Faldo finds form as Masters beckons

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The Independent Online
Nick Faldo's sixth American tour victory at the weekend has led to him being made favourite for next month's US Masters. Faldo, the defending champion, is now quoted as 10-1 for Augusta by the bookmakers William Hill, with Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Tom Lehman and Ernie Els all at 12-1.

A three-stroke winner of the Nissan Open in Los Angeles, Faldo has his game exactly where he wants it with five weeks to go to the first major of the season, the one he has won three times in the past eight years.

"They used to write I'm mechanical and boring. I'm glad to get back to that again," said Faldo, who has now lifted three US Tour titles since quitting the European circuit at the end of 1994. His career total of six victories in the United States is the same as Seve Ballesteros, but the struggling Spaniard has not won there since 1988 and has now fallen outside the world's top 100.

Faldo remains sixth in the rankings after his latest triumph, behind Norman, Lehman, Colin Montgomerie, Mark O'Meara and Els, and he is ready to fight the challenge expected from the 21-year-old Woods.

Woods has already won four times in six months as a professional and Faldo has said: "Tiger is doing everything that is being expected of him. I think he has sharpened everybody's minds and us oldies have got to get ourselves in shape."

Woods was unable to stop Faldo this weekend, finishing nine strokes behind on three under par. The pair are both quoted at 1,000-1 to complete the grand slam of all four majors - the Masters, US Open, Open and US PGA - this season.

Nobody has ever achieved that, but Faldo, with three Masters and three Opens to his name, has always maintained it is his "ultimate dream".

He moves from California to Florida this week for the Doral Ryder Open, the event he won two years ago by a shot from Norman and Peter Jacobsen.

Montgomerie flies there, too, after finishing joint sixth in the Desert Classic and Norman is looking forward to the tournament as well after losing a play-off in Dubai to his fellow Australian, Richard Green.

Ian Woosnam was also involved in that play-off, but the Welshman, who dumped a pitch into the lake at the last and closed with a bogey six when a par five would have made him champion, has a week off before leaving for the United States and the Masters countdown.