Norman's collapse paves way for Faldo

So the world's No. 1-ranked player had three holes to make up two shots and avoid being the answer to the question, Who blew the biggest final-round lead in a major? "I needed to hit a hook in there," he said. "I sure hooked it." It was left. It was wet. Double bogey. Faldo by four.

Golf is the cruelest game, because eventually it will drag you out in front of the whole school, take your lunch money and slap you around. Golf can make a man look more helpless than any other sporting endeavor, except perhaps basketball when you air-ball a free throw in the clutch, and nobody we know has air-balled free throws for an afternoon on national TV. Norman shot 78. He had taken his glorious victory parade and driven it off a pier.

Afterward Faldo, whose 67 was the best score of the weekend, still couldn't believe what had transpired. Cepelak went back to their rented house to change for the traditional champion's dinner, and Faldo was left to wait outside Butler Cabin in the dusk, shoeless and almost wordless. "An amazing day," he said quietly, shaking his head. "Amazing. I don't know how it happened. He had played so great. It was the strangest turn of events I've ever seen. I genuinely feel for the guy. I feel so sad for him."

Cepelak is new at this business of escorting greatness to functions. When she came back, she kissed Faldo and said, quite seriously, "What are you going to wear?"

"What do I wear?" Faldo said with a grin. "Well, I've got a little something right here." He pulled on the cuffs of his Fashion Don't, the green jacket you cannot trade for with helicopters, Ferraris or money.

This day will wear on Norman forever, like it or not. This Masters will not be remembered as the third in Faldo's string of blazer thefts (he has come from three, five and six shots behind on the last day to win). Sunday will be remembered as the day Norman carved a little monument as the most tragic Masters figure since Roberto De Vicenzo, who signed an incorrect scorecard after tying for the lead after 72 holes in 1968 and penciled himself into infamy.

"I screwed up," Norman told the world's press, smiling. "It's all on me. I know that. But losing this Masters is not the end of the world. I let this one get away, but I still have a pretty good life. I'll wake up tomorrow, still breathing, I hope." He paused and then added, "All these hiccups I have, they must be for a reason. All this is just a test. I just don't know what the test is yet."

Later, as he was packing a red Suburban with Laura and Morgan-Leigh and his eighth second-place finish in a major and his third second in a Masters, he no longer looked like anything close to a million dollars. But whatever this day had done to him, it hadn't destroyed him. He is golf's black box, its unmeltable survivor. "I'll win here," he said. "I will. Something great is waiting for me down the line in golf. I don't know what it is, but I have to believe that. If I don't, hell, I might as well put my clubs away for good."

There were handshakes and keep-your-chin-ups all around, but something changed in Norman's face as he started the engine. Something in his eyes. Nobility and chins are easy enough to keep up in front of the crowds, but the more alone you get, the heavier they become.

And as her father wheeled slowly down Magnolia Lane, Morgan-Leigh probably didn't notice the Sunday newspaper in the back of the Suburban. She probably hadn't read in it what she will learn someday in school, that 84 years ago, on this same April 14, another unsinkable ship on its way to certain glory listed, gurgled and sank.

The Titanic.

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