Greg Norman today became only the 10th man in history to shoot 63 in a major golf championship. Going for 61, he missed a 28-foot putt on the 18th hole of the second round of the British Open. Yawn and pass the crumpets.

Doesn't Norman do something extraordinary at least once in every tournament? Seems so. Isn't this the third major this year he's led at least at the midpoint? Sure is. Less than seven months into the year, he already has won more money ($547,779) than the entire PGA Tour was worth in 1952.

Today, he had eight birdies, an eagle and three bogeys and finished the day at 137, earning a two-stroke lead over Gordon J. Brand, a 30-year-old English touring pro at 139 after a 68. Brand was the only other man in the field to break par for 36 holes.

What else did we learn that might be considered unusual? Well, Pete Rozelle probably will not be reaching for his cleats and a Raiders tryout form after all. Don't look for David Stern in any slam-dunk contests.

Their athletic North Star, PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman, did not make the cut. His 153, after a 78 today, failed by two shots to get him into the weekend's final two rounds.

"Drove bad and putted bad," Washington native Beman said. "When you don't drive it and don't putt it, you're in deep trouble."

Unlike the first round, when he drove exceptionally, Beman found the high hay off the Ailsa Course's narrow fairways early and often.

A double bogey at the second hole and triple bogey at the fifth led to an opening nine of 41. A missed four-footer for par at the 18th punctuated his putting problems.

Someone unfamiliar with Beman's bulldog nature remarked that he must be pleased with such a showing, after a 12-year absence from high-stakes golf. He had scored better than a lot of experienced tour players, among them Tom Kite.

"I'm disappointed," Beman said. "If I didn't think I could have made the cut, I'd have stayed home. I never look at making the cut as an achievement."

But you're 48?

"Listen. That golf course and those clubs don't know how old you are or when you last played. . . . But I've enjoyed it. Not at this moment, but I have."

His immediate plans are to be in the office Tuesday morning. His next golfing challenge will be trying to qualify for next year's U.S. Open.

The winds calmed considerably today and most of the scores reflected it. Fifteen players broke the par of 70. Raymond Floyd (145) and Tommy Nakajima (141) moved into contention with 67s. And Bernhard Langer of West Germany, a former Masters champion, matched par and was at 142.

Brand, Nick Faldo (141) and first-round leader Ian Woosnam (144) have fine chances to become the second straight British player to win. The defending champion, Sandy Lyle, was among the survivors at 151.

So were Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros. As such, they will tee off before such stalwarts as Ossie Moore and Masahiro Kuramoto, Vaughan Somers and Kristen Moe.

For the second straight round, Nicklaus eagled the 17th hole. This one helped him to a 73 and lengthened his stay here; the first one helped him break 80.

"The 17th made up for what it did to me in '77," said Nicklaus, referring to one of the critical holes during a tournament in which he broke the Open record but lost to Tom Watson. "The rest of the course made up for what I did to it."

Nicklaus also has the Beman blues, not hitting the ball as purely as his standards demand and stabbing short putts everywhere but in the cup. He and Ballesteros said a couple of 65s will give them a shot at the title.

Norman showed that is possible.

Standing on the 17th fairway, a 5-iron in his hands to reach the par-5 for a chance at an eagle, was Norman thinking about a record 62?


"I was thinking 60."

That became even more likely after he knocked the ball to 18 feet. Instead of cooperating for a 3, though, Norman's putter fetched a birdie. Still, all he needed for 62 was a final-hole two-putt from 28 feet.

Aggressive as always, Norman rolled the first putt about six feet by the hole; he misread the comeback.

Merely tying the course record, he was disappointed, but not for long. Thursday, he said, Ailsa was "brutal." Today it merely was "tough."

Norman's round today was better, but not by too much, than his performances at Congressional and other venues this season.

He led the Masters after three rounds and was a smooth 4-iron away from a playoff with Nicklaus at the very least. Instead, he pushed the shot badly and ended with the bogey on the 72nd hole that gave Nicklaus his 20th major championship.

Norman led the U.S. Open after three rounds, but faded and lost to another fossil, Floyd.

Tempo remains his key, to today's brilliance, to the rest of the way as he tries for his first major.

"You try to pace yourself," he said, "try to avoid hurrying. I'm a very impetuous person by nature. I want to get things over and done with. I'll be pulling the reins in the next 36 holes.

"Pete Bender, his caddie and I talked about all sorts of things during the round. Other 62s. People in the crowd. Anything to take my mind off the moment."