As Greg Norman made his way toward the 18th green on Sunday,
still looking as if he were gliding down a fashion-show runway,
the crowd at the Greater Hartford Open erupted into an ovation
that had to be in violation of PGA Tour rules. The usual
supportive mobs had followed Norman around the course all
weekend, but now the gallery was cranking it up to another
level. Now the Tournament Players Club at River Highlands
sounded like an Arsenio rerun, woofing and all.
It was the least they could do for the man who stopped over in
Cromwell, Conn., for a few days and gave them a golf tournament.
One week after letting the U.S. Open slip away to Corey Pavin in
the final round, Norman did more than win the Greater Hartford
Open by two strokes and take home $216,000 and a brand-new
camcorder. He won it, then he lost it, then he won it again. And
he took 100,000 or so fans along for the ride. Hey, some guys
will do anything for a new camcorder.
Going into Sunday's final round, the Shark was 14 under par,
three strokes ahead of his playing partner, Fuzzy Zoeller, and
threatening to send everyone home early. The only way the GHO
would get a suspenseful Sunday was if Norman displayed his
renowned penchant for finishing second. His silver medal at
Shinnecock had given him 51 seconds in his career, including one
a year ago at this very tournament, when he finished one shot
behind David Frost.
But this year the Shark showed that he doesn't always run second
when he stumbles on Sunday. Sometimes he gets up and wins.
Sometimes he leaves you wondering if there is a clause in his
contract that pays him according to entertainment value. After
three sparkling days of golf, Norman shot a one-over 71 on
Sunday (44 players beat him for the day), but he made a neat
comeback to win the tournament. The trio of Kirk Triplett, Dave
Stockton Jr. and Grant Waite finished second, two strokes back
at 269. Pavin ended up in a tie for 11th place at eight under.
In all, 50 players broke par for the tournament. If Shinnecock
had been heartless the week before at the Open, River Highlands
was here to make everyone feel better about himself again. On
Friday, Zoeller set a course record with a 63. It stood for a
day. Billy Andrade shot a 62 on Saturday.
As for Norman, the victory raised his winnings to $781,780 --
for the month of June (chart). He is playing so well that even
the dreaded Norman curse can't slow him down. "Even though I
shot a 71, I hit the ball very well," Norman said on Sunday. "I
feel great. I said to [caddie] Tony Navarro before the Memorial,
'Are you ready for a good summer? Because we're going to have a
good summer.' Realistically, I know you can win four in a row
because I could've won four in a row."
Of course, he could have lost three in a row if Fuzzy hadn't
turned into lint on Sunday. Norman had a five-shot lead over
Zoeller with 19 holes to go but finished play on Saturday by
missing a 10-inch par putt on 18 after Zoeller had birdied it.
By the 14th hole on Sunday, he found himself trailing the Fuzz
by a stroke. If you were sponsoring the tournament, you probably
didn't wait until the finish to uncork the Korbel. Fuzzy and the
Shark? Slugging it out down the stretch? It was the most
exciting thing to hit Hartford since term life.
A tournament that has often been viewed as an uneventful bump in
the road between the U.S. and British Opens now had the best
golfer in the world squaring off with one of the most popular.
It was a network's dream, golf's answer to Michael and Lisa Marie.
Zoeller sweated through his shirt, smoked cigarettes and smiled
when he missed a one-foot putt on the 5th hole. He is the
hacker's hero. His golf bag sports the Kmart logo, and a furry
little puppet serves as a cover for one of his woods. He hasn't
won a tournament since 1986, but he says you won't find him out
on a ledge because he slipped to a disappointing tie for fifth
on Sunday. "My palms are dry, they're not shaking," he said. "It
was fun. The difference between me and an amateur is that I'm
not afraid to screw up."
Norman, as usual, looked as if he'd just been dry-cleaned and
pressed. He may be the best golfer in the world, and still he'll
never play as great as he looks. "We're totally different
personalities," Norman said of himself and Zoeller. "Fuzzy is
easygoing, with a gregarious personality. I'm more stubborn and
The two popular veterans presented a stark contrast on the
course while their respective followings blended into a feisty
gallery for the final round. In case you were wondering, the
Fuzzy fans were the ones in the Kmart clothes. "There was a
gallery for me and a gallery for Fuzzy," said Norman. "One guy
would say something for me, and another guy would yell something
else. The gallery was great, but it was also difficult at times."
