Like Ben Hogan before him, Sir Nick Faldo seeks perfection with such single-mindedness that winning – much like the follow-through of his flawless swing – is a byproduct of a larger goal.
More than any player of his era, the Englishman has relentlessly pursued golf’s holy grail – total control of the golf ball. The swing he has built in that endless chase is one that has not only held up, but excelled in the game’s most important moments.
Between 1987 and 1995, Faldo won six major championships-three British Opens and three Masters. Although he has a total of 39 tournament victories around the world, including six events on the PGA TOUR, Faldo’s focus has always been on his performance in the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. In one stretch between 1988 and 1993, Faldo was never out of the top 20 in a Grand Slam event.
“I was just absolutely mesmerized when I saw the Masters that year, particularly by Jack Nicklaus striding across Augusta’s impossibly green fairways. I marched downstairs and announced to my Mum that I was going to take up golf. ‘You’re having a haircut first’ she said, which seemed like a fair enough deal at the time – even if Augusta was waiting!”
Faldo had relied on dedication, consistency, tempo and one of the strongest competitive minds the game has ever seen. Although he is tall at just over 6-3 and athletically built with wide shoulders, Faldo has never been a particularly powerful player. Consistency, distance control and course management are his strengths. His record makes him arguably the finest player of his height or taller in the history of the game.
Four of his majors were won narrowly in tense battles, either by a single stroke or in a playoff, and often after he had come from behind. At the 1987 British Open, Faldo made 18 pars in the final round and emerged victorious when Paul Azinger bogeyed the final two holes. At the 1989 Masters, he won in sudden death when Scott Hoch missed a 20-inch putt. The next year, Raymond Floyd mishit his approach on the second extra hole to give Faldo victory. In 1992 at Muirfield, Faldo lost a five-stroke lead on Sunday, but rallied with late birdies to win his third British Open by one.
At the 1996 Masters, Faldo started the final day six strokes behind Greg Norman, but put together a flawless 67 to win going away. Faldo’s most impressive major victory was the 1990 British Open at St. Andrews. Mastering the Old Course with dazzling iron play, Faldo stood astride the field, shooting 18-under-par 270 to win by five.
Sir Nick Faldo participated in 11 consecutive Ryder Cups.
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.