A case of Faldo's silent torture treatment

The 124th Open: Unhappy memories of the odd couple of English golf are buried as they play a round without exchanging a word

Nick Faldo and David Gilford shook hands on the first tee, and four hours later they shook hands again on the 18th green. In between this traditional exchange of courtesies, not a word passed between them. Not a "good shot", or a "bit breezy out here today". Nothing.

In Ryder Cup year, it is an uncomfortable reminder to Bernard Gallacher of one of his less inspired pairings the last time Europe travelled to the United States. Faldo and Gilford were annihilated, and Faldo was widely criticised for leaving the apprehensive debutant to stew in his own bogeys.

However, Gilford later maintained that there was nothing more to it than two golfers playing exceptionally badly at the same time, and it would be fairer to point out that if Faldo and Gilford were washed up on the same desert island, they would have no more to say to each other than "good morning" and "good night."

Quite how Faldo has acquired his reputation in America as a jovial quickstepper of the fairways remains a mystery on this side of the water. When he steps on to a golf course, he is hermetically sealed, conversing solely with the voice within. "Why? Why?" he has been known to cry, to no one in particular, as a crunching one-iron into a vicious cross wind finishes an irritatingly large distance away from the pin. Like about 10 feet.

As for Gilford, not only does he rarely say anything (the American captain, Dave Stockton, claimed that he never heard him speak in the entire three days at Kiawah Island) but when he does, he is so sotto voce that you have a better chance of picking up The Archers on a transistor radio in Kuala Lumpur.

There is also a faint chance that Gilford will not take up his Ryder Cup place even if he qualifies. All the nationalistic hooping and hollering, and Corey Pavin prancing around in his Desert Storm cap, did not meet with the unqualified approval of a man whose idea of a wild time is tending his herd of Hereford cattle back home in Crewe.

To cap it all, when an American withdrawal forced Europe to cut a player from the singles in Kiawah, it was Gilford's name that Gallacher had sealed inside the envelope.

In the strong gusting wind, not everyone was prepared to count Faldo out when he set off nine shots adrift, but after his approach to the first plunged straight into the Swilcan Burn, the only cloud not blown briskly sideways yesterday was the one that gathered over Faldo's head.

On the second tee, Faldo addressed his ball with an iron, and stepped angrily away when a camera shutter intruded on his interminable deliberations. When he returned to his tee peg he had a wood in his hand, and he proceeded to propel his ball into Cheape bunker.

Faldo said:"I don't believe it." Then he said it again. And then he said it again. Why he didn't believe it, or what it was he didn't believe, was hard to fathom. Cheape bunker has been waiting for golf balls to arrive in it for 500 years. It was there when Old Tom Morris's 15th century ancestors were teeing off, and it was still there yesterday.

The fact that it swallowed Faldo's ball, however, was clearly unforgiveable, and as Gilford prepared to hit his own ball into precisely the same bunker, Faldo retreated to a distant spot to cogitate on the harsh injustices of life. His caddie, Fanny Sunesson, wisely left him to it, as she did more than once on the way round.

Faldo's main problem yesterday, however, was not hitting the ball in the wrong direction off a tee peg, or even off a fairway. But when he reaches the putting green, his cackhanded method is that of a man who is hoping rather than expecting. It is hardly lack of practice which lets Faldo down, because once he has put in a few hours outdoors, he then goes home and wears out the carpet.

Searching, searching, forever searching. Faldo is so methodical in his preparation that there are times when he appears to have been reading Cinderella rather than listening to Leadbeater. By the time he finally gets to the ball, you half expect to hear the chime of midnight, and for Faldo, or perhaps his coach, to turn into a pumpkin.

When Faldo stood on the 10th tee, a glance at the scoreboard showed him that he was still nine strokes behind, but even though the short-hitting Gilford almost drove the green, Faldo still went with an iron. He pitched from 70 yards to five feet, but then missed the putt.

He three-putted the 12th, missed a another five footer for a birdie at the 13th, and three-putted the par-five 14th for a bogey. After this, his countenance lightened a little, and he even began to acknowledge the weak patters of applause from a dwindling gallery. Curious, you might think. But once Faldo knows he is not going to come first, whether he finishes second or 22nd does not greatly concern him.

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