When Greg Norman emerged from his time machine to lead this year’s British Open on Sunday, ultimately finishing third, he did more than electrify fans and impress his new wife, Chris Evert. He also earned himself an invitation to the 2009 Masters Tournament.
But can a 53-year-old part-time player really win at Augusta National? Jack Nicklaus, who won the Masters at age 46 in 1986, says Norman’s physical fitness will allow him to contend.
“[Norman’s] talent is still there,” Nicklaus said at the Merrill Lynch Shootout in Naples, Fla., Thursday. “He's always kept himself in great shape. I think he'll have a great time going back and have a lot of fun. He's always played well at Augusta, and there's no reason why at age 53 -- I mean, I almost won it on one leg at '58.
“So certainly a man who's in a lot better shape than I was and five years younger can certainly do pretty well,” Nicklaus said.
When he watched Norman at Royal Birkdale this summer, Nicklaus was reminded of his Masters victory in 1986. Like Norman at Birkdale, he hadn’t played much competitive golf prior to the Masters but during the tournament everything came together.
“You know, Greg's a champion,” Nicklaus said. “When you get yourself playing, and all of a sudden you play a good first round and you say, ‘Gee, that was nice. That was fun. Maybe I can do that again tomorrow.’ Then you play a good second round, and all of a sudden you're, ‘Gee, I'm really doing pretty well.’
“You remember how to play. You remember -- it sort of lights a fire under you and you get excited. You have fun with it and say, ‘Man, this is what I used to do,’” Nicklaus said.