Long putter helps Norris to Nashua Masters title

It took some persuading from his parents, but Shaun Norris can thank the move to a long putter for his dramatic come-from-behind victory on Sunday in the R1.2-million Nashua Masters at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club.

Norris took the title by one stroke from a faltering Tyrone Mordt to win his second Sunshine Tour title after he won his maiden title in February 2008 at the inaugural Africa Open.

His final-round five-under-par 65 gave him a tournament total of nine-under-par.

“My putting couldn’t get any worse,” he said, “so I changed to the long putter for last week’s BMG Classic in Johannesburg, and I tied for third there, so it was an easy decision to keep using it this week.”

And in the end, a good birdie putt on the par-three 17th became the pivotal point in the duel between the two.

“I knew that I had to make birdie there to have any chance after I had three-putted 16 and Tyrone had made birdie,” said Norris. He sank the 10-footer while Mordt three-putted for bogey and they were level going up 18.

Norris put his tee shot in the middle of the fairway on the 348-metre par-four, while Mordt was right in the short rough, and about 20 metres behind Norris.

In the end, Mordt’s putter – coincidentally a long one too – let him down as his birdie attempt from the back fringe was narrow and finished two feet left of the pin. Agonisingly for Mordt, his par putt lipped out.

But Norris was secure, and his approach putt grazed the hole, leaving him a tiddler for the title.

It couldn’t have pleased him more after a baptism of fire on the 2011 European Tour during which he made 2 cuts in 17 tries.

“I learnt a lot from that,” he said. “When you’re battling away every week, and you’re not getting anywhere, you learn to wait patiently. And having had that experience, I am able to know better what I want to achieve.”

That patience served him well as the conditions conspired to make play difficult in the opening two rounds at the Wild Coast: “With the wind so strong then, the long putter helped me stroke the ball better, and that kept me in touch,” he said.

For much of the final round, Mordt, playing in his 50th Sunshine Tour tournament and looking for his first victory, seemed to have matters under control.

He stretched clear with three consecutive birdies from the second to the fourth, and it looked probable that he could wait for birdie opportunities to present themselves rather than having to hunt them down.

But he stumbled within sight of victory, and instead added a second top-10 performance for the year to his list after he shared seventh in the Dimension Data Pro-Am in February.

Darren Fichardt, who won the title in the 2009 Nashua Masters, finished in third on five-under, three strokes behind Norris, with Ulrich van den Berg and Brandon Pieters sharing fourth another shot further back.

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