The Open 2013: Sir Nick Faldo returns as king but one stripped of all his old powers

 

Muirfield

It was an epic fantasy – Sir Nick Faldo coming back to the scene of two of his crowning Open Championship moments to once again do battle against the evil forces of Muirfield. The Lord of the Links. Return of the King. And all on his 56th birthday, too.

Faldo just had to be here, pulled out of retirement by the thought of one last hurrah on this fabled East Lothian links that he loves and where he won two of his three Claret Jugs in 1987 and 1992.

He bowed out of competitive golf at the 2010 Open at St Andrews to concentrate on his TV commentating career in the States along with his course-design business and Faldo Series, which includes Rory McIlroy as one of its champion graduates. But he had not made the weekend in any Opens since St Andrews in 2005. This was his lap of honour, a coronation for a Knight of the Realm and the King of Muirfield.

When he walked up the 18th green in that summer of ’87, he completed that remarkable final round of 18 straight pars to win. He is still the last Englishman to win the Open. Twenty-one years after that, he started bogey, bogey. One wag in the crowd suggested we might be about to witness Muirfield’s revenge and that Faldo would follow up with 18 straight bogeys. A birdie at the 3rd laid that to rest but Faldo still had to escape from a cavernous bunker in front of the 18th green and hole  a knee-trembling three-foot putt  to break 80 and post a score of  eight over par.

“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I’m here to enjoy. I did all right but the back nine just wore me out. You won’t be seeing me next year. No way,” he added with a grin. “St Andrews [in 2015] is my next port of call if I want it. Gotta pace myself.” 

Faldo was greeted on to the first tee shortly after breakfast time yesterday by a rousing round of applause that sounded like the thousands packed in the grandstand and along the fairway ropes had brought their Rice Krispies with them. But there really wasn’t much snap, crackle or pop about Faldo’s game. His opening drive was fine enough but dribbled into the first cut of rough, then his approach veered horribly off line and his ball plummeted into a greenside bunker. Bogey was inevitable.

“It was scary going to the first tee. I really was nervous,” Faldo said. “Thought I’d done a good job putting it off, but you can’t. You know where you are. Delighted I nailed it. That view from the first tee looking down the fairway with the people in the grandstands and the crowd four-deep, that was pretty darned  good. I’ll take that view as my shot of the day.”

Faldo had two legends for company: 1992 Masters champion, the easy-swinging Fred Couples, still cool at 53, and 63-year-old five-times Open champion Tom Watson, now puffing out his cheeks and limping from hip-replacement surgery. They were the “Geezer” and the “Wheezer” to Faldo the crowd “Pleezer”.

The Americans shot four-over-par 75s. All three struggled on the greens. Faldo was once British golf’s finest clutch putter. Yesterday he tucked a long putter under his armpit and against his belly and leaned on it like a crutch. Faldo strode up the first fairway of this nostalgic trip with his 1980s quiff flapping in the breeze followed by his disciples who clapped his every par (eight), bogey (six), double bogey (two) and occasional birdie (two). Two Scottish lads yelled their support for five hours from 9am. They set off with 24 cans of lager in a holdall. By the turn, they only had three left. “Come on Nick, you’ve still got it,” one of them shouted. Faldo smiled but looked like he could do with a stiff drink himself.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions