Faldo Returns to Site of Final Open Title


After a spectacular professional career in which he won six major titles, Nick Faldo has decided to return to the venue where he won two of his three - including his last - Claret Jugs, Muirfield in Scotland, for the Open Championship, which starts Thursday.

Faldo spent a total of 98 weeks as the No. 1 player in the World Golf Ranking, and won two Order of Merit awards on the European Tour, where he triumphed 30 times. In the mid-2000s, as his competitive performances declined, he began working as a golf analyst for ABC Sports' PGA Tour coverage. In 2006, he signed a contract as the lead analyst for CBS and has been in the booth with Jim Nance ever since, along with regular stints on the Golf Channel.

For his exploits in golf and bringing honor to his home country, he was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1998 and became a Knight Bachelor in 2009 - warranting the title of "Sir."

Faldo's last competitive round came in 2010 in the Open Championship at St. Andrews, where an 81 on a windy Friday caused him to miss the cut, and he's played just 36 rounds of golf anywhere in three years.

So his return to Muirfield is as much a nostalgia trip as anything; making the cut this year will be a bonus. "About two months ago I was at my gym at home, and I thought at the time, 'You're just strong enough to have a go,' " he told reporters Monday. "It might be the last chance I get to walk with fellow Open champions. And so I kind of said, 'Okay, I'm going to go for it.' And then the process has been really fun. I've actually enjoyed it."

But mainly, he really enjoys the ancient links at Muirfield. Faldo, who turns 56 on Thursday's first round, was asked earlier to identify his favorite course, and he got to thinking. "Pebble Beach coastline, and the pines of Augusta (National - site of the Masters, where he's also won three times) and the links and atmosphere of St. Andrews. And then thought of the memorability. And I thought wow, I've got a very special place here, the 18th green at Muirfield. I ended up thinking about, and that won in my heart and my mind. So that maybe sowed some seeds."

Faldo will be paired in the opening round with two fellow grizzled vets, five-time British Open champion Tom Watson and Fred Couples. He said on Monday that playing alongside those two will be fun. "I've got Tom and Freddie," Faldo said. "If I'm feeling intense, you know, I'll go and talk to Tom. If I want to feel relaxed, I'll talk to Freddie. That's a great threesome."

Faldo was also asked to weigh in on Rory McIlroy, the former No. 1 who's struggled so far this season after making a splash early in the year with his huge Nike endorsement deal and ongoing much-publicized romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

The outspoken Faldo had some advice for the young Ulsterman, "I actually think it's a lot going on in his mind. You've got to have - I always felt, my career went on, I got involved in business and other things. Once your concentration goes - you need 100 percent concentration, off the golf course, practicing, as well. Most ideal I can think is to go to the club, 9:00 in the morning, hit balls all day long, and you leave at 5:00. And you think that was cool, that was great, what a lovely day I had. You've been really productive.

"You have to do that. 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, nothing else. Hopefully when you retire - 40s, 50s - hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it. So just concentrate on golf."

Here's what else Sir Nick told reporters at Muirfield on Monday.

MODERATOR: We'll get started. Delighted to welcome three time Open champion, and of course winner here twice at Muirfield, Nick Faldo. Thanks very much for joining us this afternoon. This must be a place of very fond memories for you, I guess.

NICK FALDO: Absolutely. I think that's the No.1 reason why I'm here. As you know, I played St. Andrews three years ago, and I really thought that was about it; didn't enjoy that. I haven't played anything competitive, at all. About two months ago - early in the year I was doing a commercial for Glenmorangie, and the question was, what's your favorite golf course? And how would you create your favorite golf course? I started off I want Pebble Beach coastline, and the pines of Augusta and the links and atmosphere of St. Andrews. And then thought of the memorability. And I thought wow, I've got a very special place here, the 18th green at Muirfield. I ended up thinking about, and that won in my heart and my mind. So that maybe sewed some seeds.

And about two months ago I was at my gym at home, and I thought at the time, you're just strong enough to have a go. It might be the last chance I get to walk with fellow Open champions. And so I kind of said, okay, I'm going to go for it. And then the process has been really fun. I've actually enjoyed it. I bumped into Dale Richardson, who is out on Tour, my old physio. And starts poking around on my shoulder, and said, "You're meant to have a scapula in here." And I've been rehabbing this. And I keep working on my swing. And I even bumped into Gio Valiante, Justin Rose's sports psychologist. So I've gleaned a few gems there. These kids, they've got it all now. We were still searching back in my time. I'm really enjoying that. The bottom line, I hope that for the end of the week I'm inspired, like all of us; that I want to play again and have another go here. I think that's really what's in mind.

MODERATOR: Is it difficult to switch back into the golf mode? I know you're very busy off the course with your Faldo Series, the broadcasting, a lot going on for you.

NICK FALDO: Yeah, with my schedule, I know I played 24 rounds last year. And what's that, '12. In '11 I only played 11 rounds of golf, in 2011. So, yeah, a lot of things happening. Obviously television, as you know, those days are set in stone. The Faldo Series is great, really expanding. Really dear to my heart right now. Hopefully you've seen some press releases. We're taking it to America. The grand finals will go to Greenbrier in West Virginia in middle of October. So we're really excited about that. Taking 80 kids across the world from Asia, from Europe to the Greenbrier.

