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Though the pain of losing never leaves, another final-round loss in a major was not about to make Greg Norman mad. (Photo: Getty Images)

Norman disappointed -- but still proud -- of his performance

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Want to know how Greg Norman really felt about his loss at the 137th Open Championship? "If you really want to chase something and chase a dream, you can go do it," the 53-year-old said Sunday.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

SOUTHPORT, England -- He was tucked away in back corner of the small gentleman's changing room at Royal Birkdale, surrounded by a small group of reporters.

As his caddie was packing up the bags, Greg Norman propped his arm on a ledge and tried to put a little perspective on a remarkable week and find the words to describe yet another a disappointing day.

He was relaxed and smiling, not searching his soul to explain why yet another major belonged to someone else. Yes, the faces were the same but this was no post-Augusta moment with Norman tapping his club on the carpet as he wondered aloud why a course he loved so much kept breaking his heart.

Yes, the 137th Open Championship had slipped away and with it the story of the year. Perhaps it was just too much to expect for the 53-year-old who had hardly touched a club to hang on and hang on and win a third Claret Jug. Not because he was 53, but rather because he was here just to play some golf and get ready for next week's Senior British Open at Troon.

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Then again, we kept thinking, this was Greg Norman.

This one came out of nowhere. Three rounds of flawless golf in brutal conditions. A two-shot lead going into the final round. Three straight bogeys to start the day, three lipouts. A succession of chances that were just out of his reach.

"Nobody expected this," he said.

Least of all, him. Or Chris Evert.

"I don't know where the golf came from," she said. "I know he's a happier person because he's older, wiser and doing the things he loves. He's freer. But I don't know where the golf came from the last four days.

"I'm amazed at the shots he hit the first three days. This was the story of the tournament, wasn't it?"

Indeed. But the pressure Sunday afternoon was on defending champ Padraig Harrington to go back-to-back; on K.J. Choi or Ian Poulter or a half dozen others to step up. Not on Norman.

Winning was a possibility, not a probability. He was 500-to-1 to start the week -- an afterthought. But what a great story it would have been.

Instead Harrington held onto the Claret Jug with a just-try-to-catch-me 32 on the back nine. And Norman, who was tied for the lead at the turn, couldn't keep up. He shot 77 to finish tied for third and the 30th major top 10 in his career.

Someone mentioned one more time that put him back in the Masters next year.

"He's in the Masters?" caddie Lynn Strickler deadpanned. "Consolation prize."

He looked at Norman and they both started laughing.

The toughest thing about the day wasn't losing. It was shooting 77. It was so out of place after an opening pair of 70s and a third-round 72. The things that went right the first three days went wrong in the final round.

But the whole week told him the components of his game are all still there. Even if he has been playing more tennis than golf.

"I'm not as disappointed as I was in
the 80s or 90s, that's for sure," he said. "It's a different disappointment. When you put yourself in this position, you want to
close the deal. At
the same time you have to take stock in the situation ... again, reality.

"I'm not a competitive golfer day in and day out. I played pretty solid. And to step up to the plate and lead the British Open ... "

This week, that was more than enough.

"Quite honestly, I'm sure I surprised a lot of people," he said. "But at the same time, immediately I think about it now, what happens if I won. What happens if I won, then I might have had to be out here playing more golf, and maybe that's what I didn't want to do anyway. And that shouldn't be any excuse for it."

He wasn't making one. This isn't the swashbuckler who was stabbed in the heart by Bob Tway, Larry Mize and Robert Gamez. It wasn't the No. 1 player in the world who took a six-shot lead into the final round of the 1996 Masters and had a major meltdown.

This is the man who's still giddy as a teenager over his new bride. The man whose mind has been wrapped up in details of a $2 million wedding and a honeymoon in the Bahamas. A man who splits his time between family and business and more tennis than golf.

"He feels freedom in his heart he's never felt before," Evert said. "I loved that he never got mad. Nothing rattled him. He's always been tough on himself, but I was proud of him this week."

She paused.

"He's in a good place."

He came in with low expectations and let us raise them. He exited, not with another loss, but with everyone talking about how amazing the week was; how incredibly deep and talented a shotmaker and golfer he really is.

To appreciate the enormity of what he did, just ask Evert if she could imagine playing a Grand Slam event at 53.

"I retired 18 years ago," she said laughing, "so no. And today, you have to run. That's the problem."

But Norman? This was one for the ages. A major gift to himself, his new bride and to the game. To everyone who had the chance to see his name on top of a major leaderboard one more time.

"I think at the end of the day, a lot of people should take stock no matter how old you are, if you really want to chase something and chase a dream, you can go do it," Norman said.

"Even though there's failure at the end of it for me, I still put myself in position to really show a lot of other people that you can go do something if you really want it."

As for the Masters? He threw back his head and said, "Time out, okay." Way too much going on between now and then to think about that.

When he popped out of the hallway, he saw Evert, who asked if he wanted a beer.

He smiled and shook his head.

"No," he said, giving her a hug and a kiss, "all I want is you."

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