Norman bemoans lack of characters among new generation

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The Independent Online

Greg Norman and Nick Faldo had the younger generation on their minds here yesterday as they returned to the scene of the epic Open of a decade ago. On that occasion the Great White Shark, a player more than capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, carded a sublime final round of 64 to lift the Claret Jug. Faldo, who had won the previous year at Muirfield, had to settle for second place, a result he has not bettered in the Open since.

The pair had different takes on the modern game yesterday. Whereas Norman was downbeat, bemoaning the lack of characters in contemporary golf, Faldo was looking on the bright side. He said he could envisage a future when three or four promising young Britons might arrive on the tour each year. With his wife expecting a baby, he can also envisage another more imminent arrival.

"I've been told to stay and play," he said, when asked what he would do if he was still in contention on Sunday and his wife went into labour. "I'd like to be in that position and see what happens."

Norman wants to be in a position where he feels more positive about the game at large. "Young players today are pretty much the same," he said. "There's a lot of consistency and that comes because of physical trainers, sports psychologists, nutritionists. But you don't see a Craig Stadler out there any more. He had charisma. Now most of the younger players seem like they're very stoic in their approach."

He added that when he was younger and playing alongside the likes of Seve Ballesteros, the game was more attractive for fans because of its characters. "Seve was a great guy to watch because you didn't know what the heck was going to happen when you turned around. We had a bit of flair, wore our hearts on our sleeve and I think that's missing in a lot of [today's players].

"That's why it was so good to see Sergio Garcia come out of that group of players with that flair, too. I don't care whether he's from Spain, Australia, Japan or wherever. People like to watch those type of golfers play."

Norman suggested that some players today are so concerned with projecting a professional image that they fail to show their personalities. "I've seen Tiger [Woods] change a little bit over time," he said. "Is that him keeping an eye on himself, so he doesn't do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, make a wrong move? Probably so. It's a pure business nowadays.

"I think they should show a little more character. When you talk to the guys off the golf course or when you play a practice round with them, they've got it in them. But when they walk on the first tee, there's no character there. If it works for them, great. But golf has slowed down a bit.

"The industry is a bit flat and that's something for everybody - the manufacturers, the R&A and USGA. We are not bringing players to the game and we have to stimulate that. We need to find some way to get the game moving again."

Faldo hopes to play his part in doing that with the development of a squad of youngsters, aka the "Faldo team", who he is helping develop. "I have seven golfers now," he said, adding he hoped he could add another seven each year. "Who knows what you can create out of those players ... hopefully a better percentage of potential major winners."