I've had great talks with Tim Finchem and Ty Votaw, and the Tour is recognizing what I've been doing, and how it can link with their First Tee program. So they're very supportive. As I call it, we're bubbling under, a great explosion into America with the series. That's very key. That's partly why I'm here as well, to promote that. And, as you can tell, I'm enjoying life. I'm 56 on Thursday, my little daughter is going to be 10. Natalie, who was here in '87, she is 27. So, yeah, I'm enjoying things.

Q. If you don't mind me saying, it doesn't sound as if you've got much hope of winning The Open this weekend, from what you've been saying. What is an achievable, fair result for you?

NICK FALDO: When you've come and see the test that they've prepared for you, I think, you know, you start grand ideas of survival of how close to the cut could I get? That would be impressive for a guy that hasn't hit a competitive shot for three years, if I could be relatively competitive. So as I said I'm enjoying it, I'm trying to bust my buns and get to know this golf course, because it's like a main road out there; it's hard and fast. So these guys have played every day. I'm delighted with my draw: I've got Tom and Freddie. If I'm feeling intense, you know, I'll go and talk to Tom. If I want to feel relaxed, I'll talk to Freddie. That's a great threesome. But that would be quite an achievement if I could hover close to making the cut, I would have thought.

Q. Has this decision anything to do with Tom Watson at Turnberry and Greg Norman -

NICK FALDO: No.

Q. Tom was 59 then.

NICK FALDO: That could have been. It could have been arguably, with another TV show. It could've been the greatest sporting achievement of all time. When I looked at it, I would be scarred from that if I had a putt to win The Open, even at 59. And Tom is a very strong man. He probably won't really let on, but that would scar me, that. So I'm going to avoid having a putt to win. (Laughter). I'm either going to win by six orbe stuck in the hay somewhere. Somewhere in between.

Q. Can you talk about why Muirfield has brought out such great winners over the years, yourself, Ernie, Nicklaus, Watson -

NICK FALDO: Gary, Trevino - yeah.

Q. It doesn't seem like that's a fluke.

NICK FALDO: I hope that's not a fluke. Six guys past. You know, it's just a good, solid, honest golf course, that's all we can really describe it. And you have to have ability to - it's a good mind game. You have to know where you're going to land it, where the next bounce is and where the run is. It was great, Fanny Sunesson stayed with me last night and that's what we worked out so well in '92, where to land the ball 20 yards short of the green, which way it would kick, and obviously where it would stop. That's part of the calculations. But you've got to land the ball from A to B first. And that has to be a solid shot. If that's a mis hit, the ball doesn't react close to what you intend. You look at all those guys, we all hit it pretty darn solid in our era.

Q. You just said it's playing hard and fast. Do you think that helps you against all these big bombers out there nowadays?

NICK FALDO: No. Jason Day apparently yesterday played the course yesterday with just irons, even into the wind. That's quite impressive. He's got a 2 iron, which he's cranked to a 1 iron. I was ribbing him on TV when I heard this: "These kids, 1 iron, they don't know how to use this thing." I bumped into him in the locker room in Dallas. I said, "How far can you hit this one?" "275, 280, mate." And I'm, like, what? These guys can hit a 1 iron 275. So, hey, that might be the game strategy, here. The golf ball can go a mile. The 8th might be for these big guys like be a 6 iron off the tee, and it runs to 280 or something crazy.

Q. You also said a couple of minutes ago that the kids nowadays have it all. Do you think that makes them demonstrably better than you guys in your era?

NICK FALDO: No. What I mean by that is they have this knowledge, it's not a guess anymore. In our era we were still guessing. Don't lift weights, because you didn't know what to do, you get too big, too tight. Well, now the physiotherapists on Tour are doctors. It's fascinating when you come and say, well, this muscle is not working. They tell you why it's not firing. They give you the rehab, they give you the exercises, and that's right up my street.

TrackMan is another thing. I would love to go down in the morning and spend 30 minutes on TrackMan with a thought and a feeling, and it either confirms yes or no what you're thinking is what you want and you go out and beat the balls. I used to beat a thousand balls four hours in the morning, and go off and play the first hole, and say sod it, and head back to the practice green.

Q. Given those advantages, you must have felt yourself and the other top players must have been just as good?

NICK FALDO: Yeah, you brought Seve, Greg, Pricey, Freddie was there, Olazabal, Langer, we were a pretty good era. If you brought us to now, we'd beat this lot easy, now. (Laughter). And we'd look better doing it.

Q. How many times have you gone around the course in preparation? And can you describe the difference in the setup or if there is any difference besides the firmness, compared to the previous Opens?

NICK FALDO: I've done two nines for real. And I'm 47 in my mind. Just targeting to stick to nines, because you're trying to take in so much and do a lot of work. So 18 would be a long time on your feet. So you're trying to conserve energy and all that sort of thing. As you know, they've tweaked a few little things, bunkers have been pushed in, greens have been extended, all sorts of little touches. It looks great. It's a fabulous test.

