Greg Norman’s illustrious career featured many highlights, but his finest day surely came in The 122nd Open at Royal St George’s in 1993.
In any circumstances, shooting a record-breaking final-round 64 to claim the Claret Jug would be hugely impressive. Norman not only achieved that feat but did so in an event notable for its star-studded leaderboard. All but one of the final top 12 either were, or would become, a major champion.
In the years before and after his maiden Open victory at Turnberry in 1986, Norman had suffered a number of painful near-misses in majors, finishing second on five occasions.
However, from the moment he stepped on to the first tee for the final round at Sandwich, trailing reigning Champion Nick Faldo and Corey Pavin by a single stroke, almost everything went right for the Australian.
A birdie at the first set the tone and immediately lifted Norman into a share of the lead. Further gains soon followed at the third and sixth, taking him clear at the summit.
The packed galleries were being treated to a clinic of ball-striking and Norman further improved his prospects at the ninth, where a spectacular approach finished inches from the cup to set up another birdie and a score of 31 at the turn.
Faldo and Bernhard Langer were each displaying impressive form of their own, but there was to be no let up from the man at the head of the field.
Keeping his foot on the accelerator, Norman followed up his tap-in birdie at the ninth with two more from close range at the 12th and 14th. Langer double-bogeyed the latter hole following an errant drive, but World Number One Faldo, seeking his fourth Claret Jug in seven years, kept the pressure on in the final group, birdieing 14 to remain just two behind.
Norman could not afford to slip up and he passed a huge test of nerve at 15, holing a 10-foot par-saver after his second shot had come up a club short and rolled back off the front of the green.
The successful par putt was arguably his most important stroke of the day and he followed it up in style with a sensational tee shot at the par-three 16th. Norman struck a 5-iron to within a few feet of the hole to set up yet another birdie, his seventh of the day, and move three clear.
A twist in the tale still appeared possible when the leader made his only mistake of the day on the penultimate hole. Faced with a par putt from little more than a foot, Norman somehow missed and his advantage over Faldo was down to just two.
What followed, however, typified the overall brilliance of Norman’s performance. The Champion Golfer of 1986 bounced back with a wonderful drive down the 18th, before finding the heart of the green with a 4-iron.
Although his birdie putt drifted agonisingly past the left edge of the cup, a closing par enabled Norman to set two records – the lowest final round by an Open Champion and the best aggregate score of 267.
More significantly, his seven-under 64 secured a second Open triumph. Faldo and Langer could each be proud of their respective 67s, but they had to settle for second and third respectively, two and three shots behind Norman.
Langer was understandably full of admiration for the efforts of his playing partner on Sunday, telling Norman: “That was the greatest golf I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The great Gene Sarazen, a guest of honour 61 years on from his victory at the neighbouring Prince’s course, had a similar view: “Today I saw the greatest Championship in all my 70 years in golf,” he said.
For his own part, Norman could barely believe the standards he had managed to maintain under extreme scrutiny.
“That final round was one you just dream about,” he wrote in a summary of the Championship on his official website.
“I cannot say in my whole career that I have (otherwise) played a round and not missed one shot, but that day I never mis-hit a shot. I hit every drive perfectly, every iron perfectly, and only made a mess of one putt, that very short putt on the 17th.
“I was never thinking of setting records, only of staying focused and wanting to win, and this was the best I ever played in my life.”