U.S. SENIOR OPEN
As 60 Looms, Faldo Opts to 'Be A Golfer' Again
June 28, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass.
By Dave Shedloski
After struggling to a final-round 78 Sunday in the American Family Insurance Championship in Wisconsin to finish in a distant tie for 72nd place in the PGA Tour Champions event, Sir Nick Faldo knew he was back.
“When I left last week,” the six-time major champion said, “I was annoyed. I was frustrated. I was depressed, and I even lost my head. So I thought, ‘Hey, I'm a golfer again.’”
He is for the time being.
Best known these days for his work as lead golf analyst for CBS Sports, Faldo is embarking on his most extensive playing binge in more than a decade, which includes his debut in this week’s U.S. Senior Open Championship at Salem Country Club. Faldo is eligible via a one-time exemption available to a player who won any of the four major championships, the U.S. Amateur or The Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A. Nearing 60 years old, he waited long enough to use it.
“I'm celebrating being 60 in July. So I thought the best way to celebrate is be a golfer, so come and play some golf,” said the World Golf Hall of Famer, who also plans to play in next month’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale – where he made his debut in the championship – the Senior Open Championship and some fall PGA Tour Champions events. “The idea is to be a golfer while I can, you know.”
The Englishman, knighted in 2009, was once the best golfer in the world, holding the No. 1 ranking for 97 weeks between September 1990 and February 1994. His nine PGA Tour titles include three Masters wins and three more in The Open Championship among 26 career top-10 finishes in the majors. He added another 38 wins worldwide, 30 of them on the European Tour.
In 2002, however, ABC Sports tossed a broadcasting contract in his direction after he sat in the booth for the network at The Open Championship at Royal Troon. “So I guess they liked me,” he mused. When ABC dropped golf in 2006, Faldo was picked up by Golf Channel and CBS. The latter, he believed, was the prime golf assignment because CBS covered the Masters and featured the polished professional voice of Jim Nantz as host.
“It’s funny, the visualization, I knew the ultimate job was, I felt, 18th tower, CBS with Nantz. I mean, he is unbelievable,” Faldo said. “And suddenly I was fishing at the K Club after the Ryder Cup [in 2006], the Monday after, in the loch casting away, and the phone rings. That was exactly the phone call. … I nearly fell out of the boat.”
Now he’s taking the leap out of the booth and onto the golf course. And he is giving it as much effort as he can muster.
“I know he’s been working like a fiend, getting in shape, putting in the time on his game,” said Gary McCord, a former winner on the senior circuit and one of Faldo’s CBS colleagues. “He’s been going at it, and is very committed as you would imagine. He is not messing around. He wants to see what he is capable of doing.”
That’s not to say Faldo is working like he did in his prime. “I couldn’t do anything close to the workload that I did moons ago,” he said with half a laugh. “I was an animal where, yeah, [now] I would collapse. I wouldn’t last one day of the old Nick Faldo. I would just be a heap.”
Faldo has missed competitive golf, but not enough to say he has any regrets about seguing to a broadcasting career. Bernhard Langer, just a month younger than Faldo, has won 32 times on the PGA Tour Champions, including the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, and he’ll be one of the favorites this week after passing Jack Nicklaus earlier this year with his ninth senior major title.
“If I can hang with the real golfers this week – Bernhard and Freddy [Couples] and others – that would be pretty cool,” he said.
“No, no regrets at all,” Faldo added, “because I had done it, I’d been a pro at the time for 28, 29 seasons or something. … And I made one rule when I went to tower. I said, ‘Don’t sit up here and wish you were out there.’ And that worked.”
Speaking of work, last week Faldo received a reminder of what tournament golf is all about when you are “out there.” It’s not like riding a bike. You might get to pedaling OK, but you can forget how quickly the wheels can fall off.
“Putting a round together is blooming hard work,” Faldo said. “That’s the thing. It’s not like just ball up and hit it. It’s all the little things that keep the round going and happening and all sorts of things. So, it’s a thousand and one bloomin’ things you've got to do in this game to get it right. So that's what we’ve been trying to do.”
Does he dare think about winning this week’s 38th U.S. Senior Open? Salem Country Club with its diabolical greens requires the kind of precise shot-making at which Faldo, in his prime, was methodically brilliant. Now would be a good time to turn back the clock.
“The old Nick Faldo played some real consistent golf. That’s my goal,” he said. “I would love to play like that.”
But is winning part of the equation, too?
“You know, you dream of that,” he allowed. “You send that out like you meant to do it and say ‘what if?’ I’d just like to find some real consistency. If I could do that and enjoy belting the drives down and hitting the irons in the right place and then giving the putter a good effort, a really good effort, well, yes, I would take that. Then, hopefully, that adds up to a decent score, and you can survive the week. To be honest, that's the real goal.”
In other words, be a golfer again.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to USGA websites.