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Norman

The Players week that will never be repeated

There has never been a tournament like it in the history of the Players Championship. We spoke to that week’s winner, Greg Norman

 

Fuzzy Zoeller would have won any other Players Championship to have taken place since 1974. As it was he lost by four. Sawgrass was nudging 6,900 yards – this was 1994 – and the American shot 66-67-68-67 to post a preposterous 20-under total. But he was well short.

Greg Norman opened with a 63 and never looked back. His next three rounds were all 67s and, for anyone who watched what went on that week in March, it will never be forgotten.

The stats are off the charts but barely do Norman justice; 66 successive holes without a dropped shot, just one bogey all week, 49 out of 56 fairways found, and all at the age of 39.

Tom Weiskopf called Sawgrass “Donkey Kong golf”, Jack Nicklaus likened the greens to stopping the ball on a car bonnet, John Mahaffey dubbed it “the Marriott Muni” while JC Snead was even more cutting – he claimed that they messed up a perfectly good swamp when building the course. Whatever your take on the course back then this was as one-sided as the game gets.

In an email conversation with two-time major champion Norman we asked if he could ever see his record being bettered, or at least equalled?

“No,” he replied. “Fuzzy always pulled my leg about everything and that was one of them.”

The only tiny bits of drama, if you can call them that, were when Norman finally dropped a shot at the 13th on the Sunday and when his long-time caddie Tony Navarro stopped him going for the 16th green.

A leaf blew across the Australian’s nine-foot putt for par at 13 and, even in the midst of this demolition, still irritated Norman.

“Oh yes, my goal was not only to win but to do so not making a bogey in the tournament,” he explained. “I did go 72 holes without a bogey as my last round at Bay Hill the week before was bogey-free so technically I did!”

As for Navarro calling him off his 3-wood to the par-5 16th in favour of a sensible lay-up and straightforward par he concedes that his caddie was spot on. Not that it stopped him going for the Sunday pin placement the next hole.

“Tony was right. Every leader knows that no lead is safe at Sawgrass. As for 17 my game was so sharp, I saw the shot and I was so full of confidence.”

He hit it to two feet.

“That week was my No. 1 for all-round dominance. They actually toughened up the course the following year but I don’t think that had anything to do with what I did. I think it was already in the works to upgrade and toughen things up.”

How would you like to be at next year’s Players Championship?

The NCG Top 100s Tour is back and bigger than ever – and the grand prize is a VIP trip to TPC Sawgrass for the 2022 Players Championship.

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Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

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