Golf: Business is booming for driven Faldo: Tim Glover on the plans of a master golfer whose weekend success has further swollen his bank balance

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO won the 33rd tournament of his career when he took the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Singapore Island Country Club on Sunday. He knows, and so does everybody else, that there is more to come. Seve Ballesteros has won 68 worldwide, it was pointed out. 'Gee whizz,' Faldo said. 'That'll take some catching.'

They have both won five major championships and their bank balances considerably appreciate every time they appear on a golf course. They repeatedly say that it is the playing of the game that is the thing. Perhaps. They still go where the money is and the game, such as it is, can be relatively irrelevant.

Faldo, after a week in Dubai and a week in Singapore, where he won by one stroke from Colin Montgomerie, was flown yesterday to Brunei. Prizes will be given, the invitation said.

It was unfortunate that Ballesteros missed the cut in Singapore. It meant him hanging around from Friday for the trip to Brunei. The field - Faldo, Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Bernard Gallacher, is small, the money huge. A close relative of the Sultan of Brunei, reputedly the wealthiest man in the world, is a keen 19-year-old golfer.

The caddies are not invited because they are not known to the royal family of Brunei. It is a private affair and the players will play to a tiny gallery.

'I'm the guy everybody wants a shot at,' Faldo said after his victory. Unlike Ballesteros, who is concentrating his schedule on the European Tour, Faldo will play three tournaments in America but will rest before the Masters in Augusta in April. His dominance in the world rankings is such that if he never won another tournament this season he would still be No 1.

'Some people are in awe of me,' he said, 'but others see it as a great opportunity to put a feather in their cap if they can beat me. That is how I looked at it when I started, especially in the Ryder Cup. I wanted to beat players like Johnny Miller and Tom Watson. Now everybody's trying to take a swipe at me.'

Faldo, who won pounds 1.5m in prize- money alone last season, picked up pocket-money in the Desert Classic in Dubai where he finished joint 26th, his worst result for more than a year. He went into intensive training with Mitchell Spearman, one of David Leadbetter's assistants, and, hey presto, he was back on course. In the desert he was worried not just about his putting but his driving, which was as much as 80 yards off line.

'It's the skill of the technique,' Faldo said. 'If you can put one thing right you cure half a dozen faults. If I try to cure the alignment of my legs, hips, shoulders or arms I'm gone. It's all too technical for you lot.' Faldo's putting was unimpressive in the final round of the Johnnie Walker Classic on Sunday but he managed to hole a cliffhanger at the 18th to beat off the challenge of Montgomerie. 'Sometimes it's hard work,' Faldo said. 'The others have got a nice free run at it. It's not relaxing for me.' Tiger Balm on his back and arms helped.

His business empire is growing apace and he has two courses under construction in Indonesia which will make his success in Singapore all the more pertinent. If the spectators could not get his autograph, they would settle for members of his team, John Simpson, his manager and/or Fanny Sunesson, his caddie. Fanny did not go to Brunei - 'They probably don't like women there' - but returned to London, flying club class.

The young Swedish girl shares a few rays of Faldo's limelight and he invariably, and deliberately, refers to her in public. In terms of public relations, it gives him an edge. 'I'd like to thank Fanny for lugging that thing around in 120F,' Faldo said on Sunday evening. 'I promised to buy her a milkshake.' It's a far cry from the Seventies. At a tournament near Newcastle, Andy Prodger, who carried Faldo's bag, slept rough for two nights until his employer delivered cash in a brown paper bag.

SONY WORLD RANKINGS: 1 N Faldo (GB) 24.22pts; 2 F Couples (US) 16.33; 3 I Woosnam (GB) 12.96; 4 J-M Olazabal (Sp) 12.87; 5 G Norman (Aus) 12.75; 6 B Langer (Ger) 12.57; 7 N Price (Zim) 12.24; 8 D Love (US) 12.01; 9 J Cook (US) 10.60; 10 T Kite (US) 10.41.

Brett Ogle, the Australian PGA Tour rookie, birdied three of the last six holes to win the prestigious Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. Ogle, playing only his eighth PGA Tour event, had five birdies and four bogeys in an eventful day to card a one-under-par 71 for a 12-under-par total of 276.

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