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Frantic Faldo
Exciting finish aside, what was most interesting about this years B&H International Open at The Belfry were the performances of Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo. These men have the near perfect golf swing in common as well as sharing the top spot for the least appealing personality in golf.

Monty claims to eschew practise, minimising his time on the practise range to the essential warm up through the bag. Faldo, on the other hand, preaches practise like an evangelist and sees coaching as the route to salvation. Contrasting approaches, certainly, but these two are the most successful British earners in the game. Nick, however, has claret jug replicas and green jackets to remind him of his achievements, Monty merely has money.

Nick Faldo is the most successful British player in living memory. As a people, we are at best selective in the heroes we idolise and, at the worst, we are champion bashers. As any sports historian will relate it has been this way for hundreds of years. The greatest expression of the sporting publics ire has always been vented on those who take themselves most seriously. And nobody, with possibly the exception of Monty, has taken himself more seriously than Nick Faldo.

Certainly no golfer of the modern era has generated more tabloid inches than Faldo, and most of it sprinkled with the adjectives, selfish, childish, arrogant and the like. Indeed, other than the reports extolling his major championship wins, the tabloid press has concentrated its forces on every personal failing it could find in the man. But, it has to be said, Faldo has taken every opportunity to assist them in their endeavours.

Few will forget the debacle in the mist that engulfed the 18th fairway of the Old Course as Faldo and David Feherty approached the green in their Dunhill Cup match. The cavalier Feherty played his shot to the barely discernible green but Faldo refused to do it and brought everyone back the next day. Faldo did himself no favours by winning the match and subsequent visits to the town brought out Faldo go home banners.

The Dunhill was then a team event and Faldo was Englands team captain. Was he acting in the best interests of his team? Many thought then that his action was patriotism gone mad while others insisted that his ego had taken over his game. The same question is likely to be asked again with his announcement of Faldo institutes throughout the country to produce great players of the game. Is this for the greatness of the game, to re-establish British supremacy, or glorify the Faldo name?

Faldo is simply a compulsive personality type. It is his determination to achieve that drives him and he will succeed at all costs. In this respect he is in the Hogan and Player mould, both of whom were appreciated by the golfing cognoscenti but treated with the greatest suspicion by the press. Like these two great players he resolutely believes that practise makes perfect and preaches it with missionary zeal. He has always acknowledged that Hogan and Player were inspirational to him and, like them, he is at pains to claim that great golfers are not born but made.

There is a clearly discernible line of thought for this claim that begins with Hogans reconstruction of himself after his near fatal car crash. It continues with the diminutive Players claim to spend whole days in a bunker and building himself up on punishing physical exercises. Faldo, in keeping with his times not only did all that but also sought a guru in David Leadbetter. Tiger Woods is generally held to have been made by his father  a fact that Im sure comes with an affirmative nod from his mother. The common denominator is, of course, practise but is that the only factor these guys have in common? I would suggest that egocentricity is another.

There are enough contemporary accounts attesting to the size of Hogans ego and those who have seen the 50s biopic Follow the Sun or read one of his authorised biographies will appreciate its magnitude. Having sat through the gibberish of Players lecture on God and Golf' in St Andrews University two years ago, megalomania is an expression that springs to mind in his case. And having shared a hotel with Faldos parents near Sandwich when Sandy Lyle was winning the '85 Open at Royal St Georges, I suggest that egocentricity is inherited and that it is passed through the maternal line.

It is clearly not enough for these great men to merely succeed and and have their names entered in the record books. Their desire is to surpass all that and leave indelible impressions, testified by the fact that each has promulgated the theory that they could mould a great champion.

Faldo has long supported the Golf Foundation and, through his Faldo Junior Series, encouraged young golfers. Nick Dougherty was his first series winner and he is still helped and encouraged by Faldo.

I laud and applaud Nick Faldo. He is the greatest golfer of his generation and one of the best of all time. I also respect his patriotism and his support of the junior game. What I find hard to understand is his belief that a champion can be constructed. Both Hogan and Player also claimed that they were self-made men.

It surely isnt hard to see that the fundamental requirement for a champion is determination to excel. However, given that you are born with incredible hand-eye co-ordination, exquisite balance and dedication to practice I suppose that you could be made.

©    13 - MAY 2002

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