Harrington Wins Open, Thwarting Norman Conquest Padraig Harrington won his second British Open in a row, halting a comeback by underdog and sentimental favorite Greg Norman.
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Harrington Wins Open, Thwarting Norman Conquest

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Harrington Wins Open, Thwarting Norman Conquest

Harrington Wins Open, Thwarting Norman Conquest

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Now, the last time I saw Greg Norman's name in the press, I was looking at the cover of People Magazine, and it said, "Greg Norman Marries Chris Evert." Or I know that he sells some Polo shirts that have little sharks on them, and I seem to remember that he was with President Clinton when Clinton was partying, or visiting him, and broke his leg. Do you remember that?

All that's ancient history after this weekend at the Royal Birkdale Golf Course in - South Hampton, England? Mm, South Port, England! That's right, South Port, England - when Norman was doing something that led my husband to literally run back and forth in and out of the TV room to tell me about it. Here's Greg Norman in his own words.

(Soundbite of TV show "Dancing with the Stars")

Mr. TOM BERGERON (Host, "Dancing with the Stars"): It's NFL Man of the Year, Jason Taylor, and his partner Edyta Sliwinska!

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: That is not the right clip!

BILL WOLFF: Well, the big story is that Greg Norman was hosting "Dancing with the Stars."

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: That would be BPP sports analyst, my husband, Bill Wolff.

WOLFF: Wow, now that's a story. That is a story.

STEWART: That's a story. How are you?

WOLFF: Hey, welcome back - welcome back from maternity leave. How was it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: It was good. You were there.

WOLFF: Oh, right.

STEWART: You know how it was.

WOLFF: Oh, yes. In fact, you are correct.

STEWART: So, we're out at a friend's house this weekend, who's also a sports guy, boxing analyst Max Kellerman.

WOLFF: Oh yes. Indeed.

STEWART: And you were watching golf...

WOLFF: Which Max Kellerman hates.

STEWART: Yeah. He says it's - what does he say?

WOLFF: He says, when golfers retire, they do what everybody else does. They golf.

STEWART: So, you're watching Greg Norman, and you keep running in and out of the room talking about what's going on. Now, explain to people...

WOLFF: Woke the - woke the baby.

STEWART: Well, yeah, you did. You woke the baby up talking about Greg Norman. Nice. He's 53.

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: He starts winning the British Open. Was he expected to play extraordinary golf at this tournament?

WOLFF: No. He was - he hasn't played extraordinary golf in 10 years. His career, as you and I were talking about all weekend, was marked by two things. One, great success, he was perceived to be the best player in the world, kind of mid- to late '80s through the mid-'90s, and made an unreal pile of cash, and has a helicopter and jet and 16 yachts and a vineyard and stuff like that. But the second mark of his career was tremendous, biblical levels of disappointment when he was perceived to have choked at the big moment over and over and over. Like a half a dozen times, he would lead the big tournament going into the last day and lose it, most memorably in 1996, when he blew a six stroke lead, which is, like in basketball, a 25-point lead, a huge lead in the Masters.

So, Norman was known was a great, great successful - great player, a successful businessman, but a choker. But he was done, finished, 53, and hadn't really been heard from since about 1998, and as you said, he led the British Open, one of the four majors and some say the most prestigious, going into the day Sunday. He had a two stroke lead over Padraig "Paddy" Harrington. So, it was shocking. It was the story of the sports weekend that Greg Norman was ahead at the British Open. Couldn't believe it.

STEWART: Let me dive in here. Could you explain what's so special about the British Open as compared to other golf tournaments?

WOLFF: First of all, it's the oldest of the major tournaments. And second, you play links golf. Rather than having these beautifully groomed courses that you see all over the United States, with hills and lakes and things like that, little obstacle courses for golfers, these are shore courses, beach-side courses, where the most telling difference, course to course, is the weather. The wind blows 40 miles an hour. That makes it incredibly difficult to play golf.

So, it's links golf, the old, original kind of golf. And the United Kingdom is where they invented golf. So, the British Open is special because it's the oldest, because it comes from England and Scotland, where they invented the game, and because the way you play is so different from how you play the rest of the year here in North America.

STEWART: Now, we should point out that Greg Norman did not win the British Open. Paddy Harrington won it.

WOLFF: Oh, yeah. There's that.

STEWART: Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: But my question is, did he choke? Is that why he didn't win? Or was it just a matter of, the greatest players in the world are on this course, and he just wasn't - he just lost?

