Adam Scott of Australia gives the thumbs-up sign to onlookers after being presented with his green jacket following his victory at the Masters on Sunday evening in Augusta, Ga.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Greg Norman fought off crying.
It wasn’t easy.
He had spent Sunday afternoon in his Jupiter Island, Fla., home — nervously moving from the living room to the gym to, finally, the kitchen — watching his countryman, Adam Scott, become the first Australian to win the Masters on the Augusta National course that had been a graveyard for so many of many of Norman’s own dreams.
And then Scott, in triumph, took time to salute Norman by saying, “There was one guy that inspired a nation of golfers, and that was Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the young golfers in Australia, and part of this definitely belongs to him.”
Norman is the embodiment of the competitive Aussie spirit — brassy and bold, proud and patriotic, engaging and enthusiastic — who three times was a Masters runner-up while spending almost two decades as a fixture in frequent, yet futile, contention at Augusta National.
He was genuinely touched by Scott’s homage.
“I had a tear in my eye,” Norman said this week during a telephone conversation.
“But this is Adam’s parade. He paid his dues. It was kind of him to mention me for whatever reason, and I couldn’t be happier for him.
“I’m sure all of Australia feels the same as I do. It wouldn’t surprise me if he goes on to win many major championships, including more at Augusta.”
Norman is 58 years old; Scott is 32. But they have developed a genuine friendship, and Norman recalled their first meeting when Scott was a teenager.
“I think he was 15,” Norman said. “I don’t remember the specifics — I think I gave him a lift on my plane to or from a tournament — but I do remember Adam as an inquisitive kid full of questions ... about a lot of things other than golf, too.
“I always kept my eye on Adam, because he made such a good first impression on me. He’s always carried himself with class.”
Norman, too, has been praised for having handled stunning losses in the Masters with a certain dignity:
Jack Nicklaus beat him in 1986, becoming the tournament’s oldest champion at 46, a record that still stands.
Larry Mize beat him a year later with an improbable playoff chip-in.
Nick Faldo beat him in 1996 by overcoming a six-shot deficit in the final round.
“Everybody knows I’ve taken my lumps there,” Norman said, “but the important thing is how you handle taking your lumps in anything that happens to you in life. I wanted to win the Masters so much, but it wasn’t to be. I love the tournament. I just couldn’t get it done.
“I always played with passion and had my heart on my sleeve. I think people came to respect that.”
Scott obviously did.
Norman’s history was a crucial element of the Sunday story line at Augusta National with three Australians — Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman — among the protagonists down the stretch.
“It was unbelievable there for a few hours,” Norman said.
But the race eventually came down to Scott vs. Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, who has a Masters title. Norman thought Scott had won the tournament with a birdie putt on the 72nd hole, but Cabrera then laced an iron shot to within a yard of the cup.
“That’s when I texted some friends, ‘OMG. The golfing gods can’t hate Australians this much,”’ Norman said.
Cabrera did roll in the tying birdie putt on the final hole of regulation. But Scott, who had blown a big lead late in last summer’s British Open, prevailed with a birdie on the second playoff hole to earn the green jacket Norman never won.
“I watched every shot,” Norman said. “I was really into it. I was with my wife, Kiki, and my son, Greg, and we were all going through the emotions of the day.”
Oh, by the way, do you know what Scott used to do as a teenager back in Australia? He’d routinely skip school to watch Norman play in the Masters.
Nobody can close the Augusta National circle for Norman and erase the miseries he endured on those grounds, but Scott -- a gracious and polite soul -- did what he could.
It was a victory and a moment meaningful enough to Norman that he had to blink back tears.
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