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Norman won't get an invitation to Augusta
by Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)?

Barring a remarkable rebound in the next two months, Greg Norman will not be returning to the Masters.

Norman, the epitome of collapse and heartache at Augusta National, said he received a letter from chairman Hootie Johnson that he will not be offered a special invitation.

"Hootie wrote explaining the decision, and I think it is the right decision," Norman told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I support him 100 percent and respect him for that."

Norman, a runner-up three times at the major he craves the most, did not qualify for the first time last year but was given a special exemption by the club. He tied for 36th.

The only way for the 48-year-old Norman to qualify now is to move from No. 121 to No. 50 in the world ranking by the end of March, to be in the top 10 on the PGA Tour money after The Players Championships or to win The Players.

Norman is playing the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne this week, and said he plans to play four PGA Tour events before the deadline.

Johnson invited Norman to be a guest at Augusta National if he doesn't make it, but the Shark isn't interested.

"There's no point in me going up there," he said.

Norman's best chance to win the green jacket came in 1996. He had a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo going into the last round, but shot 78 and lost by five.

The most devastating loss might have been in 1987, when Larry Mize defeated him on the second playoff hole by chipping in for birdie from 140 feet. A year earlier, Norman bogeyed the 18th hole to finish one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus.

Four years ago, Norman was tied for the lead with five holes to play when he bogeyed the 14th and never caught Jose Maria Olazabal.

Will he miss being at the Masters?

"Not with this Martha Burk business going on," Norman said, alluding to the debate over the club's all-male membership.

"I miss the place, no question," he said. "I'll miss being there because I've played there for so long. I have a lot of good memories of it."


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