WOLFF: I think it's more the latter than the former. I think - Paddy Harrington was the defending champion. He's an excellent, excellent player. Norman did not play particularly well, but neither did anybody else, so I think the objective view is he simply lost. He didn't miss the big shot at the very end. However, he did play - it was perceived that he played too aggressively, that had he played more conservatively, he might not have taken as many risks, and his score might have been better.

So, if you want to be cruel to Greg Norman, if you are a guy who loves to take shots at people and has tremendous schadenfreude and loves the completion of a good, nasty, mean-spirited story, you can say Greg Norman choked. I think the objective reality is, you know, he's 53, and he got tired, and he got beat by an excellent player who plays beautifully on links courses. So, I would say he didn't choke. But I'll bet you there's some mileage gotten by sports blabbermouths today talking about the fact that he did.

STEWART: We're talking to Bill Wolff, the BPP sports analyst, and my husband, as well.

WOLFF: Yes, in fact.

STEWART: We came home last night, of course, flipped on ESPN News...


STEWART: On the big TV in the living room.

WOLFF: I hate it when you do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: And the first thing we saw, breaking news on ESPN - this qualifies as breaking news - that Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphins was going to leave. Now, most people probably think, Jason Taylor, I've heard that name before, but maybe not for sports. During his time off, he took off time to compete on "Dancing with the Stars." Shall we listen?

(Soundbite of TV show "Dancing with the Stars")

Mr. TOM BERGERON (Host, "Dancing with the Stars"): It's NFL Man of the Year, Jason Taylor, and his partner, Edyta Sliwinska!

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BERGERON: Last week, Jason proved to the judges that tough guys can dance.

Mr. JASON TAYLOR (Defensive End, Washington Redskins): I thought the foxtrot was tough, but I do not like the mambo. You've got to wear a heel on your shoe and it's fast.

STEWART: OK, so that is what....

WOLFF: Is his partner named Oedipus?

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: That's unbelievable - that's breaking news.

STEWART: It is Edyta, is his partner.

WOLFF: Oh, oh, oh, my bad.

STEWART: And she's lovely.

WOLFF: Sure.

STEWART: So, he was busy doing this, instead of training with his team. Now, was that just a big signal to his team, like, I do not want to play with you anymore, I want to go to another team?

WOLFF: I think it had to be. Not as big a signal as when he asked to be traded. He wanted out of there. The Miami Dolphins, his team, are terrible, and they are really starting from square one trying to get to be better. And he doesn't - he's toward the end of his career. He's been playing 11 years. He's 32 years old, which in football is old. So, he wants to go try to play for a winning team, and he made that clear to the Dolphins. And then going - missing all of the Dolphins offseason training with a new administration there in Miami to go on "Dances" does not - if he'd gone on "Survivor," you could make an argument.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: But "Dances with the Stars," "Dancing with the Stars?" Yu don't go on "Dancing with the Stars" instead of going to, you know, offseason training camp. It was a loud, clear signal that he really wasn't interested in being a Miami Dolphin. And Bill Parcells, you probably know Bill Parcells, he was the coach of the Giants, and of the Patriots, and of the Cowboys, a famous, famous tough guy, wasn't having any of it, and they dealt him to Washington, the Redskins, for a second-round draft pick and a sixth-round draft pick, which, for a guy who is always in the Pro-Bowl and considered to be - was the defensive player of the year in 2006, isn't a huge haul for Miami. They just wanted Jason Taylor out of town.

STEWART: All right, fine. Let's talk baseball.

WOLFF: Let's do it.

STEWART: There was much baseball-watching going on over the course of this weekend, and I'm still not clear. I thought, like...

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: Who is ahead at this point? I listened to so much arguing between you and your friends about what team you like. I actually want to actually know who's ahead. Who's in first place?

WOLFF: OK, OK, it's still a little muddy. In the National League, the team with the best record in the league is the Chicago Cubs. So, that - those folks who were putting down...

STEWART: The tickets!

WOLFF: Futures on Cubs World Series tickets have reason to do so. So, the Cubs are in first place in their division, and they have the best record in the league. In the Eastern Division, it's the Mets, the New York Mets, and the Philadelphia Phillies are tied for first. The Mets have sort of been revived. They were thought to be finished by their melodramatic fan base, but they really never were. So, they're back. And in the Western Division of the National League, it's the Arizona Diamondbacks and the L.A. Dodgers, and it's interesting only that neither one of them has a winning record, but the division is so lame that having a losing record qualifies you to have first place.

