This time, Norman might hang on

Note to Greg Norman: Kick their butts.

Or, living up to your Great White Shark nickname, bite their butts.

Don’t look now, but Norman is leading another golf tournament. His 66 in the opening round of the U.S. Senior Open landed him in a four-way tie for the top spot.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Norman’s well-documented, career-long pattern is to sprint to the lead in major golf championships, then find some way to lose them.

Something tells me this one will be different. I watched Norman for a long time during Thursday’s opening round, and he looked very much at peace with himself and the golf gods. He appeared calmer than I’ve ever seen him on the course. I regard this as the calm before the storm. I sense a Shark attack is imminent.

Many cynics are skeptical of Norman’s ability to close the deal, but I say it’s a mistake to predict his demise in this senior major.

Norman is fit and enthusiastic. He has long been regarded as one of the best drivers of the golf ball who ever lived, so I asked him to compare his ability to drive the ball today with his legendary driver performances of the 1980s.

“I can relate to the ’91 PGA (Championship) here,” Norman answered. “I’m hitting the ball farther on this golf course today than what I was in ’91. I’m carrying the (dogleg) 14th hole without a problem.

I’m driving farther on the par 5s than I did in ’91.

“So is that my youth? No, but it has a lot to do with technology. I’m probably hitting the same irons I hit in ’91 into the greens, and there is, what, 20 years of separation in the time clock. My clubhead speed isn’t as fast as what it was in ’91, so technology has made up the gap.”

Norman’s official driving distance in the first round was 307.5 yards.

Not bad for a 54-year-old man.

Other key Norman stats: He hit seven of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens.

Many amateur golfers assume that it is necessary to hit 15 or 16 greens to shoot 66, but Norman did so with just 12 GIRs. This happens all the time on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, because these players are so skilled with their short games and putting.

The three leaders — Norman, Dan Forsman and Joey Sindelar — each had 25 putts. Forsman, like Norman, hit 12 greens in regulation.

Sindelar was one better with 13.

Why is Norman such a gallery favorite?

“I think they like my wine,” joked Norman, who has his own wine label. “Over the years, I think they enjoy the way I play the game of golf. I’m fairly aggressive. I like to play the game. I like to challenge myself, and sometimes they see shots they couldn’t dream of hitting.

“The galleries here have been phenomenal. I’ve been taken aback by the numbers (of fans) and the support and enthusiasm they have given us. That tells you this part of America (the Indianapolis area) is starved for golf.”

And the Shark, even though he won’t say it, is starved for a major senior title.

Sharpen your teeth, Shark. No need to bite light. Enjoy the feast.