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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Norman Ties Record in Brilliant Masters Start

Combined reports

AUGUSTA, Georgia -- At last, at last, Greg Norman is off to a great start, at last.

Norman on Thursday defeated his first-day demon at the Masters, shooting a course record-tying 63, 9 under par at the Augusta National Golf Club.

In Norman's quest to win his most coveted title, he has never gotten off to a better start. In fact, no one has ever gotten off to a better start. The 63 betttered by one Lloyd Mangrum's opening-round record set in 1940.

But fitting Norman for a green jacket is premature. This is the man who has lost all four majors in playoffs and been runner-up in Grand Slam events a total of seven times.

And Friday, with continued warm, dry weather to speed up the greens even more than usual and the wind picking up, the course figured to play much tougher. As well, the pins were placed to invite daring shots but court disaster.

Norman had only broken 70 once in a first round at Augusta, in his very first appearance in 1981 when he shot 69. In 1990 and 1991, the two years he missed the cut, he shot 78s to open. His average opening round score in 15 previous Masters was 73.2.

"When you get into the flow, it just happens," Norman said. "Let the reins of the horse go and let him run as fast as he can."

Remarkably, Norman didn't make a birdie until the seventh hole. In the last 12 holes he made nine of them, the longest coming at the 18th when he holed a 24-footer to tie the course record held by Nick Price, who set the standard in 1986. "I wasn't thinking of the course record,'' Norman said. "Of course I knew Nick had it. When your best friend has it, he's going to tell you about it."

The 63 allowed Norman to take a two-shot lead over Phil Mickelson, who had finished about two hours earlier with his own sparkling 65. Scott Hoch and Bob Tway are four shots back at 67. It was the second 63 that Norman has shot in a major, the only player to ever have done so. The first came when he won the British Open at Turnberry in 1986. In 1994, he shot 64 in the last round to win the British Open at Royal St. George's.

"I'd put this right up there with Turnberry and Royal St. George's as the best rounds of my career," said Norman.

Norman has never made a secret of his desire to win the Masters, to add his name to the list of legends that includes all his idols. Yet Norman has always been mortal here, good but not quite good enough to be great.

Last year, he finished tied for third, opening with a 73 and then shooting three 68s. From 1986 through '89 he never finished lower than fifth. In 1986 and '87 he became one of the most memorable second-place finishers of all time. In 1986, he led after the third round but succumbed to Nicklaus' closing 65. He bogied the 18th on Sunday when a par would have forced a playoff.

In 1987, he made it to a playoff, but lost on the 11th hole, the second extra hole, when Larry Mize made a miraculous 140-foot chip shot for birdie. Again, Norman had bogied the 72nd hole when he had a chance to win the tournament outright.

After missing the last two cuts in PGA Tour events Norman came to Augusta relaxed, and he said his sense of timing came back to him overnight Wednesday .

He made 10-foot birdie putts on the seventh and eighth holes, and a 14-foot birdie putt on the ninth. On the par-3 12th, he stuck an 8-iron to 6 feet for a deuce. He two-putted the par-5 13th from 40 feet for a four. On 14, his drive caught the trees on the left and dropped down, leaving him 220 yards to the pin. He hooked a 4-iron that ran over a peaked green to 3 feet for birdie. He two-putted the par-5 15th from 18 feet for his fourth consecutive birdie. After a touchy two-putt par on the 16th, he ran in a 10-foot birdie putt on 17 and closed with the birdie on 18.