Golf: Faldo throws caution to the wins

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The Independent Online
The shot of this Ryder Cup so far, certainly one that will take some beating for boldness, was Nick Faldo's second at the 17th on Friday when he and Lee Westwood were one down to Fred Couples and Brad Faxon in the fourballs.

Faldo is naturally conservative but the circumstances turned him into a gambler. The 17th is a treacherous hole but Faldo made light of hazards that include water in front of the green and alarming bunkers, firing a five wood from a hanging lie to within 15 feet of the pin.

The fact that Couples prevented an alteration in the state of play with a marvellously flighted wedge that made his birdie putt a formality did not diminish the merit of Faldo's effort.

Westwood's putt to secure a 3 and 2 victory over Justin Leonard and Jeff Maggert when their suspended foursomes resumed yesterday, brought Faldo two further Ryder Cup distinctions that he later improved upon. Having already surpassed the record of 10 appearances held by Christy O'Connor Snr he has now bettered Arnold Palmer's total of 22 victories and drawn ahead of Billy Casper who scored 231/2 points.

Professional golfers have emotionally different styles, but none of them are walking around the course only for exercise. This applies especially to Faldo, who on Friday was required to prove that his commitment in team play takes into account whatever difficulties may be confronting the other fellow. When Westwood began to make a mess of things in his first Ryder Cup the old hand kept him going and a big improvement followed.

It persuaded Severiano Ballesteros to keep Faldo and Westwood together yesterday in a fourball against Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara, who were similarly placed in age and experience. By then Westwood had grown so much in confidence that Faldo no longer had to think about shielding his young team-mate.

Westwood began to thrive in the presence of his illustrious partner, making most of the decisive contributions, first at the fifth when a birdie to match that of Woods prevented the US from going two up. When Woods established that margin with a birdie at the seventh Westwood pegged them back by birdieing the next. The rookie was now in terrific form and another birdie at the 10th squared proceedings.

Westwood matched Woods's birdie to half the 11th and got another at the 15th to gain the advantage. Faldo looked on in admiration and then stepped in to re-establish dominion status by sinking a 24-footer at the next to put them two up with two to play.

This time, Faldo didn't need to chance his arm at the 17th but the force was clearly with him. Out came the five wood and again the ball was sent unerringly into the centre of the green to bring a great roar from the packed galleries. The last hope of a halved match disappeared for the US when Woods - watched by President Bush and Michael Jordan - putted into the water and O'Meara's chip came up short. The Americans conceded, Westwood raised a fist in triumph and Faldo wore a look of benign satisfaction.

Ballesteros had been dashing from one match to another giving advice, encouragement and congratulations. He could not have imagined Europe taking up such a commanding position and it showed in his animated postures.

You can read a lot into the expressions and general demeanour of golfers. Couples looks relaxed enough to suggest that he might nod off at any time, but it may be the air of a man resigned to the inevitability of outrageous fortune.

Colin Montgomerie has a full set of smiles and grimaces. You can tell how things are going just by observing his responses. It isn't necessary to be an expert in lip-reading to know what Ian Woosnam is saying in moments of exasperation. Woods is famous for his smile but there are plenty of times when the vital signs are those of annoyance. Faldo's frown will return, but yesterday he went around smiling.

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