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Monday, 25 June 2012
Greg Norman  (Getty Images)
Greg Norman (Getty Images)

Greg Norman will make a sentimental return to the scene of his career-defining first Major Championship victory after confirming he will play in The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex at Turnberry from July 26-29.

The Australian finished five shots clear of English Ryder Cup player Gordon J Brand over the famous Ailsa Course to win The 1986 Open Championship, sealing his place in golfing history.

Norman went on to spend 331 weeks as World Number One and claim a second Claret Jug at Royal St George’s in 1993, but Turnberry will always hold a special place in his heart and he is relishing the opportunity to return to the renowned Scottish links next month when he will join fellow Turnberry champion Tom Watson in the field for the 26th Senior Open Championship.

 “I’m really looking forward to returning to Turnberry for this summer’s  Senior Open,” said the 57 year old . “I’m sure once I arrive the memories will come flooding back.  Turnberry will always be special to me as that is where I won my first Major Championship. 

“But aside from my victory, there is also some great history at Turnberry. It produced the “Duel in the Sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in 1977.  That finish where Watson pulled out the victory will not soon be forgotten.  So this place produces some dramatic golf and provides a great venue for both The Open Championship and The Senior Open Championship.”

Norman’s victory 26 years ago – one year before the first Senior Open was held at Turnberry in 1987 – is one of those iconic Turnberry moments and the ‘Great White Shark’ has vivid recollections of how he captured his first Claret Jug.

“It really was a special time,” he said. “I will never forget that victory and the events of that week.   I vividly remember sitting in the restaurant at the Turnberry Hotel on Saturday night when Jack Nicklaus came over and pulled up a chair.  Jack gave me a tip that night on grip pressure.  He said ‘concentrate on the pressure of your grip, and that will orchestrate your tempo.  Everything should fall in place’. 

“I took that tip to heart and the next day I really did play well.  I had a five shot lead walking down the 18th hole and when some of the fans formed a traditional rugby scrum in the middle of the 18th fairway, I knew I had won my first major golf tournament.”

Norman had to miss the last two Senior Open Championships due to a troublesome shoulder injury, but he is now back to full fitness and hoping to join Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson as the only players to have achieved a Senior Open and Open Championship double.

“My shoulder is much better now and I’m at full strength, but I can’t practice like I used to,” he said.  “I used to put in eight hours a day practicing and I would be the first and last player left on the range.  I miss the competition but to tell you the truth I don’t really miss the long practice sessions. 

“It would certainly be great to win the double, but I have not played in many tournaments this year so we will have to see what happens.”

Norman certainly has an impressive record in The Senior Open Championship, finishing third on his debut at Royal Aberdeen in 2005, tied fifth at Royal Troon in 2008 and tied sixth on his last appearance at Sunningdale in 2009.

That last visit to Scotland for the Senior Open Championship four years ago was particularly poignant for Norman who the previous week had come so close to winning another Claret Jug, having led going into final round of The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale before finishing tied third behind Padraig Harrington.

He is now looking forward to returning to the west coast of Scotland and playing once more in front of the Scottish galleries who hold him in such high esteem.

“The Scottish fans are always great and at Troon they really did give me a glorious reception that week,” he said. “Unfortunately, I did not play my best as I was pretty drained from the events that took place the week before when I became the oldest player ever to lead a major after 54 holes. Of course Tom Watson broke that record in 2009 at Turnberry.  But I can’t say enough about how special the fans are in Scotland. These fans really know the game of golf.  It’s part of their culture and their heritage and they really love the game.”

Discounted advance tickets to see Norman, Watson and a world class field including new US Senior PGA Champion Roger Chapman of England at The 2012 Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex at Turnberry can now be purchased online, with season passes now available at £60 and any one day tickets at £18 if booked before July 1. They can be booked online at www.europeantourtickets.com, where other discounts and offers can also be found.

Hospitality packages for each of the four Championship days are also now available at £95 per person inc VAT, which includes admittance to the course along with a three-course lunch and glass of champagne in Turnberry’s signature restaurant, 1906, reserved parking, a Championship programme and a draw sheet.

American Russ Cochran won The 2011 Senior Open Championship at Walton Heath, England, holding off the challenge of former Open Champion Mark Calcavecchia, three-time Senior Open Champion  Watson and 2010 United States Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin.

Watson will be returning to Turnberry where he won The Open Championship in 1977, defeating  Nicklaus in the famous ‘Duel in the Sun’, and The Senior Open Championship in 2003, defeating Carl Mason in a play-off. He also came agonisingly close to winning the Claret Jug over the Ailsa Course in 2009 at the age of 59, losing in a play-off to compatriot Stewart Cink.

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