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Interesting interview with Faldo


Fac ut gaudeam
Supporting Member
Sep 1, 2004
I have said it before, I do not like the man. Nonetheless this is an interesting interview with the man.

Nick Faldo wanders out of his vast hotel suite wearing a faded T-shirt, shorts and sandals on a balmy Sunday morning in America. He ambles over to a sunlit patio for some chitchat, because these days the 51-year-old appears as relaxed and amiable as he was once concentrated and taciturn. But it takes only a few minutes for the old obsessive intensity to emerge after he has joked about spending another lonely Saturday night on the road. "At least in a suite you can move from one room to the other and so I had eight walls to stare at last night. These things matter when you've got time on your hands and plenty to think about."

It is easy to understand why Faldo needs thinking space in the American heartland. Next week, in Kentucky, he leads Europe against a US team bent on avenging three successive Ryder Cup defeats. "This is crunch time for the guys," he says with relish. "I can feel it now."

Faldo talks smoothly about "the guys" on his team but part of the fascination surrounding his leadership is bound up in an acknowledgment that "I have a reputation for being this solitary individual. But, ironically enough, being Ryder Cup captain is quite lonely. It suits me. In a way it reminds me of my own Ryder Cup career where I did well on my own and as part of the team".

He readily cites a set of statistics which remind us that, apart from earning the most points in Ryder Cup history, his success was almost identical whether playing with or without a partner - his 59% winning record in singles just edging his 57% in fourballs and foursomes. "I assume I was a pretty good partner. Whether I talked enough, or whatever, at least I delivered."

Faldo's conviction that he is about to deliver again, in his new role as captain, is palpable. "My gut instinct is good. Retaining the Ryder Cup in America is my goal. I don't see anything else but a win - even if it's going to be close this time. I like to think that, with 30 years' experience and 20 years as a Ryder Cup player, I'm pretty well prepared to say and do the right things which will help this team win."

His experience and commitment are almost matched by his ability to engender controversy. And so it would have felt strange if his selection had been bland. Instead, and in keeping with the combative instincts of a man who likes to stand apart, Faldo chose Ian Poulter ahead of a Ryder Cup favourite in Darren Clarke. Yet Clarke's current form was as much a reason for a wildcard pick as his exemplary record in five consecutive ties. Conforming to Faldo's stipulation that he was most interested in players on top of their game, Clarke won the KLM Open by four shots a week before the team was chosen. Poulter, meanwhile, remained in the US rather than trying to secure an automatic place. After Poulter's selection Clarke said that half the team had called him to express disappointment at his exclusion.

And yet there should be scant surprise at Faldo's preference for a player as ambitious and confident as Poulter. Even when remembering how, earlier this year, Poulter generated much mirth by saying, "I know I haven't played to my full potential, but when that happens it will be just me and Tiger [Woods]," Faldo's feelings toward another self-made golfer are plain. "I like him. I really like him. We get on well. We chat well. He is determined and feisty and does it his way. He's quite happy that he looks flash and talks big. Having another charismatic player on the team like him will be very useful."

But Padraig Harrington, winner of the last two majors and three in total, is Faldo's real kingpin. "The way he played the last nine holes of the Open this summer was brilliant. I saw the change in him when he won it for the first time last year. His eyes went the size of saucers and he was completely focused and in tune. He did the same thing this time. It's absolutely amazing - and a real morale boost for us to have the two-time Open champion and the new US PGA champ."

Faldo is almost as enthusiastic about Sergio García, who finished second to Harrington in both the 2007 Open and last month's PGA. "Sergio really impressed me at the Players Championship at Sawgrass [where the Spaniard won golf's 'fifth major' in May]. Mentally the TPC is the hardest tournament outside the majors. You come out of that week braindead because it batters you. Every hole is a minefield and so for him to play that well, and drive it so superbly, is special."

His admiration for Harrington and García, however, does not extend to withdrawing another controversial criticism he made of leading players on the European Tour. Last year he said he was bemused by their friendliness during tournaments. "I made that comment and it got blown up. But I saw four English guys up in New York and I thought, 'Wow, three of them are vying for the lead and they're sitting there having lunch together.' In my day I didn't want to sit down with Seve [Ballesteros] or Greg [Norman] and say 'How are you, you feeling all right?' I can guarantee that McEnroe and Borg didn't have lunch together. And do you think Ali lunched with his opponent before he knocked his head off?

"Golf has got like this because there are 30 or 40 opportunities to win a million dollars. In my era, with Seve, winning was most important. You'd get £1,500 if you finished third in some tournaments. I haven't hit a golf ball seriously for five years now and I'm still making a damn good living because I won six majors. But, in this era, if you have a couple of good weeks then, bang, that's three million bucks in the bank. You can see how they can get very money-orientated very quickly, picking up half-a-million-dollar cheques for finishing second.

"But now, with Tiger injured and Padraig winning majors, when these guys are having lunch together they've got to be looking at each other and thinking, 'Right, who's going to win the next major?' They should be thinking, 'Wow, if I really step this up I can win two majors, bang, bang, and then I'm deemed a great player.'"

Faldo was indisputably a great player and he always seemed to play with victory, rather than pay-cheque, in mind. "Exactly. And I can honestly tell you I don't have a clue what my net worth is now. Hopefully my accountant is a good guy because, jeez, I put a lot of trust in people. I spend money like water because I assume I've got tons coming in. But we get occasional calls saying, 'Do you realise how much you spent last year?' And the answer is 'No. OK, well maybe we should change a few things.' I live like that. But I never played for the money. I played to win."

On his singular path Faldo upset a fair few people who came up against him. Paul Azinger, his captaincy rival next week, still seems to harbour resentment, describing Faldo as "a prick" in his playing days. The American might since have backtracked furiously but Faldo shrugs in amusement. "I know Zinger. He said it. I know how he said it. In America you can say things like that and then drag it back. But with a British writer it's black and white: 'Oh thank you very much - you said it, mate.' We talked afterwards so the bottom line is that I'm owed one below the belt. I might swing low once, somewhere, and then say, 'OK, we're even.'"

When Faldo won his first major, the 1987 Open, he personified grinding resilience by parring the final 18 holes - beating Azinger by a shot after the American bogeyed the last two. He then turned to Azinger and said: "Tough luck, old boy." He shrugs. "Well, yeah, whatever. A good psychiatrist will say it's Azinger's choice how he takes it. Plus, in defence of me, when you've won your very first major, crumbs, your head is a mess. He doesn't hold that against me now."

In a Ryder Cup setting, however, they have a sniping personal history which stretches back to their halved singles match in 1993. "That was fun," Faldo protests. "I had a four-footer and I thought they'd won so I said, 'Come on, gimme that." And yet, as the match was not quite over, he made Azinger sink a 10-footer on the 18th to secure his half. "Goodness me," Faldo laughs. "He gave me mine and then I birdied the next. So he had to birdie the last to tie - what's wrong with that? He still got a half off me.

"I don't know if I'm going to do anything tricky to get Zinger going this time. I've been moving the other way recently and believing I need my energy 100% focused on my team. Then I start thinking, 'Well, with Zinger it would be nice to throw him a curve ball.' But I'll probably just concentrate on the obvious and make sure we win. That's all that matters in the end."

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