For Norman it was especially difficult on the 10th when he drove
his tee shot into the trees and wound up with a double bogey.
Zoeller birdied the next hole to turn a three-stroke deficit
into a tie at 12 under. Two holes later Zoeller buried a 15-foot
putt for the birdie while Norman missed a two-footer. You could
have heard the murmur all the way to Australia. It's happening
again. The Shark is sinking. "That's why golf's such a great
game," said Norman. "You never know what's going to happen."
Indeed, the crowd was clearing the way for a Norman crash
landing when a funny thing happened. He didn't crash. Apparently
he was just making sure we were paying attention. On the
296-yard, par-4 15th he holed a spectacular 40-foot chip,
rolling it in for his only eagle of the tournament and picking
up three strokes on Zoeller, who bogeyed the hole.
"I just lined up my second shot with a piece of grass," said
Norman, "and I knew if I hit anywhere near it, it would be on
line. When it went in, I just thought, There we go. That's the
shot we need."
When Zoeller dropped his approach shot into the water on 17, it
was all over for Fuzzy. Norman watched from the fairway as Waite
missed a par putt on 18, allowing the Shark to take a leisurely
victory stroll on the final hole. It was a little like being
crowned Miss Cromwell, Conn., a week after losing the Miss
America pageant, but it was better than hearing 50,000 people
cheering for someone else.
Pavin, meanwhile, was thankful to Norman for the distraction. It
gave him a chance to slip out of town without being taken
hostage by all his new fans. With a swing of his four-wood on
the final hole at the Open, Pavin was instantly propelled into
another galaxy, and now he just hopes he can take his kids to
see Pocahontas this week without attracting a mob.
Pavin said he never considered skipping out on Hartford after
winning the Open, but he took the scenic route there. He spent
Monday in Washington "playing golf with some senators and
congressmen," he said. He was much more impressed with Tuesday's
foursome. He flew out to Kansas City to play in a charity outing
with Nick Price, Craig Stadler and Tom Watson. That was when it
really hit him. He was the Open champ.
"So many neat things have happened since I won," he said. "The
neatest was walking out on that 1st tee and hearing Tom Watson
introduce me as the U.S. Open champion. That was special."
This wasn't the usual old Greater Hartford Open either. After
Friday's round, Pavin was flown by helicopter to Manhattan to
tape the David Letterman show. He said he met the members of the
band R.E.M., who, he learned, "are big golf fans." He was back
in Hartford in time to watch the show with his family.
By Sunday there may have been someone in the state of
Connecticut who still didn't own his autograph, but Pavin would
have been surprised. He's pretty sure he got them all. Pavin can
no longer run to the Porta Potti between holes without drawing a
crowd. "It can be dangerous," says the diminutive Pavin. "When
they start pushing in on me, they could compress me more than I
When Pavin finished on Sunday, a volunteer tried to whisk him
away in a golf cart, but a swarm of kids closed in. They grabbed
the cart and hung on as if it were the last one out of Saigon.
There is something about a guy who stands 5'9" and weighs 150
that makes kids unafraid to jump on him.
"It still beats the alternative -- people not wanting your
autograph," says Pavin. "I'll be glad to sign autographs for the
rest of my life. That'll mean I must be doing something right."
Greg Norman lost the Open to Pavin, but a week later he turned
the 18th hole at River Highlands into a Who concert. He must be
doing a lot of things right, too.
GREG NORMAN'S JUNE
In 1986 Greg Norman was first on the money list with a then
record $653,296. After his win in Hartford on Sunday, the Shark
had won more than that in this June alone. With about half of
the season to go, Norman has earned $1,102,180. Nick Price set
the single-season earnings record last year with $1,499,927.
Date Tournament Finish Money
6/4 Memorial 1 $306,000
6/11 Kemper T4 $ 52,780
6/18 U.S. Open 2 $207,000
6/25 Hartford 1 $216,000
Total for the Month $781,780