THE GREAT WHITE SHARK HAD NEVER CRIED ON A GOLF COURSE… UNTIL HE WALKED DOWN THE 18 THIN THE FINAL ROUND OF THE OPEN IN 1986.
FOR all his many defeats – both heartbreaking and by his own hands – Greg Norman still delivered an astonishing array of victories during a dominant career. His banner season came 30 years ago when Norman topped the US PGA Tour moneylist and claimed 11 titles in five countries. Most notable in 1986 was Norman’s Saturday Slam, the somewhat dubious honour of leading all four majors with 18 holes remaining. He came to The Open Championship having lost the Masters to Jack Nicklaus’ epic wind-back-the-clock moment, and handed away a volatile US Open at Shinnecock Hills. Yet what took place along Scotland’s craggy western shoreline that July was Norman’s virtuoso performance. Nostalgia is o en a funny thing. The 2016 golf majors season has begun in earnest, which puts my most accomplished year on the professional tour three decades in the rear-view mirror. To say that time flies would be an understatement.
By all accounts 1986 was an epic year. I claimed 11 worldwide victories, including four wins in Australia, two US PGA Tour events and my first major championship win at The Open at Turnberry. It was also the year of the Saturday Slam, when I led all four majors a er 54 holes – a feat that has not since been repeated.
This was a huge statement to the golf world and a testament to my commitment to the game. I proved that I had the talent and determination to play and win at the highest level, anywhere in the world.
Although it doesn’t seem like 30 years ago, looking back, each moment still resonates with me. I loved every second of it. There is a mini-story within each story, a story behind every shot. I can still remember what it felt like to be in each moment. But without doubt the highlight came on the west coast of Scotland that July.
The brutal weather really stands out to me from the ’86 Open Championship at Turnberry. But I took advantage of my driving capabilities and played really aggressively. During my practice round I saw that the course set-up and conditions would play to my strengths, so I had an established game plan from the second I set foot on the course.
I’ve never cried on a golf course before, but walking down the 18th hole in the final round at Turnberry, I was fighting to hold back the tears a er my second shot. When I hit my approach, the people went crazy. That’s the dominant reflection I have from winning the 115th Open Championship, the people.
Walking down the 18th was, in a word, overwhelming. A er coming agonisingly close at the Masters and US Open earlier that year, the frustrations of the previous majors were washed away. It was only when I had that wonderful old loving Claret Jug in my hands that I convinced myself I had truly and irrevocably won. But the true reward is the emotion of the moment – the emotions of the spectators, of my friends, of the other players like Jack Nicklaus and Fuzzy Zoeller and many others, and all the other people who got wrapped up in it just as much as I did.
The emotion, to me, was one of the greatest parts of winning The Open because I had never before experienced it to that degree.
“When I hit my approach, the people went crazy.”
McEwen steadies after taking a tumble in Antwerp in 2009.