So, Greg Norman leads the field, as the final day of the The Open approaches. For three days, he has played like a man, without the burden of expectancy on his shoulders. No pressure. No demand. Only, a former champion, enjoying himself in testing, championship conditions.
If he were to play with similar freedom on day four, then the Australian could well become Open Champion, at the age of fifty-three. The question is, as he gets closer to the finish line, will he continue to play without expectation? Will the irresistible thought of lifting the Claret Jug, start to play on his mind? And increase the expectations levels.
Once expectations levels change, then a player can tend to try too hard, to execute perfectionism. You think that you have to hit the perfect shot. The natural rhythm quickens and flow is lost. A two shot lead can disappear in a moment. And the player won’t know why.
It takes a lot of experience to manage expectations. The fact that Greg Norman has been out of contention for some time, may be an advantage. He may not feel under any pressure to win, and simply continue to play as he has done. One hole; one shot, at a time.
But as you come down the final stretch of a major, perhaps with a slender lead, it takes a smart mentality, to continue to play without expectations. It means recognizing the pressures, but not being affected by them. It means remembering, that you are playing to test yourself in challenging conditions. In which winning, is a result of excelling in that test. The test, comes before the winning.
If Greg Norman can continue to manage his expectations, then he could well become Open Champion. But, it will be a mighty test of his mentality.