Thursday, October 25

Psychologist: Greg Norman Didn’t Choke at 1996 Masters

“This wasn’t a choke. It was a weak link under pressure.”
Rick Jensen, on Greg Norman’s collapse at the 1996 Masters

JAMES ACHENBACH OF GOLF WEEK RECENTLY heard sports psychologist Rick Jensen speak at the 2012 World Golf Fitness Summit, a gathering of about 600 golf and health-and-fitness professionals. Achenbach came away with a new take on Greg Norman’s tragic stumble at the 1996 Masters. Norman headed into the final round with a six-shot lead that he frittered away, eventually losing the Green Jacket to Nick Faldo. I remember it well. It was hard to watch.

Achenbach writes:
This is the story of a conversation between golfer Greg Norman and sports psychologist Rick Jensen .... Even though this story has not been circulated in public, I don’t believe I am divulging any secrets here.

It is the story of April 14, 1996, when Norman took a six-stroke lead into the final round of the Masters. The Australian shot 78. It was a monumental collapse by Norman, and the word choke seems permanently attached to any recollection of that day.

And yet, Jensen wonders, are we missing part of this story? His conclusion: Yes, we are.
Jensen goes on to tell what really happened to Norman at Augusta. It started before Norman got there. As the story goes, his ball striking was awful. He tried to get help from Butch Harmon before going to the Masters but Harmon said there wasn’t time to fiddle with his golf swing.

“Use your course management. Use your short game,” Butch said.

Something worked for three rounds. Norman said he was aiming away from pins and hitting the ball so crooked that his misses landed close to the hole.

The Shark didn’t sleep on Saturday night because, as he told Jensen, “I’m probably the only guy in the world who thinks, ‘I don’t know if I can hold it.’”

Those fears were realized the next day. Read the full story.

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