Q. Just to follow up on Bob's question about the great champions that have won here: The top two players at the moment struggling for fitness and form coming in here. How do you see the prospects of Rory and Tiger this week?

NICK FALDO: Well, you said it. We know what's been happening to Rory. He's still testing clubs. And a lot going on. And 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. And we're all going to be seriously tested with this weather. So you better be striking it well. Time flies. That was a couple of weeks ago. Everybody has had a chance to reboot, rebuild. And I'm sure they've come here with the right intentions.

Q. Just a follow up, Rory is in a difficult place, because it's a difficult place to find your form here?

SIR NICK FALDO: Absolutely. You better be laying it here. You've got to hit it solid. Anything, mis hits, the bounce is 30 yards off line or it's in the hay. There's no options here.

Q. 20 years ago after you won, I remember that you thanked the press from the heart of your rear?

NICK FALDO: No, I didn't. Heart of my bottom.

Q. Same thing.

NICK FALDO: No, it's not. Heart of my bottom, get the right words.

Q. Do you regret saying that?

NICK FALDO: I showed my little daughter, my Emma is still starting to learn what daddy did. And we went on YouTube and pulled it up. And I actually start with, "I want to thank the press from the bottom of my heart no, the heart of my bottom." It was all in jest. It was all in fun. It was actually quite good. It was quite a good laugh.

Q. What was going on that week that made you -

NICK FALDO: It wasn't that week. I had a long haul through '91. I won two Majors in '90. By '91 they had said Faldo is finished. So I promptly won the tournament, so that was quite useful. Then, you know, Ryder Cup was hard work. I did a mini rebuild through the winter of '91. It came out pretty good, and then won, but meanwhile - nobody knows what you're doing off the golf course, practicing. So that was all it really was, yeah.

Q. In light of Justin Rose's recent U.S. Open victory, how much pressure is going to come on your record as the last Englishman to win the Open, how much pressure is going to come under?

NICK FALDO: Rose is a strong contender. I'm sure, as - winning your first major, the first 30 days, I literally thought about it every single step I took. But it's all been a process. If you talk to him and I talked to Gio, his sports psychologist, this didn't happen overnight; this has been a concerted plan for the last four years. Rose's game has slowly been climbing. He might be strong enough to come out and carry on. I'll find out Wednesday morning; I'm playing with him.

Q. How do you feel about that, if your record goes this weekend?

NICK FALDO: My record goes? Every record is meant to be broken, isn't it? Yeah. It's great. It would be great for golf. Good for him.

Q. Andy North told a story last week of Tom Watson, the night after winning here, trying to get on the course and being told he could not play. With all your success here, have you had any extra privileges?

NICK FALDO: I've never been back. I've never been back outside Open championships. I played the Seniors here five years ago. So it's funny how we do that. It's a bit like Augusta. I've never played Augusta, outside of the Masters. People think we play golf every day. We try to take a day off Mondays and Tuesdays.

Q. Ernie Els has described the past few days as weird and unfortunate that women still aren't allowed to become members of Muirfield. Seeing that Augusta has extended the privilege, do you find it curious?

NICK FALDO: That's for the club to decide.

Q. Sir Nick, you say that the kids have it all.

NICK FALDO: Yeah.

Q. Does Rory have it all?

NICK FALDO: You understand what I'm saying? They all have the knowledge and understanding of the game. That's what I'm saying. Like I'm saying, if you take a kid at 15 years old, there's almost a blueprint on how to play this game. Physically we know how to train. We know. It's not a guess. Technically, the coaching has really improved. I bumped into Leadbetter, for the last 25 years, and obviously on the mental side, it's very important to have a sports psychologist, and a sports psychologist understands all your neurons, whatever you want to know. It's simple or do you want to understand what's firing in your neurons? So that's what I'm saying, they know it all, get me?

Q. But what specifically does he have to do to get it back, if you like?

NICK FALDO: I actually think it's a lot going on in his mind. You've got to have - I always felt, my career went on, I got involved in business and other things. Once your concentration goes - you need 100 percent concentration, off the golf course, practicing, as well. Most ideal I can thing is to go to the club, 9:00 in the morning, hit balls all day long, and you leave at 5:00. And you think that was cool, that was great, what a lovely day I had. You've been really productive. You have to do that. You have a window of opportunity. That's my only words of wisdom to Rory. You have say 20 year window as an athlete. Concentrate on golf, nothing else. Hopefully when you retire, 40s, 50s, hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it. So just concentrate on golf.

Q. I was just going to ask, could you give examples of what you've done, what you've done on your fitness? Are you going jogging at 6:00 in the morning?

NICK FALDO: Jogging? I'm way past jogging, mate. You go and you bike you actually stand on where you're pedaling, to get your support with these stabilizers firing. Then I'll be working on my scapula, and I've got all sorts of funny exercises. It's all scientific now. It's not a jog. Burn way more calories than that. I'm way more intense than that.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


CBS Sports Official Partner