Golf: Faldo warms to course that Jack built

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The Independent Online
Nick Faldo was slightly thrown by the question. "I was just wondering," enquired a naive American, "did you bring Fanny Faldo with you on your trip over here?" Wearing a bemused look, Faldo replied: "Fanny, yeah, she's part of the luggage, part of the team. Do you want to make a note of that?"

Somehow the questioner had got Faldo's caddie, Fanny Sunesson, confused with the Englishman's girlfriend. The American compounded the error. "I was wondering if Fanny was going to make an appearance at the course anytime?"

"Make an appearance?" Faldo responded. "Yeah, she was out there for 15 hours. You missed her." The subject was quickly changed.

Once again Faldo has been installed as one of the favourites for the PGA Championship, at the Valhalla Golf Club, and tomorrow morning the Masters champion tees off in the first round with Steve Jones, the US Open champion, and Tom Lehman who denied Faldo in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham last month. Lehman finished three strokes in front of Faldo despite a 73 in the final round.

Faldo was impressive from tee to green on the Lancashire links but his putting let him down. "I've been trying to change a few things and we'll see what happens," Faldo said. He has been working with his coach, David Leadbetter, in Florida. "I know the faults that I have with my putting so I've been working on that. I had my chances at Lytham and I was disappointed with what happened in the last round. I'm going to try a few different things to see if they work. I've changed the stroke a little bit. I'm happy with everything."

Most significantly, he is happy with the course, a modern creation designed by Jack Nicklaus. "It's a good spot," Faldo said. "One of the main features of Jack's work is that he has these little scooped out bits on the greens which you've got to be careful of because they're very severe. They're nasty little areas... very steep. If it rolls off the ball will gather pace and go into the rough. Then you've got to chip onto a down slope to a tight pin position and those are key little Nicklaus-design traits which are good. You can't just whack it on the green. You've got to think about it and you've got to position the ball.

"Jack's a hell of a golf course designer. He's got an awful lot of experience and he's done some great courses. There's always a way of playing a Nicklaus hole. He's thought out a strategy and if you can get into that way of thinking, playing the course to gain the advantages, it should help you through the week."

Faldo has six major titles to his name, three Opens and three Masters, but the US Open and the US PGA have eluded him. "I want to win all four," he said. "That's the goal. I've got to take the opportunities. I try to put a lot of focus on all the majors. It's a tough thing to prepare for four tournaments and get it right throughout the year. Your game goes on and off and hopefully it's on. Every major is a different challenge."

If golf was included in the Olympics, Faldo would be a medal contender but he is not sure about the concept. "I'm confused about the amateurism, semi-amateurism, professional, mega-professional and superstar status of people in the Games," he said."I don't know what the Olympics is meant to be. It seems very strange. I'm not too sure whether golf needs it."