Norman and Mize Remain Linked Together 22 Years After Famous Finish
Friday, April 10, 2009
AUGUSTA, Ga., April 9 -- The last time Greg Norman played in the Masters, it was 2002 and he was 47 years old, past both his prime and all the devastation Augusta National Golf Club could possibly dish out to one poor soul. In those six tournaments that Norman missed, Larry Mize teed it up each time, a luxury afforded him because of one chip shot he made 22 years ago, becoming the Masters champion -- and gaining a lifetime invitation here -- at Norman's expense.
Yet as Norman addressed the media Thursday after a fine round of 70 in his 23rd Masters -- an event for which he qualified because he finished a surprising third at last year's British Open -- someone pointed out that Mize's name was, even more shockingly than Norman's, up on the leader board.
"Good for Larry," Norman said, and he appeared to mean it.
Mize, now 50 and 16 years removed from his last win on the PGA Tour, posted perhaps the most unexpected number of the day, a 5-under-par 67 that left him tied for fourth, two shots behind leader Chad Campbell.
"As I told him after his round, Greg and I may be older, but we're still competitors and we want to compete," Mize said.
The reality is, though, Mize, an Augusta native, has not been competitive here for years. In eight tournaments since 2001, he has missed the cut seven times. And through it all, he is reminded of 1987, when he crushed Norman in a playoff by chipping in from 140 feet out on No. 11.
"That's a popular question for me," Mize said. "It's okay. I don't' mind. It's a good subject for me."
It is not, though, for Norman, who includes it simply in his six top-three finishes here -- none of them wins. But as he made his way around the grounds Thursday, the gallery -- led by his wife, retired tennis star Chris Evert -- urged him on.
"When I come here, people probably feel for me [because of] some of the things that have happened around here," Norman said, "and really enjoy seeing me back here. I played my way back into this golf tournament, which very few people can say at the age of 54."
Harrington Under Radar
While so much pre-tournament focus was on Tiger Woods and his return to major championship play following knee surgery, Padraig Harrington -- the winner of both events Woods missed -- went relatively unnoticed. Harrington bested Woods with a 3-under 69 that didn't put him near the top of the leader board, but kept him very much in the chase for what would be his third straight major title.
Not that he's concerned about it.
"Three in a row is irrelevant," Harrington said. "I'm trying to win the Masters this week. That's enough." . . .
Maybe the most surprising, shaky round came from Phil Mickelson, the champion here in 2004 and '06 who arrived expecting to contend. Yet Mickelson opened with a bogey and struggled to 73.
"I drove it terrible," Mickelson said. "I played terrible, putted terrible. . . . I put it in just terrible spots all day."