Born July 18, 1957, in Welwyn Garden City, England, Faldo was a gifted all-around athlete who had the makings of a first-class cyclist. After his parents bought him a racing cycle when he was 12, the young Faldo horrified them by dismantling the whole machine because he wanted to know how it worked. Years later, he did the same thing with his golf swing. At 14, Faldo took up golf after watching the 1971 Masters on television. An early teacher, Ian Connelly, told him, “The easier you swing, the better you’ll hit it,” advice which helped shape Faldo’s syrupy action.
Faldo won 10 titles in 1975 as an amateur and joined the European Tour the following season. Over the next eight years, he displayed a superb short game and putting stroke in winning several tournaments and establishing his career-long brilliance in the Ryder Cup. But Faldo seemed to fail in the crucible of the major championships, and this did not sit well with his perfectionist nature. At the 1983 British Open at Birkdale, another final-round collapse convinced Faldo that if he was ever going to win majors, he needed to overhaul his swing.
Enlisting swing coach David Leadbetter in 1984, Faldo implored the instructor to “Throw the book at me.” For the next three years, he toiled through poor performance as he went through the rigors of a risky mid-career swing change. But the swing that emerged, which emphasized the large muscles of the body in conformance with Leadbetter’s overriding tenet that “the dog wags the tail,” was more solid, more repeatable and more reliable. Faldo’s victory at Muirfield in 1987 was the validation, and the five majors that followed have been the proof.
On June 13, 2009, after six major championship, 39 tournament victories around the world and 11 consecutive Ryder Cups, Faldo was given knighthood.