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Dermot talks to Nick Faldo

The Three Time Masters Winner on his Triumphs

Posted Apr 07, 2011 by Dermot Gilleece

Nick Faldo

During the build-up to the Masters here at Augusta, Nick Faldo was to be seen in the famous roped-off area in front of the clubhouse, wearing the champion’s green jacket as a winner three times over.  It seemed an ideal situation in which to nudge him down memory lane.

Without much prompting, he was reminiscing about his first Masters victory in 1989 when, against all the odds, a final round of 65 got him into a play-off with Scott Hoch.  Then, in gathering gloom, victory was secured through a 25-foot birdie putt on the 11th - the second play-off hole.

“The next year (1990) was very special because I played with Jack Nicklaus on the last day,” he recalled. “Up to that point, he was the only person to repeat here and now I was trying to match him.  That, of course, also ended in a play-off, with Raymond Floyd.  And to win and stand alongside Jack in Masters history was very cool. I had become a member of a very select club.

“My last one was with Greg Norman in ’96.  One of the coolest things about that particular win was that some time later, I happened to be at a basketball game and a guy sitting behind me said he was there when I beat Greg.  People remember it.” 

He went on: “I had a really hilarious start to that Sunday.  In the house we rented, I had two, what we called videos in those days.  One was Disney’s Aladdin in which Robin Williams did a brilliant job.  And the other was a live recording of Sting and the Police.  After watching those, I arrived at the course to find Fanny (his caddie, Fanny Sunesson) already there with her eyes out on stalks.

“’You’ve got 57 minutes’, she said.  Normally I would have been there an hour and 20 minutes before my tee-off time, but getting it wrong on this occasion helped me in a way.  It lessened the opportunity of putting additional pressure on myself.  As I remember it I was pretty calm. Got to the first tee and off we went.  That’s how I remember it.”

With a six-shot deficit to make up on Norman, his game plan was to get to within three strokes of his rival by the halfway point in the final round.  “I was thinking that three strokes is nothing on the back nine here,” he said.  “It could go in one hole.” 

In the event, Faldo was tied for the lead standing on the tee at the short 12th.  And after Norman hit his tee-shot into Rae’s Creek, the underdog suddenly found himself with a two-shot lead.

“Now I’m thinking I could blow this,” said Faldo.  “It was amazing.  It was mine to lose.  I didn’t have quite the self-belief that day that I had in my major wins earlier in the decade. But it proved to be my best mental round for the way I walked myself through every shot.”

Faldo, who shot a 67 that day to win by five strokes, concluded:  “When I was back in my office in England a few weeks ago, I saw the card of that round.  And I noted that my only five that day was a bogey on the fifth.   I birdied all the par fives.  Fours and threes on the Sunday of the Masters!  That was all right.”

The hapless Norman finished second.  Speaking here on Thursday, he said: “I had two other runner-up finishes in the Masters, but that was the hardest one.  I was playing well that week but while Nick was playing fantastic, my game started to feel off as we got into the final round.”

He added: “Still, there are times when finishing second elevated me, for the way I handled it.  That was one of those occasions.”

- Dermot Gilleece

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