Close but . . . is old story for Norman


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- One was obviously distressed, another chance at the Masters gone awry. The other was disappointed but satisfied to have finally come so close.

Greg Norman, whose well-chronicled history for misery here at Augusta National is nearly unmatched by any other top-ranking player in history, was done in by poor putting.

And Davis Love III, whose well-publicized failures at all major championships raised questions about his mental toughness, was done in by Ben Crenshaw.

Both came close yesterday in the final round of the 1995 Masters; both fell short. Davis, who had never had a top-10 finish in a major in his career, wound up a shot behind Crenshaw. Norman, who has finished in the top six six times, ended up three shots back.

"Obviously, I'm happy to finish second in a major," said Love, who had missed the cut here twice in his previous five trips and finished no higher than a tie for 25th in 1992. "It's the first time I had a chance to win it. I thought I held in there really well."

Love held in there until the final hole. Needing at least a birdie to put some heat on Crenshaw, who was two strokes ahead, Love's long and wild tee shot was followed by an approach that fell a few feet to the side of the green.

He made a remarkable chip to get up and down for par, but it left him two shots behind and allowed Crenshaw to bogey the final hole without any chance of forcing a playoff.

"I hit a lot of great shots, but I just couldn't pull the last one off," said Love, who finished with the day's best round, a 6-under 66.

Norman's chance to put pressure on Crenshaw ended on the previous hole, when he sailed his approach on the bottom shelf of the green, some 60 feet away from the cup. He put his first putt eight feet past and wound up missing the one coming back. It left him 11-under and out of contention.

It wasn't as disheartening as 1986, when he shanked a 4-iron over the green and lost a chance for a playoff with Jack Nicklaus. It certainly wasn't as devastating as 1987, when Larry Mize birdied the final hole of regulation and then made a miracle pitch to win on the second hole of sudden death. It was more similar to 1992, when he bogeyed 18 and finished tied for sixth.

"Overall I played pretty well," said Norman, who shot 68 the last three days. "You have to make some putts to win here, and I didn't do that. It was the only part of my game that wasn't there this week."

Love and Norman had provided some of the most dramatic shots in the final round. Norman even exorcised some demons at the par-4 10th by chipping in from 60 feet for birdie. "Anyone who writes that No. 10 is my nemesis, I'll wring their neck," Norman joked later.

Still, the defeats were difficult. For Love, it came after he had expended so much time and energy just trying to get here, winning in sudden death last week in New Orleans. For Norman, it came on a day when his choice in wardrobe -- there was a green theme throughout -- seemed in search of one more piece of clothing: a jacket.

But both felt happy for Crenshaw. Love is one of his best friends on tour, and it was at Crenshaw's urging that Love remained here to practice rather than going to Harvey Penick's funeral in Texas last Wednesday. Norman knows something about what Crenshaw has endured during his career, about not fulfilling expectations.

It was Love who put it best.

"In the end, Augusta has a habit of sifting out who it wants to sift out," said Love. "It is always something dramatic, and someone does something special. Ben did something special."

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