Masters 2020 Hindsight

By Rex HoggardApril 2, 2010, 10:18 pm

It’s hard to imagine now, but like all things time has softened the edges and helped explain a great many things about Sir Nick Faldo.

Since he passed his playing prime, we’ve learned the hard-nosed competitor is an adapt storyteller with a keen sense of humor. During a recent conversation with the three-time Masters champion we also learned that the Englishman was superstitious. Not rabbit foot and four-day socks superstitious, but more attuned to the forces of chance than his icy exterior ever suggested.

During a recent conversation on the 20th anniversary of his second Masters triumph even Faldo marveled at how the cosmic tumblers cascaded into proper order in 1990.

The first sign was the official poster, which featured an image of Faldo on the 11th green celebrating his overtime victory over Scott Hoch a year earlier. And when he began his final round three shots behind Raymond Floyd, Faldo recalls being paired with Jack Nicklaus, who, at that time, was the only other player to win back-to-back green jackets.

Nick Faldo
Nick Faldo hugs his caddie after winning the 1990 Masters. (Getty Images)
“A little omen,” Faldo thought at the time.

Even when Faldo began his final round with a double bogey-6 he never doubted his title chances thanks, in large part, to encouraging premonitions about his title defense and a new face on his bag.

“I was twisted up about going to defend,” Faldo said. “I told myself 'you are not going to defend. You are going to win another Masters'.”

That effort was aided by the addition of Fanny Sunesson to Team Faldo. Although Sunesson would remain on Faldo’s bag for the remainder of his Hall of Fame career, the ’90 Masters was her first major with Faldo, and her first visit to Augusta National.

“To walk out to this magnificent golf course, it was awesome. All the history, just amazing,” recalls Sunesson. “I hadn’t seen it much on TV. They don’t show (the Masters) much in Sweden.”

If having a greenhorn caddie concerned Faldo, those fears didn’t last long. The two played their first practice round together on the Sunday before the tournament, a process that forced Faldo to focus on strategy and golf course management.

“That did a world of good for me because in the practice rounds I would do running commentary of what I wanted to do. Visually it was very powerful,” said Faldo, who teamed with Sunesson in January 1990.

Both Sunesson and Faldo got better with each round, posting cards of 71-72-66 to move into the hunt. Even the Englishman’s three-stroke, 54-hole deficit was of little concern. A year earlier, when Faldo collected his first green jacket, he’d started the final turn five strokes off the lead.

In hindsight, Faldo believes his charge began at the 12th hole, where his tee shot had plugged in a greenside bunker and the distance between himself and the top of the leaderboard had expanded to four strokes.

“Made an amazing up and down at 12,” Faldo said. “I had a plugged lie in the bunker, do or die moment and I just stuck the club in the ground. Hit it to 12 feet and holed the putt.”

Faldo birdied three of his next four holes, including a deuce at the par-3 16th hole. “I had a weird kind of dream of making 2 there,” he said.

It was a classic back-nine Sunday charge. The kind of rally some say the new Augusta National repeals, but in 1990 it was a quintessential Masters moment welcomed by a thunderous chorus that echoed through the pines.

“When you are at Augusta you have to play so defensively all week and wait unitl you get into a position where you can get brave,” Faldo said. “If you pull it off you can win the Masters. If you fail it will cost you the tournament.”

Faldo’s bravado was rewarded, he signed for a closing 69 to tie Floyd, who bogeyed the 17th hole, at 278. The playoff, however, was anticlimactic by comparison. Faldo matched Floyd at the first extra hole, scrambling for par at the downhill 10th and was struck with a wave of déjà vu as he stepped to the 11th tee.

“At 11, I had mixed emotions from last year,” said Faldo, who clipped Hoch a year earlier on the same hole with a dramatic 25-foot birdie putt.

What happened next stunned Faldo, to say nothing of Floyd. From the middle of the 11th fairway Floyd pulled a 7-iron from 176 yards into a pond that was guarding the left side of the green.

“It all happened in a 2-second flash,” Faldo said of Floyd’s miscue. “It was a weird feeling. I hit a little 8-iron down the hill and the best lag putt of my life.”

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The surprise of Floyd’s miscue aside, the ’90 Masters played out almost exactly the way Faldo envisioned it would. A four-part drama that remained on script until the very end, to a bookend green jacket ceremony and a knowing smile.

“I used to have little dreams of the day ahead or the next major. Premonitions,” Faldo said. “When you look at my reaction I knew it was going to be my day.”

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.