GOLF Faldo takes heart from his American fan club

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The Independent Online
GOLF

ROBINSON HOLLOWAY

reports from Fort Lauderdale

There were several factors that contributed to Nick Faldo's narrow failure to win successive tournaments in south Florida, and Mark O'Meara, the Honda Classic winner, called one of them fate.

O'Meara, who had not won for three years until he edged out Faldo and Ian Woosnam, had had no plans to play in the Honda Classic. However, he changed his schedule after arriving in Los Angeles for the LA Open and discovering that he had forgotten to enter the tournament.

Faldo could look back over the final round and find reasons why he came up a stroke short, the most obvious being a putt for par on the 10th hole that he lipped out from 18 inches. He certainly could not fault a lack of support from the galleries, which were loud and enthusiastic and surprisingly partisan towards Faldo.

O'Meara said: "There were so many people screaming for Nick it was unbelievable. I thought, what country are we in? And he just won last week, I haven't won in three years, root for me, not for him."

Despite the disappointment of not being able to follow up last week's win, there was much in the experience that Faldo found gratifying, including the support of his American fans.

He said: "I'm pleased with the way I played this week. Conditions were really tough, and I wasn't really comfortable on the greens. I was really grinding on a lot of putts. But at the end of the day, it's been a good week. I was really pleased that after being five or six shots back I managed to claw my way closer and closer. Even after I missed that birdie on 17, I still had half a chance. I'm here to play golf, and I'm really enjoying it."

Faldo has been working extremely hard to get his game to this point, whereas Woosnam has found that just a minimum amount of preparation has served him best. Woosnam, competing for the first time since mid-December, said: "Last year I had too many things going through my mind, swing-wise."

The break from golf seems to have made Woosnam forget his bad habits, while freeing up his natural talent. There was one problem with playing just a few casual rounds as preparation, and that was evident when he moved into contention.

Woosnam said: "I think if I'd been more in season in that situation then I'd have done better on the back nine. I hit some good shots, but when you haven't been playing much you're still kind of guiding it around. I kind of chickened out. I was poking it out there rather than really going for it."

Faldo is the favourite for the US Masters with Ladbrokes. "He is the form horse," a spokesman said, offering Faldo at 7-1, Ernie Els at 8-1 and Greg Norman at 10-1. Woosnam has been cut from 33-1 to 20-1.

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