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AUGUSTA, Georgia – Twenty-five years ago the small but spirited sporting nation of Australia cried collectively

At only 15 years old Adam Scott cried tears Marc Leishman cursed more than a 12 year old should and his dad didn’t care – probably because he did it more Cameron Smith was only 3 years old but knows her old man Des gave a few kicks after giving up a day’s pay to stay home and watch

Golf has never been Australia’s most popular sport, but the tradition of getting up early to watch the Masters was a ritual in the majority of homes, even those without a golf club. in the house

On April 15, 1996, even more early warnings went off across Australia than usual With the Pacific nation’s east coast 14 hours ahead of Augusta, the final round still started before dawn They were rising to finally see the great white shark get its due Greg Norman, unfairly shot among the azaleas in 1986 and 1987, was to be the first Australian to win the Green Jacket

Norman held a six-stroke lead over former winner Nick Faldo Of course Augusta National had some hidden danger, but Norman was destined to win He opened with a course record of 63 and held on with rounds from 69 and 71 to be in charge at 13 under Australians were ready to celebrate another major sporting milestone It was going to be one of those where have you been when moments

The Australian continent is roughly the same size as the American continent, but in 1996 there were almost double the number of people living in California (32 million) than the 18 million living in Australia

By 1996 the Australians had conquered the other majors in golf, but Norman owed this one He was shot down by an aging Jack Nicklaus in 1986 and the unlikely Larry Mize chip the following year Norman was also had other majors withdraw under dramatic circumstances It just made sense that this was his time

Norman never felt comfortable with such a big lead in the event that eluded him, shooting 78 in the last round against Nick Faldo’s 67, an 11-stroke swing that took left Norman five behind the Englishman

“I remember everything It was a heart breaker,” Scott said this week “Watching home was brutal”

“We don’t even want to think about it,” added Jason Day. “It just wasn’t really”

Debriefings of the past quarter century have been extensive Over the years it has been learned that Norman struggles with his swing throughout the week and he woke up on Sunday with his body misaligned He says his club was stuck and open, eroding his confidence

A reporter Norman knew well joked: “Even you can’t do that” as Norman left class on Saturday night The shark couldn’t laugh about it

Then he heard that his well-meaning wife had arranged some friends from Florida to fly and watch the last lap and be there for the crowning glory. It was not going well with Norman, who always lived in the present moment Not the future Not the past It was another distraction

This week Norman returns to Augusta National as part of the PGA TOUR radio team As others look back on what happened Norman says he’s passed him

“You’re just moving on I never looked back, I’m just moving forward It’s my DNA I don’t do song and dance about anything I keep moving forward in life, ”he said from an Augusta National balcony overlooking the property

Hindsight shows that despite the horror of it all, the timing had a serious positive effect on the future of Australian golf and the sport in general Over time, it has become a galvanizing moment for quite a few generation

“The reason Greg is such a great hero to me is the way he behaved as a professional golfer,” says Scott “He was probably feeling (expletive) that day, but he is come off the green with his head held high he spoke to the media he did his best He always stood, at least from what I could see as a kid so well

“He was a really good role model in that sense of how to become a professional It was hard for everyone in Australia to watch so I can only imagine what he was feeling here and going through there He had to be upside down and upside down But I hope he knows that this moment is a big part of who I have become “

Day and Scott were tied for second in 2011 at Augusta National – another close call Although he didn’t see Norman’s collapse live, Day, 23, was pushed to be the first Australian to win the Masters It consumed him The calling card of being the first Australian – the curse breaker – was a determining factor Scott had similar feelings They Were Not Alone

“What the Shark has done for us as golfers has been huge for us It was unfortunate the few times he’s had here with Faldo and Larry Mize, but it just goes beyond what ‘he made for Australian golf,’ says Day

“His efforts are the reason we have so many players on the PGA TOUR now. I read that Matt Jones’ win last month made him 33 straight seasons with at least one Australian win Greg was first the guy who won them, but also the one who inspired the rest of us to try and do the same “

In 2013 Marc Leishman started with a 66 and took the lead Scott and Day were sitting just behind Day had the lead through two laps All three where headshot distance came Sunday

Day looked set to be the man when he held a two-stroke lead off the 16th tee, but back-to-back bogeys seemed to resurrect the curse until Scott stepped up. A birdie on the 72nd hole was followed by a primitive cry “C’mon Aussie” – proof that this was not just a man, but an entire nation

Scott beat Angel Cabrera in the playoffs with another birdie on the 10th green His legacy as a national hero was cemented Scott paid homage to Norman as a result

“There was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers and that is Greg Norman. He has been amazing to me and to all of the young golfers in Australia and a part of that is definitely his,” Scott said

“I thought it was fantastic and I had tears in my eyes, no doubt I knew I carried the burden of the Green Jacket for Australia for a long time, but it wasn’t for me, but for the country ”, declared Norman 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 throughout the history of time and for us not to have won was a shame It was crazy It was so great for Australian golf when Scotty won

“When you play golf you’d rather be a good loser than a bad winner To hear a quality player and a man like Adam say that he was inspired by my reactions in 1996, or even if a person randomly said, this is the victory you have there

“It tells me I’ve done it right in life Sometimes I was hooked with a label that I had too much ego, but I feel like I was the opposite And these moments help prove that “

The five Australians on the pitch 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 the to win for their country

“It would be nice for either of us to win it on this anniversary,” said Smith, finalist last year. “If it’s not me, I really hope it’s one of the other boys. We’re a close and tight group, and that would be a good scenario for sure I’m sure the shark would take advantage”

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