GULLANE, Scotland – Nick Faldo says he played 24 rounds of golf last year and 11 the year before. Although it’s good to see the three-time British Open champion back at Muirfield to compete, rather than commentate, he has no expectations of contending. Still, it’s difficult to hear the 56-year-old say he’d be thrilled just to advance to the weekend.
No matter how Faldo plays, he’s in a high-profile grouping with Tom Watson and Fred Couples the first two days. He says he has a game plan for the walk.
“If I’m feeling intense, you know, I’ll go and talk to Tom,” Faldo said. “If I want to feel relaxed, I’ll talk to Freddie.”
Two players who have not played relaxed golf the past month are Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the top two players in the world rankings. Woods has won four PGA Tour events this year but played poorly in his last two events, the Memorial and the U.S. Open. He comes to Muirfield this week having not played competitively since that Open, opting instead to rest a sore elbow.
Meanwhile, McIlroy hasn’t played well for most of the year and has collected two missed cuts and no finish higher than 41st in his last four events.
“We know what’s been happening to Rory,” Faldo said. “He’s still testing clubs.”
“You have a window of opportunity. That’s my only words of wisdom to Rory. You have say a 20-year window as an athlete. Concentrate on golf and nothing else.”
Faldo recently said he doesn’t believe Woods is as mentally tough as he once was and hinted at a similar comment Monday at Muirfield.
Said Faldo: “Tiger is in a different mode where he’s winning regular tournaments, but he gets to the majors and something happens. As I call it, the self-belief you have to have, maybe there’s a little dent in there. He hits the wrong shot at the wrong time, where before Tiger would hit the right shot at the right time.”