Faldo to take one last walk at Muirfield

By Doug FergusonJuly 9, 2013, 11:58 pm

The toughest question for any world-class golfer is to pick his favorite course in the world. It turned out to be easy for Nick Faldo once he set some parameters.

The six-time major champion was filming a promotional spot for Glenmorangie earlier this year when he was asked to name his favorite course and why. Faldo found himself wanting a little bit of everything, from the towering pines of Augusta National to the links courses of the British Open to the coastline of Pebble Beach.

As he tried to figure out how to mix all that together, another element entered the equation – memories.

''Unsolicited, it clicked,'' Faldo said in a recent interview. ''Memorability is important, isn't it? And then I suddenly I thought, 'Muirfield.' That green, the 18th hole, I won two Opens, which is pretty darn cool. That probably woke me up and I thought, 'This is really an important place to me.'''

It means enough that Faldo will play in the British Open next week for the 35th time. The opening round is on the day he turns 56.

He last competed at St. Andrews in 2010, missing the cut with an 81 when he was caught in the worst of the wind. He did not enter another tournament as a tuneup leading up to Muirfield. He is relying on memories, and as good as they are, they won't be enough for him to play like he once did.

No matter.

''It will be the last walk at Muirfield,'' Faldo said. ''If I could just get in the right frame of mind, if I hit the golf ball solid, that's as good as it gets. If it goes sideways, if I can't put a score on the card, you're going to have to accept that.''

Faldo rarely hit it sideways, certainly not at Muirfield.


Photos: Nick Faldo's career


It was in 1987 when Faldo famously made 18 pars in a gloomy final round and captured the first of his three Open titles when Paul Azinger faltered. Five years later, Faldo was a machine until he made a mess of the final round, losing a four-shot lead in five holes and then recovering with four of the best holes he ever played to beat John Cook, who helped by botching the last two holes.

Muirfield has the greatest collection of champions of any major course in the world. Faldo and James Braid are the only players to win the Open there twice.

The memories are strong. Faldo doesn't always remember where his shots landed, only how they felt leaving his club, particularly his win in '92. The 5-iron on the 15th hole is one of the best shots he ever hit. Facing a left-to-right wind, he had to work the ball in the same direction and stay left of the flag to let a ridge do the work. He fed the shot into 3 feet for birdie.

''And then the driver and 4-iron on the 17th was as good as it gets,'' he said. ''They had a red telephone box on the corner of the grandstand. I aimed at that and hit a draw, and then a perfect 4-iron 20 feet left of the flag.''

His two wins at Muirfield could not have been any more different.

The press panned him. He recalls seeing other players mimic what he was trying to do with his swing. The worst of it was in the spring of 1987, when he arrived in the Atlanta airport and saw so many players headed east to Augusta National for the Masters. Faldo didn't qualify. He was going in the other direction, to Hattiesburg, Miss.

''That hurt,'' he said. ''But I shot four 67s, and that was it.''

Starting with the '87 Open at Muirfield, Faldo won four out of the next 13 majors, lost a U.S. Open playoff to Curtis Strange and had three other top 4s in the majors.

But for someone regarded as one of England's greatest golfers, Faldo had a prickly relationship with the press. It started during the rebuilding years, and it didn't improve even after he had won two Masters and two Opens at Muirfield and St. Andrews. Faldo was aloof, which didn't help, and he was sensitive when it came to his swing. It was a bad combination.

That led to his infamous victory speech at Muirfield in 1992, when he was a rambling mess with his emotions and his words after a wild final round where he nearly blew a lead that Faldo now says would have scarred him. His voice was unsteady, and he constantly fidgeted with his hair. Toward the end, he sarcastically thanked the TV commentators for telling him ''how to practice and what to do and what not to do.''

''What can I say about the press?'' he added with a grin. ''I thank them from the bottom of my ... from the heart of my bottom, maybe.''

Faldo said he never watched the entire closing ceremony until a few months ago, when he showed it to his youngest daughter. He had no regrets.

''If you take the whole context, I'm in semi shock, you're making it up as you go along. There's a stutter to it,'' he said. ''It's not like it was a premeditated idea. I actually say, 'Thank you from the bottom ... well, heart of my bottom.' It was totally off the cuff.

''For the ones who I struck a nerve, well then, guess why it struck a nerve?'' he said. ''I was fed up.''

The relationship he has with Muirfield is grounded only in respect and appreciation, sprinkled with the memories of two claret jugs.

''I could play that golf course every day,'' Faldo said on the video.

The video starts with Faldo trying to name his favorite courses. He talks about Augusta National and Pine Valley, Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath, Cypress Point and Pebble Beach. The list goes on until the memory kicks in, and the footage shows him making a 4-foot par putt on the 18th at Muirfield to win for the first time.

''That moment there was great,'' he said. ''That would do. That would be the spot.''

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x