Golf: Faldo hails the Woods phenomenon

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The Independent Online
Familiar surroundings, home comforts and the absence of Tiger Woods are the factors that Nick Faldo hopes will spark a resurgence in his fortunes. While Woods is playing a different game to the rest of his tour colleagues, Faldo is beginning to talk a different game.

"Tiger is doing what he wants to do at the moment," Faldo said. "His game is amazing. His key clubs are the driver and the putter. If those two are working, then he is unbeatable."

Faldo has not used such words about any other player in his 20-year career. While praise for Woods, who returned after a month's break following his Masters triumph to win again in the United States last week, from lesser mortals is commonplace, it is faintly shocking from the player who, with six majors, has come closest to dominating over the last 10 years.

"It was the same deal with Nicklaus," Faldo continued. "There are no par-fives for Tiger. Even on the monsters he gets there in two. When you are hitting eight-irons instead of four-irons into greens, there are no tough pin placements. He's got the game throttled.

"Modern golf course design has to cater for this kind of length. Bunkers need to range from 250 yards to 350, so that everyone is playing the same kind of shot. Or, maybe put a lake at 300 yards on every hole. At least, it would look pretty. It's amazing that one guy has come along and they are thinking of changing all the historic golf courses.

"But he's doing it, and good luck to him. He's built for the 90s, both in his game and in the media attention. He has made a major contribution to what the US tour will now be playing for." This last was a reference to the negotiations for the television contracts in America, which will see tournament purses doubling to over $3m (pounds 1.87m), on average, in two years' time.

As for the chances of Woods completing golf's mythical modern Grand Slam, Faldo puts his odds as more than twice as good as when he "got pretty close" in 1990. That was the year he won the Masters and the Open, and in between lipped out to get into a play-off for the US Open.

"The only one of this year's venue in theory where he might be out of whack is Troon, if he is not used to playing in a gale and with rock hard ground. But then again, it might rain. When courses are wet and the ball stays where it is hit, then he has a huge advantage."

Faldo has changed his schedule to tee up tomorrow in the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth and is hoping to gain some of the Ryder Cup points he missed out on by missing the cut at the Masters. "It took a while, but that is behind me now," he said. "My short game has cost me this year and I've been working on my putting. I'm in a flat spell right now, but I'm planning on playing through it as quickly as possible and getting off on another good run."