Golf / World Match Play Championship: Ruthless Faldo's slaying of Sluman: American finalist sinks without trace as Open champion cruises to his fifth victory of the year: Tim Glover reports from Wentworth

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO, the undisputed world strokeplay champion, befittingly added the World Match Play Championship to his portfolio yesterday when he overwhelmed the American Jeff Sluman 8 and 7 in the final. 'My mother told me there would be days like this,' Sluman said during the course of the most lop-sided climax since Seve Ballesteros beat Bernhard Langer 6 and 5 seven years ago.

Faldo received pounds 160,000 from the sponsors Toyota but that sum is mere pocket money. In contention in virtually every tournament he has played in, it has been a season of misses and mellow fruitfulness. Before the year is out he will win more than pounds 1m in Europe and in career earnings is just short of pounds 8m.

'Money has never been a priority,' Faldo said. 'You need to have it to spend it and it's nice to know you're making good money but the important thing is to get it right on the course.' Including the priceless prize of being Open champion, this was Faldo's fifth victory of the season, so it might have been safe to assume that he was indeed getting it right. Not, in his opinion, right enough.

'I looked at my swing on video on Wednesday and it was pretty awful,' he said. 'I could see some screaming faults. I'll keep educating myself. . .keep improving. When things are going well it helps you to work harder. . .I still have faults.'

Sluman could not detect any. 'He drove it well, he didn't miss his iron shots and he's a good putter,' the New Yorker said. 'He works hard and he knows how to win. He has the inner self-confidence to get himself out of a hole and when things are good he is capable of shooting a very good score.'

Things were better than good. On a miserably grey, cold morning Sluman, wearing what looked to be a Christmas present, was immediately ill at ease and the touch and judgement that got him past Singh, Ballesteros and Woosnam on his way to the final was sadly absent. From the moment Sluman missed the green at the first hole and then missed a six-foot putt, the writing was on the scoreboard. He took five to a four and a par at the second was insufficient. Faldo sank a 20-foot putt for a two.

Faldo, who won this event in 1989, also took the third hole. Three up after three, the world No 1 had the world No 27 under his thumb. When Sluman had a birdie at the 12th, Faldo had an eagle, hitting a five-iron to two feet. Even when Faldo went bogey, bogey, double bogey he was still three up and that was emphatically widened to six with winning birdies at the 16th, 17th and 18th. Sluman rammed his putter into his bag. He had gone round in 75, the second worst score in a final. He had three-putted the eighth and the 18th. Faldo, no matter how far from the hole, did not take more than two putts on any green and often one was enough.

The lunch interval was extended by 15 minutes, not to give the players coffee and mints but to enable the BBC to stretch out a programme. Faldo did not oblige. By the 21st hole Sluman, in an attempt to relieve the mental and physical siege, remarked to a policeman: 'How's Fergie?' Asked what he had done during the break, the American replied: 'I put vaseline on Nick's grips.' Faldo won the 22nd, the 25th and the 29th and it was the end of the Burma Road.

'I had a ruthless attitude in a caring sort of way,' Faldo said. 'Local knowledge helped at the start. I didn't want to give anything away. Because of the cold, the ball was not flying as far and I think that's what upset Sluman's clubbing at the first and third holes. Whenever I was up I was trying to win another hole.'

Sluman, who won pounds 100,000, was attempting to become the first American winner of the championship since Bill Rogers in 1979. The last six winners have come from Europe.

The most impressive scoring of the day was provided, 24 hours too late, by Nick Price. Price, defeated 2 and 1 by Faldo in the semi-finals on Saturday, won the third-place play-off against Ian Woosnam.

Price, given a bye into the quarter-finals and a semi-bye into the semi-finals when Greg Norman withdrew after five holes with a neck injury, won pounds 50,000 to Woosnam's pounds 40,000. Price went to the turn in 32 (not even Faldo could match that) and had four birdies in the next six holes. When the end came at the 15th, the Zimbabwean was seven under par.

Every match is decided over 36 holes, except the one to determine the also-rans. That, too, used to be played over two rounds until people like Jack Nicklaus indicated that they had a plane to catch. With hindsight, it might have been merciful if the final had been played over 18 holes.

(Photograph omitted)

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