Golf: Faldo in right frame of mind

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The Independent Online
IAN WOOSNAM came here two years ago, beat Jim Hallet in a play-off for his first United States victory and then won the Masters seven days later, writes Robinson Holloway from New Orleans. Interestingly, the British golfer is not the leading advocate of this tournament as a warm-up for Augusta.

Conversely, Greg Norman has finished second here three times in three starts at English Turn and, though his record at Augusta over the last few years is more mixed, he has said repeatedly that this is the best tournament in America for getting ready for the Masters.

Ben Crenshaw, who along with Norman is the only winner of a 1993 US tournament in the field this week, said yesterday that Jack Nicklaus's greens at English Turn are quite similar to those at Augusta. 'Obviously they don't have the same speed, but playing here helps because the approach shots are similar.'

Although most leading Americans are skipping New Orleans, there is a strong international contingent present headed by Woosnam, Nick Faldo and Jose- Maria Olazabal. Faldo added the tournament to his schedule when the imminent birth of his daughter, Georgia - a name he claims has nothing to do with the home state of Augusta National - caused him to pull out of Bay Hill a fortnight ago.

This week, he said: 'I think it's good for me to play the week before the Masters. I'm trying a new routine. I became detached from what I was trying to do, too much fiddling around. I feel much more comfortable now.'

Going into today's first round at English Turn, Faldo may be the only member of the European party feeling comfortable. Woosnam had just one good round last week at the Players' Tournament, but unfortunately followed up with a terrible final 18 holes and is still waiting for his confidence and game to meet on the golf course.