It would be nearly two decades until Australia earned its first Green Jacket.
Day and Scott had tied for second in 2011 at Augusta National – another close call. While he didn’t see Norman’s collapse live, a 23-year-old Day was driven to be the first Australian to win the Masters. It consumed him. The drawcard of being the first Australian – the curse breaker – was a huge driving factor. Scott had similar sentiments. They weren’t alone.
“What the Shark did for us as golfers growing up was huge for us. It was unfortunate the couple of times that he had here with Faldo and Larry Mize, but it’s just going beyond that it was pretty remarkable what he did for Australian golf,” Day says.
“His efforts are why we have so many players on the PGA TOUR now. I read that Matt Jones’ win last month makes it 33 TOUR seasons in a row with at least one Australian win. Greg was firstly the guy actually winning those but also the guy who inspired the rest of us to try to do the same.”
In 2013, Marc Leishman opened with a 66 and took the lead. Scott and Day sat close behind. Day had the lead through two rounds. All three where in striking distance of the lead come Sunday.
Day looked set to be the man when he held a two-shot lead on the 16th tee, but back-to-back bogeys seemed to resurrect the curse until Scott stepped up. A 72nd-hole birdie was followed by a primal “C’mon Aussie” scream – proof that this was not just about one man, but an entire nation.
Scott beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff with another birdie on the 10th green. His legacy as a national hero was cemented. Scott paid tribute to Norman in the aftermath.
“There was one guy that inspired a nation of golfers and that’s Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the young golfers in Australia and part of this definitely belongs to him,” Scott opined.
No one was happier that day than Norman.
“I thought it was fantastic and I had a tear in my eye there is no question about it. I knew I carried the Green Jacket burden for Australia for a long time, but it wasn’t about me it was about the country,” Norman said on the eve of this year’s Masters.
“I wanted to do it and see it done for the country because we had so many great players over the history of time and for us not to have won was a crying shame. It was nuts. So it was so great for Australian golf when Scotty won.
“When you play the game of golf you’d rather be a good loser than a bad winner. To hear a quality player and man like Adam say he was inspired by my reactions in 1996, or even if a random person says it, that’s the victory you have right there.
“It tells me I did things right in life. Sometimes I was hung with a label that I had too much ego, but I feel I was the opposite. And these moments help prove that.”
The five Australians in the field this week – Scott, Day, Leishman, Smith and Jones – obviously all want to win the Green Jacket. They want to win it for themselves and their families. But like Norman before them they also want to win it for their country.
“It would be nice for one of us to win it on this anniversary,” said Smith, who was runner-up last year. “If it’s not me I’m definitely hoping it’s one of the other boys. We are a close and tight group, and it would be a good storyline for sure. I’m sure the Shark would get a kick out of it.”