Golf: Faldo focus of attention

Tim Glover,New York
Tuesday 19 September 1995 23:02

Had the opposition planned it, the timing of the Nick Faldo story could not have been more malevolent. The tabloids, who have been scenting a split in the Faldo marriage for months, decided to spill the beans on the eve of the Ryder Cup.

Gill Faldo, the beleaguered wife, might have read about the alleged discord on Concorde as she travelled with the European team, wives, girlfriends, caddies and patrons. The only player not on the supersonic flight to Rochester in upstate New York was, of course, Nick Faldo. As a member of the US Tour he spends most of his time in the States.

When the plane touched down, Faldo was waiting . . . as were half of New York's rat pack. They got nothing, which was more than they got yesterday when Faldo was the first player in the interview tent. There was a rider to the proceedings: he would not talk about his personal life.

"A lot of us," Faldo said, "have been through everything, seen everything. I think that's important in match-play." He was not talking about the perfect match, he was talking golf. "There will be certain things that will happen out here and hopefully you can draw on experience and make the right decision. That will be an important factor for us."

Rochester, the home of Kodak, portrays itself as the "image centre of the world" and the appearance of Concorde gave Europe a sharper focus. Time was (about 60 years ago) when the players would travel to the US by boat, take about a week to find their feet and get soundly thrashed. Now, taking the difference between Big Ben and Eastern time into account, they arrive at about the same time that they started.

Another extraordinary, and welcome, innovation is that the humble, downtrodden, weatherbeaten caddie - once fondly remembered for sleeping in hedgerows and having breath that could poleaxe a skunk at 50 paces - is now upgraded to fly supersonic with its master. Quite what JP McManus, the legendary Irish bookmaker/punter, would make of all this is another matter. Whereas the caddies flew gratis, JP paid pounds 148,000 for the privilege, bidding that amount for two tickets at a charity raffle.

Meanwhile Peter Jacobsen was comparing this Ryder Cup to his debut at The Belfry 10 years ago. This one would be different. "It's just wonderful to be able to play at Oak Hill which I think is one of the truly magnificent golf courses in the world," Jacobsen said. "It's going to be a wonderful competition."

For Jacobsen, the 1985 Ryder Cup was not at all wonderful. "I wasn't ready for the. . . gosh, what's the word I want to use here? There was some booing and hissing on the first tee which shocked me. That isn't the way we're welcomed at the Open. I'll never forget Lanny Wadkins being introduced on the first tee. He was booed and he looked at his team-mates and said: 'God, don't cha love it'. I thought, no, I actually like people who put their hands together."

In the so-called War on the Shore at Kiawah Island in South Carolina in 1991 Jacobsen was commentating for American television. "I was appalled at the treatment the Europeans received," he said. "I don't think anybody should be booed at any time. I don't know if this patriotism is something that is good for the game. A good shot should be applauded from whomever it comes."

During the "War on the Shore" several American players, Corey Pavin included, wore Desert Storm military caps. "I don't think there's going to be a problem this time," Jacobsen said. "There's 24 gentlemen here. I don't think anyone will fan the flames."

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