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February 05, 2003

Not A Bridesmaid This Year
By Dan Patrick

The Masters will certainly have its share of drama this year, thanks to its membership policy. But there will be no career twilight victory for an Augusta favorite. And there will not be another historic collapse by the same golfer. Greg Norman won't be playing The Masters this year.

The poster child of collapse and heartache at Augusta will not be subjected to any more pain.

The poster child of collapse and heartache at Augusta will not be subjected to any more pain.

The warm and cuddly Hootie Johnson sent one of his letters this week to Norman. Hootie invited Norman to attend the event but he did not invite him to play. Norman had a special exemption last year and finished 36th. He can qualify on his own by finishing in the top 50 in the world rankings by the end of March. He is currently ranked 121st. He could also qualify by winning the Player's Championship at the end March. Another way in is for him to be in the top 10 of the PGA money list by the end of the Player's Championship. But he only plans to play in four tour events. So all of these things are about as likely as Hootie inviting Whoopi Goldberg to play in The Masters.

Norman is not interested in being a guest that weekend. He has been a spectator before and watched other people win the green jacket. He doesn't need to do that again. His comments have been very gracious and he is making no claims that Hootie was tough on him or that he deserved a special consideration.

When you think of Greg Norman, you don't immediately remember the two British Open victories or the many other PGA and international victories. You remember him losing The Masters to 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus in 1986 by one shot gone bad on Sunday on 18. You remember thinking then that he had plenty of career left to win his Masters. A year later, he lost to local hero Larry Mize who chipped in during their playoff. And of course, you remember his six-shot lead after three rounds in 1996 which turned into a five-shot loss to Nick Faldo. I'll never forget that Sunday round. I have never seen an entire crowd just begging and praying for something good to happen, something to stop the slide. It was hard to watch.

So, on one hand, he's suffered enough. But then you still hope he could pull off what Nicklaus did. You hope that there is still some magic left in his bag. You wonder how the great Greg Norman would do in an underdog role.

We're not going to find out this year.

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