GOLF: Faldo searches for the drive of old to challenge Woods

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Nick Faldo hopes a new driver will bring a new lease of life to a career that recently has failed to live up to the high standards of the Briton.

But Faldo will have his work cut out in Phuket this week in the opening event of the European Tour, the Johnnie Walker Classic. The 40-year-old will have to face the two hottest young properties in golf, Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood.

Last season Faldo had his worst-ever sequence in the majors and fell from fifth in the world rankings to 17th. Meanwhile, Woods, 21, won the Masters by 12 shots then became world No 1 in record time. Westwood, 24, showed his potential by ending the season winning the Volvo Masters in Spain, Japan's Taiheiyo Masters and the Australian Open.

Faldo would relish a showdown with Woods, sure to attract a huge crowd in the homeland of his mother, when the pounds 133,330 first prize is on the line on Sunday. "I needed to hit it further to keep up with these young whippersnappers and I've got an extra 10 yards with my new driver. Fifteen if I belt it," Faldo said.

Fred Couples will not line- up after missing his flight to Bangkok because of having to contest a play-off for the Bob Hope Classic in California on Sunday. It was worth it, as he beat Bruce Lietzke. "It's a pity with Fred having just won, but I still think we have a pretty good field," said the tournament director, Peter German.

In Woods, Faldo, Westwood, Ernie Els and Jose Maria Olazabal that is no empty boast. The quintet were all involved in a colourful opening ceremony yesterday when five Indian elephants were led down the 10th fairway. But the photo opportunity did not quite go as originally intended. It was hoped that Woods would sit astride one of them - but his insurance company would not allow it.