SPORTING IMAGES / Those memorable moments that lit up the world of sport in 1992: Golf: Mechanical man at breaking point

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The Independent Online
IF Nick Faldo, while on one of his between-tournament fishing trips in 1992, had fallen into the river he would probably have emerged holding aloft a salmon, doubtless of record-breaking size. He has held up a lot of prize catches this year, writes Tim Glover.

Faldo has won so much money that he has even put the icing on Mark McCormack's Christmas cake but he would swap the lot for the moment when he was re-united with the most elegant trophy in golf. The old silver claret jug. Faldo had first taken possession of it at the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield in 1987 and did so again at St Andrews in 1990. Last July, back at Muirfield, he was favourite to win the Open for a third time.

There was nothing elegant about the final day. The pressures of holding a four-stroke lead, of losing it and finally coming out in front by the narrowest of margins, reduced him to a state of near collapse. Mechanical man broke down.

Faldo needed a four at the last to win by a stroke. Others, needing just that, have failed to secure par at what is a typically strong closing hole for an Open Championship course. Faldo hit a good drive and a good second which shadowed the flag but rolled on to the back of the green.

The putt was downhill and fast. When he hit it it seemed that it was too tentative by half. The ball, instead of stopping short, rolled on and slowly on until it came to rest about a foot from the hole. In a round of several heart- stopping moments that was one of the worst. At that point Faldo's brain had all the properties of a chrysalis.

The first putt, under the circumstances, was beautifully judged. The second was no formality and when he tapped it in he looked as if he would have to be carried off the 18th green. He admitted later that, had that putt for his four and the championship been any longer than a tap-in, he probably would not have been able to handle it. 'I was absolutely gone,' Faldo said. 'The horrible pressure of it. If it had ended up wrong what the hell would that have meant to me?' Annus horribilis.

But they don't end up wrong for Faldo - even if he did make a dreadful victory speech. At Muirfield he showed in X- certificate detail that he is not immune to the pressures. The point is the rest are even less exempt to mental and public burden. Of Faldo's five major triumphs four would have been lost but for grotesque mistakes by his closest challengers at crucial moments. When the pressure gauge was at breaking point.

(Photograph omitted)

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