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Golf Australia Express : OTG Express 154 - The Open preview
SIRNicholas Alexander Faldo MBE. It’s an illustrious title for a golfer with an illustrious résumé but who during his playing days lacked the personality to match. The man who tormented Greg Norman for most of his career is back at St Andrews this week for his 37th appearance at the Open Championship and last at the Old Course where he claimed the second of his three Opens a quarter of a century ago. Faldo was regarded for his strategic nous and his extreme dedication to the craft, particularly for rebuilding his swing entirely under David Leadbetter’s eye during the mid- 1980s. The Englishman reveals far more of his personality and sense of humour now as a TV analyst, but during his playing days he was notorious for not interacting with anyone but his caddie on the golf course. His determination was at its peak during the 1990 Open at St Andrews. With Norman and Faldo ranked as the game’s top-two players, the scene was set for a spectacular duel between the pair when they shared the halfway lead at 12-under, four strokes clear of the next-best players. Sadly, the contest fizzled quickly in the third round when Norman first lost his putting touch then began forcing the issue once Faldo applied the relentless pressure through the sheer precision he was known for. The result was a nine-shot shellacking that helped Faldo build a five-stroke lead, which became his eventual margin of victory a day later. Faldo’s first Open victory in 1987 is best remembered for the steady 18 pars he carded on Sunday at Muirfield to fend off Paul Azinger and Australia’s Rodger Davis by a stroke. Five years later he was anything but steady on Sunday at the same venue, surrendering a four-stroke lead to John Cook before two late birdies pinched another single-shot escape. Faldo won six majors – three Opens alongside three Masters, a combination that helped coin his short-lived restaurant moniker “Jug and Jacket” – but the knock against his major haul is that the ’90 Open was the only one he took by stranglehold. His three victories at Augusta National all came at the hands of someone else’s self- inflicted misery and his two other Open wins required some help along the way. It’s a tough rap on a player who took a few along the way. He was, after all, in position to collect as other players faltered and showed a higher sense of resolve than his opponents each time. Among his peers, only Tom Watson’s five Opens surpass and only Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods with three each can match Faldo’s collection. WORDS BY STEVE KEIPERT
OTG Express 153
OTG Express 155 - The Open wrap