Greg Norman holds head high despite all-time Masters agony

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Greg Norman has no regrets.

There might not be a player in the storied history of the Masters who’s more associated with the most recognizable tournament in the world yet hasn’t won it than the 66-year-old Australian known as the “Great White Shark.’’

As the 85th Masters begins with practice rounds Monday, Norman will be preparing to serve as the lead analyst for SiriusXM radio.

The greatest shame is that he won’t be at the annual Tuesday night Champions Dinner sampling the menu defending champion Dustin Johnson has prepared. The only invited guests to those dinners are the past champions who have a locker upstairs in the champions locker room to hang their green jacket.

Norman, of course, has had one hand on a green jacket on more than one occasion. Twice, in fact, he’s had one arm in a sleeve before having it ripped away from him.

Other than former club chairman Clifford Roberts, who famously took his own life via a self-inflicted gunshot on the banks of Ike’s Pond on the Par-3 Course in 1977 at age 83 and ill with cancer, there might not be a more tragic figure in Masters history than Norman.

In 1986, Norman, the 54-hole leader, fell victim to Jack Nicklaus’ legendary final-round 65 to win a sixth green jacket at age 46.

In 1987, he fell victim to that chip-in on the 11th hole heard ’round the world by Augusta native Larry Mize to beat him in a playoff.

In 1996, he fell victim to his own crumbling game that cruelly left him to blow a six-shot final-round lead and give way to Nick Faldo ripping the green jacket from him, Faldo’s second Masters win.

There were other close calls, too, around the fabled course for Norman, including 1999, when he played beautifully only to be beaten by Jose Maria Olazabal, winning his second Masters.

AP

When asked by The Post in a phone interview this past week how he would characterize his memories of his near misses in the Masters, Norman said, “It’s just sport.’’

“Look, I can walk away from all of that history at Augusta with great memories,’’ Norman went on. “Not good memories, great memories. It’s not just what happens on the golf course, it’s what happens in the locker room, with the staff and the patrons. It’s what happens when you walk away from Augusta Golf Club and, outside those gates, people have very fond memories of how I conducted myself and how I played there.

“We’re going on 40 years since my first round of golf there and that still happens to this day.’’

There’s little question that perhaps no golfer — Jean Van de Velde at the ’99 British Open comes to mind as close — has handled defeat with more grace and class than Norman has in his most gut-wrenching career moments.

But you won’t see Norman schmoozing with the who’s who in golf under the big oak tree this week.

“I’m not that type of person that needs to hang around underneath the tree just to hang around,’’ Norman said. “I don’t need to be seen to be seen.’’

You do wonder, with a dose of truth serum, what goes through Norman’s mind when he drives down Magnolia Lane. How can there not be pangs of, “What if?’’

Asked if there is such a thing as wanting something too much it gets in your way, Norman said, “That’s a terminology that sports psychologist uses. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting something too much. That means you’re passionate about how much you want it.

“That doesn’t mean to say that you get everything you want in life, either. Life doesn’t work out that way. Take a look around at what’s happened to Tiger Woods. He had everything he wanted on the golf course and things changed. Life has a crazy way of throwing you a curveball … expect the unexpected.’’

Norman is a good example of someone who’s been repeatedly smacked in the face by the unexpected and yet has carried on with his head held high.

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