When you saw the man's man, the Aussie's Aussie, letting himself
be hugged by the enemy, letting himself break into tears out
there before his public, you would never have guessed it was one
of the finest moments of his life. But, of course, almost
nothing that happened on Masters Sunday, 1996, could be trusted
by the eyes.
In front of all the world Greg Norman had blown an unblowable
six-shot lead to lose the title that means more to him than any
other in golf. Worse, he had lost it to Nick Faldo, the man to
whom he would hate to lose a five-dollar hand of gin rummy, the
Ice Station Zebra of golf, the man who had poked fun at Norman's
worship of Jack Nicklaus, who had embarrassed Norman in a
Saturday shoot-out at St. Andrews during the 1990 British Open,
who stood where Norman always thought he would stand--at the
head of the field as the finest player of his era.
Paired together in tournaments all over the world, Norman and
Faldo rarely spoke to each other. Lodged on the same floor of
some hotels, they never once dined together. Of course, many
other Tour players kept their distance from Norman, intimidated
by him. Norman had stopped fighting it long ago. "Nobody really
knows me out here," he said going into the 1996 Masters.
And of course Norman, ever macho, carried on as though it didn't
matter. It's the way of his stoic father, and he had learned it
begrudgingly. "I used to see my father, getting off a plane or
something, and I'd want to hug him," he recalled once. "But he'd
only shake my hand."
December 30, 1996
But then came Augusta, after Norman had shot the equivalent of a
four-hour air ball, losing as almost no one before him had lost.
Now, as Faldo made one last thrust into Norman's heart with a
15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, the two of them came
toward each other, Norman trying to smile, looking for a
handshake and finding himself in the warmest embrace instead.
As they held that hug, held it even as both of them cried,
Norman changed just a little. "I wasn't crying because I'd
lost," Norman said the next day. "Hell, I've lost a lot of golf
tournaments. I'll lose a lot more. I cried because I'd never
felt that from another man before. I've never had a hug like
that in my life."