Watching Greg Norman's lead slip away in the final round of the British Open today, I couldn't help wondering how the headlines would treat the biggest sports story of the weekend. Would we see lots of "At Age 53, Norman Makes One Last Run at Greatness" or would the headlines read "Norman Chokes Away Another Major"? Which is the more interesting angle on the story? I wasn't sure, so here's a breakdown.
Seriously, the guy is 53 years old. No one expected to see him on the first page of the leaderboard at any point this weekend. He played a great tournament and still finished tied for third. Watching him play, it looked less like he was choking and more like his driver just started letting him down. If Freddy Couples played that Open, no one would call it a Choke. We'd be talking about how well his game has held up and how you don't have to hit monster drives to compete. Norman hadn't even made the cut in a PGA Tour event so far this year. Last year he didn't play in any tour events. It isn't like the guy was in his best form ever, so it's pretty impressive for him to compete in such difficult situations.
Also, we can't overlook the fact that Padraig Harrington shot a 69 in difficult conditions. On the back 9, he shot an otherworldly 32. It's not like Norman missed a gimmie put on 18 to give away the title. Harrington blew the rest of the field, including Norman, out of the water. He's a deserving 2-time Open Champion, and I'm not looking forward to seeing him in the Ryder Cup.
The Case for Choke Job
This is the 7th time Norman has lost a major after holding the 54 hole lead. The 7th time. If he had won all of those, he'd have 9 majors, putting him in a tie for 4th all time with Gary Player and Ben Hogan behind only Nicklaus, Tiger, and Walter Hagen. Basically, if he wasn't a choker he'd be considered one of the all-time greats. He came into a situation where he needed to shoot even par to all but guarantee himself the win. He tried too many risky shots and seemed to get a case of the yips on his long shots.
Everyone loves stories about the players or teams who can't ever quite seem to seal the deal when it matters. The Red Sox before they finally broke through, the Colts before they finally won the Super Bowl, Phil Mickelson before he won the Masters - they all captured the imagination of the country, but they were all pale imitations of Greg Norman. The fact that he came back from the grave to put in one more "close but no cigar" performance is clearly the story of the weekend.
So what do you think? Which is the more interesting angle on the story?