player, on the true verge of Super Greatness. Just couldn't close enough of the close ones. Could have won 4-8 more majors easily.
Chris from DE: damn, that's funny.
1989 open:

Yeah he drove it in the bunker and then bladed it ob on 18.

Btw, watching that video makes me think The Shark dyed his hair-- it has a sorta Hulk Hogan look to it.
IIRC Big Jack his own self said that no one could reach that bunker from the tee. Oops. And he did have his caddy pick up the ball.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
@NY & G, thanks so much for the link. Whatever his faults, Greg did have a wonderful swing, especially with the driver. I enjoy watching his action so much more than today's 'modern' swing. And kudos to W Grady who on the 1st and 2nd playoff holes stepped right up to his second putt on both and just knocked them in. So many of today's pros would have marked their ball, studied from all angles and gone through some painstaking routine all in the name of a 1 foot putt.
09.10.2013 | Unregistered Commentermeefer
Wonder how much the visit from his wife impacted his back the night before the last round?
09.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenternatenquirer
They got it covered, Pro.

@ things I remember about GN: the eagle in the playoff to win Doral, and at some silly season event, probably his own, when it was at Thousand Oaks, his ball was next to a tree, and got a little toy chain saw out of his bag, pulled the cord, and it made chain saw noises- funny as heck!

And yes, his ''entertainment'' values now are different, but all these guys, from Arnie to Jack to Norman -they ALL miss the spotlight- fame is still a driving force, rather than effort in other areas creating fame- Kardashian Krap.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
in that 1989 British, Jack, who was an ABC announcer at the time, correctly predicted the outcome of Greggy's first two shots on the last, saying all a driver could do was reach the bunker and, when that occurred, said that if he tried to do too much with that shot, it would go into the bunker down the fairway

now THAT is the kind of expertise I wish all announcers could bring!
09.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchicago pt
Norman switched from Harmon to Leadbetter not long after his blowup at Augusta, and his inability to control the ball under pressure in that final round was one of the stated reasons, IIRC. Sounds like Butch got a raw deal, then, if it was the back all along!
09.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
Norman was entertaining as hell. I sure preferred watching him to someone like Faldo (good as he was). It was pretty clear, though, that Norman did something to get folks' noses out of joint. He didn't bother me that way. It was fun having him around.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterClaude
Bad head too.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterspaysky
Bad head too. And Claude what got me against him was when he was number one in the world he wanted to start his own mini tour with the top thirty golfers, snubbing the rest of the players and some of the regular tour stops. I thought it was all about him. Maybe I'm wrong. Somebody tell me.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterspaysky
Norman was fun to watch - very aggressive, seemed to enjoy the battle. Physically dominant by mentally vulnerable?

He became less likable post-playing career, imo.

I think people tend to forget what a large shadow he cast, and for how long. The fact that he won only 2 majors (and the same one twice) is beyond comprehension. Along with Ernie, it is shocking that he is not a Masters champion.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead
Greg also has blamed his ball for spinning too much in some majors (was it the Spallding Tour Editiion?)...of course, one wonders why he didn t stop using it if it spun too much

when Bruce Edwards was on his bag, at one point Bruce bet him that the SHark couldnt go an entire tournameent without bitchiing about a bad break (unlike Watson)..sure enough , Bruce collected on the bet
09.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchicago pt
My memory of details is a bit hazy since it all happened so long ago, but I was a big fan of Norman's as a young lad. I groaned when he 3-putted to lose the 1979 Australian open to Jack Newton (who rightly insists that people should stop saying Norman lost it and instead point out that Newton won it -- with a scrambling display I've rarely seen since). The next year he blew two tournaments in Australia -- one at Metropolitan (the PGA, I think) when all he needed to do was par the last two to win. Two bogeys later, Bob Shearer (I think) had the trophy. The next year he needed birdie on the par-5 last to tie Bill Rogers in the Aussie Open at Victoria. He hit a long straight drive (around 350 yards) and had a wedge to the green. He hit it in the bunker and failed to get down in two.

I incurred the wrath of our local pro when I suggested Norman wouldn't win at Winged Foot because he was a choker.

He lost a few fans because around the time that Jack Newton got drunk and thought he could punch a plane propeller (or whatever the real story was), Norman was embroiled in a public feud with Newton regarding Australian tour policies. Not his fault, but, as usual, his timing was off at a crucial moment.

In 1986, he led every major and choked in each one. I know he won the Open Championship, but he was close to ten shots ahead at one point.

In 1988, I was in a room full of people watching the Open on TV, all of whom predicted Norman would win at least 8 majors, with some estimating more than 20. I bet each of them a case of beer that he wouldn't win more than 4. I had no idea how generous I was. (None of them ever paid up, even though some called on the eve of the final round of the 96 masters to gloat that they were about to get closer to winning the bet.)

His 1992 Open win was a ballsy effort, and he fought Faldo down the wire without flaking. I was briefly duped into thinking that it might have been a turning point.

Neither Tway Nor Mize should have been in playoffs with Norman. He had both those tournaments won.

So, yeh, it looks as though by the time he choked at the 96 Masters, his back had been playing up for at least 17 years. And it still plagued him in the final round of the Open a few years back.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBlackballed Vijay
i heard he hurt it trying to shovel some cement with a pitch fork. but bad back , bad hair , bad wardrobe - he was just one bad mortar-forker .
Keep in mind this is the TV show in which Norman stated "I don't have an ego"inside the first three minutes of the program...

How long until someone asks Butch on the record if Norman mentioned his back on April 14 1996? (The anniversary incidentally, of the Titanic sinking).
09.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
'Greg also has blamed his ball for spinning too much in some majors'

That's my main memory of Sunday 96, chi pt. He went full bore at so many approaches and they spun back like crazy. Not sure how much had to do with the ball composition, mind you, I'm inclined to blame adrenaline. Certainly didn't seem the product of a balky back anyway!

Secondary memory: he was doing some 'serenity now' type routine around putting? I remember him referencing Buddhism in his press conferences and doing a ritualistic shake of the right arm as he set up to putt. All well and good but it didn't work Sunday.

I find this the oddest chapter for him to try to put a new spin on. He failed mightily and took defeat like a true champ. I gained much admiration for the guy. I wish he'd left this alone.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
Some very bitter and twisted responses here. He's never made excuses for his failures...this one is just background detail and he hasn't pinned his loss on the bad back. Just that he felt different than the first 3 rounds.

Winning 2 majors and almost 90 events worldwide...I'd take that in a heartbeat thanks very much.
09.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRob Jackson
No doubt the dude was star-crossed, but there was certainly a component to it that was self-inflicted. Seriously, it's amazing he only won 2 majors in that post-jack pre-tiger era. Just baffling.

And speaking of tiger, if anybody's still on this thread, I always wonder how many majors tiger would have have won if he had "bad luck." (I believe he's had good luck-- at least pre-fire hydrant). My dad says 4 or 5. I think maybe a bit more...

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.