Golf: Faldo's little grey book of helpful hints: Record beckons for Briton

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The Independent Online
DEPRIVED, momentarily, of fine tuning with his coach David Leadbetter, Nick Faldo has been exercising his little grey cells in an attempt to discover why he no longer plays like a man possessed of major powers. On the retreat from Oakmont, where he missed the cut in the US Open, Faldo began the self-analysis on the flight home while everybody else slept.

At 4am he began jotting down a few thoughts, the first instalment in a little grey book. 'Every night, whatever I do, I am going to write it down,' he said. 'If it is good it goes in the book and even if it's bad it's in the book, noting not to try that again. It was a blow to miss out at Oakmont. You have to say, right, this game has a lovely way of telling you when things are not going right and you have to knuckle down and work at every single part.'

Faldo has been looking at videos of his triumphs in 1990, including the Masters at Augusta and the Open Championship at St Andrews. 'Technically my swing is better now,' he said. 'I have one or two minute faults which seem to make a difference. I am going through a process of elimination. It's all there and waiting to come forth.'

He will be disappointed if he comes fourth at the Murphy's Irish Open at Mount Juliet, the Jack Nicklaus-designed course on which he defeated Jose-Maria Olazabal in a play-off 12 months ago to win the championship for the third successive year. Should he win it again on Sunday he would be the first player since Percy Alliss to pull off a four-timer. Alliss did it in the German Open from 1926-29 when British beef had a good name.

Alliss, though, did not have to face the quality of competition that Faldo's up against here. The field includes Ernie Els, the US Open champion, Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, the joint runner-up at Oakmont, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and John Daly.

Whatever Faldo may say about his swing it is what's been happening to him on the greens that has impeded his progress. 'In 1990 at St Andrews I was holing everything,' he said. 'I've got to revamp that style. Watching the video you try to put yourself in that position and say to yourself 'what was I thinking, what were my swing thoughts and what was my routine'. I've been writing it all down and trying it out. It's not that I'm too technical or mechanical because I have feel. Coming here seems to relax me. As I said last year it's not the place to get ulcers.'

They may be consumed by World Cup '94 here but they will take time out to descend on Mount Juliet and in particular on Daly, who has already whetted their appetites. 'I think the name Daly has got to come from here somewhere,' he said. 'My middle name is Patrick so there must be something in it. And I drank a load of beer. I have never gone into my family tree. My grandparents died before I was born and usually they're the ones who can tell you about it.'

Six days ago Daly, who is paying his first visit to Ireland, celebrated 18 months on the wagon. 'It has got easy now but my weight is going up.' He had crate of Diet Coke delivered to his room here. Daly, who missed the cut in the US Open, finished joint 22nd in the Greater Hartford Open last week but was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score.

Faldo, who has tried copying Daly's swing, said: 'He generates terrific clubhead speed. It's his bodyswing. He adds that wrist movement. By moving the wrist you can come down and hit hard. We can all do it but maybe not hit it quite as long. I think John Daly waits for a course that suits his game, but I try to make my game suit the course.'

In Paddy Power's betting list Els is the 9-1 favourite, but the odds are unrealistic. The South African, apart from drinking a healthy quantity of South African beer, has done very little since beating Loren Roberts and Montgomerie in the play- off in Pittsburgh. Els has been hiding out in Sunningdale. 'I've been trying to think about what happened. It's going to take some time to sink in, maybe a couple of months. When I flew into Dublin people asked for my autograph which had never happened before.'

Els played in the Irish Open in Killarney two years ago and never got anywhere near the leaderboard. 'I had a great time,' he said, 'but it wasn't so good on the course. I had too much stout.' Under the new sponsorship of Murphy's Irish Stout, Mount Juliet is about the only place in Ireland where Guinness is not available.