Golf / Benson and Hedges International: Faldo busy putting his shoulder to the wheel

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO, who came within a missed putt of missing the cut at the Masters, has been putting in some elbow grease on the greens. He has been working on a technique that served him well as an amateur. The trouble is he was 20 years younger then.

Faldo put his poor scores in the opening rounds at Augusta down to indifferent work on the greens. 'I've been trying to get the shoulders to do more work,' Faldo said. 'I thought they were doing the work but they weren't. The arms were still too independent to the shoulder movement. So far it looks all right, feels all right.'

Faldo, who has not been overworked this season, plays in the Benson and Hedges International which starts here today. The change in his putting stroke is hardly new. 'I used to do this moons ago, back in the old amateur days,' he said. 'I've had years as a pro when I haven't putted brilliantly. I was a great putter as an amateur but you can't keep it going all the time. It's a case of finding something to work on and believe in. The tough thing about it is you make your own rules then you don't realise you're breaking them. The shoulders have to control the putter totally and I wasn't doing that.'

Drive for show, putt for dough may be old hat but the hat fits. What separates the great from the good is the ability to hole putts at crucial times with enormous rewards at stake. In the Open Championship at Royal St George's in 1985 Faldo's putting was almost embarrassingly bad; at St Andrews in 1990 and Muirfield last year he had spells with the putter that could not have been improved upon had he been holding a magic wand.

It is inconceivable that Faldo would resort to the pendulum putter, the controversial stretched version that has been under examination by the R and A. The elongated club, which first found favour with the good old boys on the senior circuit in the United States, pulled off a double whammy in recent weeks. Sam Torrance and Peter Senior, two of the leading practitioners of the pendulum method, both won, the Scotsman in Spain and the Australian in Japan.

Senior, the defending champion here, is still using the putter that Torrance gave him several years ago. Senior switched to it after suffering from the yips. 'It's made for one movement and they say that's an advantage but I've also had the heeby- jeebies with the long putter. I think it has improved my short putting but there is no set cure. As soon as you win a tournament people think it's down to the long putter. People don't worry about whether you play good from tee to green. You use something out of the ordinary and everybody thinks it's a big advantage. If it was everyone would be using one.'

Sandy Lyle, after playing in five tournaments in the US, makes his first appearance on the European Tour since winning the Volvo Masters at Valderrama last November. 'This course,' he said, 'is too tight for me. I need somewhere with a bit of space, like the Sahara Desert.' In recent years, St Mellion, a course designed by Jack Nicklaus for the Cornish brothers, Martin and Hermon Bond, has been almost unplayable in freezing, windy conditions. Yesterday, it was warm enough to enjoy an ice cream and Faldo, for one, said he had never seen the course in better condition. We await the excuses.

----------------------------------------------------------------- CARD OF THE COURSE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1st 420 4 10th 448 4 2nd 543 5 11th 202 3 3rd 373 4 12th 545 5 4th 185 3 13th 404 4 5th 354 4 14th 174 3 6th 430 4 15th 442 4 7th 502 5 16th 554 5 8th 140 3 17th 456 4 9th 410 4 18th 472 4 Out: 3,357 36 In: 3,697 36 Total: 7,054 72 -----------------------------------------------------------------