Nick Faldo: still animated after all these years

No one can deny the efforts he has made to put something back into the game

Amid his many achievements in a stellar playing career, Nick Faldo won six major championships: the Open in 1987, 1990 and 1992; the Masters in 1989, 1990 and 1996. Of all British golfers, only Harry Vardon, who began plying his trade in the late 1800s, has more. He won six Opens and one US Open. Despite his enormous and deserved reputation, Spain’s Seve Ballesteros, an exact contemporary of Faldo’s, ‘only’ won five majors.


It is fair to say that Faldo had (more than) his fair share of critics when he was in his prime, in part for being seen as too focused on being a great golfer and anything that might get in the way of that could just get the hell out of the way. But no one can deny the efforts he has made to put something back into the game that provided him with fame and fortune.

He could have just quit and put his feet up, or just stuck to designing golf courses and/or doing TV commentary. But he initiated the much-admired Faldo Junior Series, which has helped scores of golfers, Rory McIlroy included. His philanthropy led to him being awarded a knighthood and, separately, to the creation of the Major Champions Invitational (MCI) event in Florida, which this year was staged for the second time.


“The idea is to create a field of the best young players in the world,” Faldo explained. The format is that 18 major champions, including himself and Ballesteros – whose voice is posthumously represented by his Foundation, likewise for Payne Stewart – choose four 18-year-old golfers, two boys and two girls, to play in the tournament both on behalf of themselves and for their team. How the champions go about this is up to them. “My players are global,” said Faldo. “I choose them from around the world. But Henrik [Stenson] had qualifying events in Sweden to pick his team. So did Annika [Sorenstam, whose team won]. Adam Scott, for example, picked some kids from Australia.”

Sorenstam was one of seven women major champions involved in the process – “which we were very pleased about,” said Faldo. He added: “We set the event up like it’s for a pro tournaments. It gives them an idea of what may lie ahead. I think 72 young amateurs on a golf course is a great number; I’m not sure that we want to make it bigger than that. Eventually I would like to take it global but the odds are that it will be held in the States in 2020.”


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Going back to Faldo’s heyday, I recall a piece in Sports Illustrated in July 1996, reviewing the recent Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. It was won by Tom Lehman, who had gone into the final round six shots clear of Faldo, who lay second. Faldo finished fourth, three behind Lehman. Bearing in mind that Nick had overturned precisely that margin to beat Greg Norman in the Masters three months previously, the writer, Rick Reilly, declared that the Englishman had thus become the “first golfer in history to blow a six-shot deficit”.


It’s a good line in humorous irony. Given the press he sometimes used to get, Nick Faldo might have been inclined to think “bloody typical”.


You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com

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