Greg Norman at British Open

Norman conquest on cards at blowy Birkdale
By TONY JIMENEZ - Reuters | Sunday, 20 July 2008

Greg Norman stands on the verge of one of the most remarkable achievements in sport after overcoming howling, gale-force winds to grab the third-round lead at the British Open early today (NZ time).

The Australian, trying to rewrite the record books by becoming golf’s oldest major champion at the age of 53, battled his way to a 72 and a two-over tally of 212 on a day when most of the field were blown off course by gusts of 72kmh.

Sharing second place on 214 were Norman’s playing partner and overnight leader KJ Choi of South Korea (75) and champion Padraig Harrington (72).

One stroke further adrift at a blowy Royal Birkdale was British journeyman Simon Wakefield, who equalled the day’s best round with a level-par 70.

Norman, who married tennis great Chris Evert last month, hardly hit a fairway all day but he kept errors to a minimum.

With his wife standing by the 18th green, he drew gasps from the crowd when a tricky chip from behind a bunker narrowly missed the cup.

Earlier, the former world number one bogeyed three of the first six holes before getting back into gear by holing a 10-foot birdie putt at the eighth.

Norman stalled with a double-bogey six at the 10th before he gathered further birdies at the 14th and 17th.

With trousers billowing in the sunshine, flags bending at 90-degree angles and caps flying across the links layout, birdies were almost as rare as a solar eclipse.

Scores soared and the 83-strong field took a battering on one of the most difficult days for golf in the 137th edition of the game’s oldest championship.


The Royal & Ancient organisers tried to soften the blow for the players by moving the tees forward but it did nothing to help former world number one David Duval, who had a torrid time as he plunged to an 83.

The exposed 408-yard, par-four 10th caused no end of problems, moving balls on the green prompting frequent delays.

Norman and Choi were involved in one logjam which sparked a 25-minute wait on that tee.

Harrington, without a European Tour victory since he captured the prized Claret Jug at Carnoustie 12 months ago, boosted his hopes with four birdies.

The 36-year-old Irishman broke into a trademark grin after snapping up birdie fours at the 15th and 17th.

“I stayed focused and in the present,” said Harrington. "I never saw the leaderboard, I kept my head down and didn’t look at it once.

“I look forward to the challenge tomorrow. More high winds would probably give me my best chance of winning.”

Asked about the wrist injury he suffered prior to the event, Harrington replied: “Good for me I only played nine holes before the tournament or the 54 holes would probably feel like 108.”

One of the day’s best rounds came from former British Open champion Ben Curtis.

The American, a surprise winner of the 2003 edition at Royal St George’s, carded a 70 as the white horse waves reared up in the distant Irish Sea.

Curtis defied the elements with a magical outward half of 31 which included two birdies and an eagle two, the American holing his 165-yard, nine-iron approach on the par-four third.

“I heeled it a little bit and thought it was going right, into the greenside bunker,” he said after finishing on 217. “Luckily it held its line and I thought it might be all right but when we walked forward they were going crazy.”


It wasn’t to be. Padraig Harrington winning by 4 for back to back wins. Norman’s effort in finishing T3 is still an outstanding achievement.