Life is sweet for convert Faldo

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The Independent Online
GOLF

ROBINSON HOLLOWAY

reports from Orlando, Florida

The Americanisation of Nick Faldo is almost complete. The experience of playing on the US Tour full-time has made him a happy man. He is playing well - so well that he said he is ready to play the Masters right now - and he is having fun. "I'm enjoying life," he said yesterday. "That was a goal of coming over here."

What Faldo is relishing is the luxury of perfect practice facilities - "It's great. You can maintain all the parts of your game. You have productive practice sessions all the time" - as well as the gratifying warmth of his reception by the locals.

His experiences in the United States so far have Faldo giving serious consideration to moving his family to America next year. "It's all to do with the children - deciding where they should be schooled and how long we want to spend over here. My wife and I will make that decision around August and September," he said.

"Everyone's been good to me and very supportive. The public have realised what I'm doing. They understand the commitment I've made to the Tour. I've received lots of letters saying that they're pleased I've come over here. It's shown in the support of the crowds. When I hit a good golf shot, they enjoy it."

Of course, Faldo has given them many good shots to enjoy over the past two weeks, finishing first at Doral and second at the Honda Classic. He has high expectations of providing more of the same this week at Arnold Palmer's tournament, the Nestl Invitational at Bay Hill.

Faldo is one of eight Europeans here this week, including last week's third-placed finisher, Ian Woosnam, and the Masters winner, Jose Maria Olazabal, playing in just his second tournament this year following foot surgery at the start of February.

Beyond the strong European presence, Bay Hill has the best field of the year so far, in fact one of the best fields ever. The top 23 ranked golfers in the world are here, and 27 of the top 30. The fields during this week, in the past two weeks, and especially next week at the Players' Championship, when the top 36 ranked golfers will be present, make a convincing argument that the world tour that Greg Norman felt there was such a need for may already exist in part in Florida in March.

Indeed, it may move beyond Florida if several European players join the US Tour next year. Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer are almost certain to shift to the US next year, with Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie also contemplating the same move.

n Jim Payne, the European Tour's leading rookie in 1992 who underwent a spinal fusion operation in September, resumes his playing career today in the Portuguese Open at Penha Longa, near Estoril.

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