Golf: Swedes hail Sunesson, ace of clubs

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The Independent Online
THE CURIOUS and the knowledgeable turned out to watch the return of the conquering hero. It was all there. The meticulous attention to detail, the familiar gait, the relaxed smile and the appearance of being at one with the golf clubs. Yes, Fanny Sunesson, who has been closer to success in the Open Championship than any Swedish player, was back in the land of her fathers.

A sizeable crowd followed the progress of Nick Faldo and his faithful caddie, Fanny, in the pro- am yesterday at the Barseback Golf and Country Club, the venue for the Scandinavian Masters which starts today. Perhaps it was no coincidence that a significant proportion of the audience were female. There are worse ways to make a living than carrying the bag of the Open champion and Sunesson is the role model, the Volvo of the species.

Few caddies in the world earn more than the 25-year-old. The triumph at Muirfield was her third major success in harness with Faldo in three years, pushing her income to six figures. The International Management Group looks after her money as well as Faldo's. What does she do with it all? 'Is that anybody's business except mine?' was her reasonable response.

Since his absorbing victory at Muirfield, so many people have written to Faldo that staff at IMG have been working overtime to deal with the post. 'There are exciting developments in the pipeline,' he said. When he returned home it took him two days to recover. 'It was the most draining experience of my life,' he said. 'It was such a tough mental battle. I couldn't believe how tired I was. I sat in a chair in the garden and when I got up to have a race with my son I couldn't beat him.' Matthew Faldo is three years of age.

Faldo, who has not played in Sweden since 1983, committed himself to the Scandinavian Masters as part of his preparation for the US PGA Championship, the last of the four majors, in St Louis in a few weeks' time. 'In previous years I haven't been ready for it,' he said. He arrived in Sweden last Saturday and made a detour to the Morrum River to fish for trout and salmon. 'The salmon were as tired and exhausted as I was,' Faldo said. On Tuesday, when the wind got up, he and Sandy Lyle, forming an unlikely partnership, finished last in a foursomes challenge match behind Spain, America and Sweden.

Yesterday Barseback was bathed in sunshine but the going for the Open champion, in the company of three Swedish amateurs who were having trouble hitting the fairway, any fairway, was even more excruciating. Sunesson, who has been having back trouble, experimented with a new strap on the bag, carrying it in the style of a rucksack. After seven holes she abandoned the idea because the bag kept hitting her bottom. 'It's your big bum,' Faldo told her.

Barseback, in southern Sweden, is a cross between Woburn and a links course with a stretch of holes hugging the coast. 'It's interesting,' Faldo said. 'It's different.' The inaugural Scandinavian Masters was won by Colin Montgomerie in Stockholm 12 months ago and with it the European Tour's first pounds 100,000 cheque. That's pounds 5,000 more than Faldo received for winning the Open. In the first two rounds here Montgomerie, who missed the cut at Muirfield, plays with Faldo and the promising young Swede, Per-Ulrik Johansson.