Golf: Hogan is driving force for Faldo

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The Independent Online
The Doral-Ryder Open in Florida brings the PGA Tour to the East Coast of the United States today - and with it most of the leading names beginning their run-up to the Masters.

Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Mark O'Meara, Colin Montgomerie, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Vijay Singh and Jesper Parnevik are among those joining the Masters champion Nick Faldo, the US Open winner, Steve Jones, and the PGA champion, Mark Brooks.

The two biggest names missing will be the Open champion, Tom Lehman, and Tiger Woods. The young American took the week off to be with his father, who has just been discharged from hospital following heart bypass surgery.

Montgomerie, who has topped the European Tour money list for the last four years, will play seven consecutive weeks in the United States as he tries to break through and finally win a major championship.

The Doral will be Norman's first PGA Tour event since the Tour Championship last October in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Frank Nobilo of New Zealand, one of the leading lights of the European Tour, joined the PGA Tour this year, finishing 17th in his first event at the Nissan Open, eight strokes behind Faldo. Nobilo, who has had four top-10 finishes in major championships the last three years, will also be at Doral.

Faldo has entered a phase of his career where his main opponent is history - names like Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player. The flesh-and-blood opponents - Norman, Montgomerie and Els this week at Doral, for example - are mere incidentals who occasionally get in the way on Faldo's assault on posterity.

"When Faldo stands on the course with his arms folded his body language is saying that he's the only person on the course," Tom Lehman said about Faldo's intensity.

Faldo never hits a careless shot. Yet there are times - when he is not in his major championship mode, when he is out of contention - when it seems like he is trying to perfect something he can use on another, more important day.

"I think I'm a player who has to be inspired," Faldo said after winning at Riviera last weekend. "I think it's everything, the atmosphere, the golf course, everything."

The victory was Faldo's sixth on the PGA Tour - and three of those earned him the Masters Green Jacket.

"I'm not one who can just roll up and play," Faldo said. "I need something to get me going." His inspiration at Riviera last weekend was one of the greats whose achievements he is attempting to emulate.

"This is not just another win," Faldo said. "Riviera has a great history and I know it was a favourite of Ben Hogan's. This is the kind of course where I was meant to win, and I played exactly how I wanted to."

Hogan is one of only 10 players to have won more than the six majors Faldo has achieved- three Masters and three Open Championships.