The only thing left for Greg Norman is to win the darn thing.
The Masters is difficult enough when a guy like Nick Faldo is breathing down your neck. But it’s even tougher when you have to drag history around the Augusta National Golf Club with you.
But Norman handled it all on Saturday, making every big shot and turning every apparent Faldo advantage into a gain for himself. He posted a gutsy 71 to be at 13-under-par 203 after 54 holes, six strokes ahead of Faldo going into today’s final round.
“I feel good within myself,” Norman said. “But I’ve got a lot of work to do. There are 18 tough holes to play.”
After so many heartbreaks - twice finishing runner-up in the Masters, seven times settling for second in major championships - Norman is only 18 holes away from the Augusta National victory he wants so badly.
“This sure could be his time,” Duffy Waldorf said about Norman. “No one deserves a green jacket more than him.”
As much money as he has won, as many tournaments as he has taken, Norman languishes with two British Open titles. And he is haunted by those seven second-place finishes - he’s the only person to lose all four Grand Slam events in playoffs.
“I don’t live in the past,” Norman said about his near-misses. “I don’t dwell on it. People made some good shots to win those tournaments.”
It is the seventh time Norman has led or tied for the lead going to the final round of a major championship. Only once - the 1986 British Open - did he win.
Norman led the 1986 PGA Championship by four strokes going to the final round and finished two behind Bob Tway. A collapse this time with so large a lead would be almost as bad as all the other missed opportunities combined.
Norman distanced himself from the field with a gutsy effort under pressure that showed steely nerve and a brilliant short game. His round lacked the glitter of his opening-round 63. But it put Norman six strokes ahead of Faldo - who shot a 73 - and seven ahead of Phil Mickelson. David Frost was nine back, along with Scott McCarron and Duffy Waldorf.
“It’s far from over,” Faldo said. “This is a pressure-filled golf course. If I put some heat on him, who knows what will happen? A 65 on Sunday. Who knows?”
Norman got it going after he got up and down from 80 yards to save a bogey after hitting the ball into the water on No. 12, making a testy 10-foot putt. Faldo, meanwhile, failed to get up and down from the fringe and also bogeyed.
That seemed to fire up Norman. He made birdies on three of the next four holes.
“When you do that type of stuff, it makes you feel real good,” he said.
He made a two-putt birdie on No. 13, missing a 10-foot eagle, and totally demoralized Faldo on No. 15 when he laid up short of the water but still got up and down from 63 yards, making a 6-footer for birdie while Faldo three-putted for a par.
Norman stretched the lead to seven strokes when he rolled in a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 16. Faldo got it back to six with a birdie on No. 17.
“I’m going to go to the first tee (today) as relaxed and comfortable as I have been since the first day,” Norman said. “There is no lead. I just have to shoot a score.”
If Norman holds on, he will be the first wire-to-wire winner in the Masters since Seve Ballesteros in 1980. Norman has the largest lead going into the final round since Ballesteros led by seven strokes in 1980.
“There’s no other golf tournament in the world that generates that type of feeling like it happens here at Augusta National,” Norman said earlier in the week.
“We all would like to have things we’ve never had,” Norman said. “And obviously I haven’t won the Masters, I haven’t won the U.S. Open, I haven’t won the PGA. I’d like to have them all.”
Faldo had an uncharacteristically erratic round, with only two pars on a front nine in which he made four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. A key point came early in the round when Norman bogeyed Nos. 3 and 4 and Faldo lost a stroke, making a double bogey on No. 3 when he missed the green three times with approach shots.
A victory for Faldo - his third - would mean that only Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have won more Masters. And a sixth career major title - he has three British Opens - would mean only 10 players in history have more career majors.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MASTERS LEADERS Third-round leaders of the 60th Masters: Greg Norman 63-69-71 - 203 Nick Faldo 69-67-73 - 209 Phil Mickelson 65-73-72 - 210
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