In the American League, you have the Chicago White Sox are ahead in the Central Division, by a little bit, over the Minnesota Twins. I believe the Tam - no, I'll say the Boston Red Sox are in first place in the Eastern Division, tangled right up close to the Tampa Bay Rays, whom we discussed on the BPP, and right behind them, in the rearview - objects in mirror are closer than they appear - the dreaded New York Yankees.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: And in the American League Western Division is the team that has the best record in all the American - maybe the best record in baseball, is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, otherwise known as the Anaheim Angels, and really previously known as the California Angels, and that's who's ahead. So, there're eight or nine teams who could sort of say they are ahead.

STEWART: Yet I know that what you wanted to discuss for your final BPP sports segment was...


STEWART: The sports soul of your child, Isaac's soul.

WOLFF: The battle for Isaac's soul, which has begun.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Because around Uncle Max...

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: And all the people he's going to likely grow up with in New York, Isaac could be a Yankees fan very easily.

WOLFF: Yes. Which is - to call it troubling is understating it.

STEWART: You, as a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

WOLFF: Global warming is troubling. This is something more. He might be a Yankees fan. He lives in New York. What if he turns out to be a Mets fan? What does that say about the child if instead of choosing the winning local team, the Yankees, the team that expects to win, the team that when it's broken they just pay a lot of money to fix it, and everybody expects to win and they have a history of triumph and glory, what if, instead, he chooses the Mets, whose whole rap is that they lose? The reason people root for them is that it's unlikely that they are going to win. What does it say about him, and how is his life changed if he is a Yankee fan versus being a Mets fan? Or vice versa? And all that said, what do I do, having spent the last 42 solid years loathing the Mets and the Yankees and loving the St. Louis Cardinals, also known as God's team, where I come from?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Which would be St. Louis, I suppose.

WOLFF: What do I do? Do I try to make him a Cardinal fan? Does he resent just me? Dad, you just don't understand, man. Do I get that kind of lip out of him if I try to make him a Cardinals fan? Do I let nature take its course? And what will nature's course be? So, we are beginning, darling, a journey of great peril for this child, which baseball team he'll root for, and I don't get to post on your blog, which, by the way, is outstanding. The blog is unbelievable. Laura Conaway is such a star. Were I to post, I would say, what sort of fan should my son be, and what will the impact of the choice be on his life?

STEWART: This is to be continued.

WOLFF: Indeed.

STEWART: In our lifetime.

WOLFF: I can't wait.

STEWART: Bill Wolff, we thank you so much for being part of the show, not like you had a big choice because you have to listen to me all the time...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: True.

STEWART: But you've been a joy!

WOLFF: Oh, man, it's been my joy. What a crew, what a group. I love the BPP. I will always love the BPP. What a group of people and what a host. I tell you, you're The Most.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Thanks, Bill, see you later.

WOLFF: All right, babe.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Laura Conaway, our web editor, has wandered into the studio with a piece of paper in front of her. Hi, Laura.

LAURA CONAWAY: Hi, how're you doing? Welcome back.

STEWART: Thank you.

CONAWAY: I just want to share with you guys a couple of comments that came in on the blog. They are attached to the post we did when the news first broke that our show was being cancelled in the New York Times. This person writes, I have severe PTSD. My 16-year-old son died suddenly in his bedroom last spring. I was afraid to stay home alone during the day, and had screaming panic attacks until I found and started to listen to the Bryant Park Project. And it's from this woman named Debbie. She just goes on to say that she really likes the show, and sometimes, you know, you hear the people like that out there and you think, you know, God...


CONAWAY: There's another one. This guy wrote, Patrick O'Brien wrote - I may never get over this - I have ALS, which means I'm dying, which also means I'm becoming paralyzed. Anyway, in order to use the computer, I'm forced to click on a contraption, which by morning, becomes loose. And for hours, I struggle to click on BPP before my nurse arrives.


CONAWAY: I love you, BPP. Patrick O'Brien, we love you. Thank you for hitting that button.

STEWART: Well, I thank you for sharing all that, and one thing I do want to say is that the - we will be frozen in time. It'll be a little BPP museum. The blog is 'til going to exist in the world. It may not be active, it may be a bit of a ghost blog, but you can still visit it.

CONAWAY: It'll be there. It should still be there. This is what I'm being told, and that's what I'm going to try to do.

STEWART: All right, well, we're going to hold folks to that. And Laura Conaway, you're going to come back to help people who are having a little bit of a hard time working through this.

CONAWAY: You can share my hard time...

STEWART: Ending our show...

CONAWAY: Yeah, with some music.

STEWART: With some music. Stay with us here at the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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