Adam Scott remembers skipping school while growing up in Australia to cheer Greg Norman on at the 1996 Masters Tournament. It’s not a happy memory.
Fifteen years after Norman’s six-shot collapse in the final round, Scott, 30, and Jason Day, 23, are poised to make a run at capturing the only major golf championship an Australian has yet to win.
“One day it’s going to happen,” Scott told reporters after shooting 5-under par 67 in yesterday’s third round to improve to 7-under overall, five shots behind leader Rory McIlroy. “We’re not a huge country but we certainly get our fair share of guys in this tournament every year. But no one’s got over the line yet. It’s going to happen.”
For most of the 1990s, Norman was the country’s best hope each year at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. He had had five top-10 finishes at the event when he began that fateful final round. When it ended, he had shot 78 and lost to England’s Nick Faldo by five shots. The defeat has plagued every Australian player that has competed in the Masters since.
“Greg was bigger than just golf in Australia,” said Scott, whose best finish in nine previous Masters appearances was tied for ninth in 2002. “He was an icon down there. So the dream of coming here and just playing is huge, and you know, to win even bigger, probably indescribable.”
Scott’s 67 equals his lowest round of the season. It’s his best score in 35 rounds at Augusta and his second in the 60s, topping a first-round 3-under 69 in 2010.
Day, making his Masters debut, shot an even-par 72 yesterday and is four shots behind 21-year-old McIlroy. After shooting 64 in the second round, Day said he was disappointed he wasn’t able to close the gap more.
“I didn’t play myself out of the tournament,” Day told reporters after the round. “But I certainly could have played better.”
The last Australian to contend for the Masters title was Stuart Appleby in 2007. That year, Appleby held a one-stroke lead going into the final round before shooting 3-over 75 on Sunday to finish tied for seventh, four shots behind winner Zach Johnson.
While no Australian has managed to break through and put on the green jacket awarded to the tournament’s champion, Scott said his countrymen aren’t cursed.
“No one here is thinking there’s a voodoo on us,” he said. “For some reason it has not happened but it’s nice to see a few of us up there this year. One good round and an Aussie can earn this championship.”