Ahead of hosting this week’s Betfred British Masters at the Belfry, Sir Nick Faldo writes this week's player blog on his journey in golf, from his early days as a junior to Major winner, turning his hand to broadcasting and his 'third career' in golf course design.
I would say my drive was something I just had deep within me. I think if you have to generate it then you will struggle. We talk about passion and commitment but when a father asks me how much their boy has to practice, I fear they won’t make it because I never had to ask. I was out there all day every day. I went down to the range at 8am and came back when it was dark. The only thing that would have stopped me would be if it was sleeting. I just loved playing golf. I consider myself to have been lucky that I was never bored. Even now, I am very fortunate that love of the game is still inside me and I still enjoy heading to the range to play. I have had the attitude that if you are going to do something then give it your all because you learn more that why. If you cut corners then you are cutting corners against yourself.
I was told you needed to go to university, so I went to the University of Houston and didn’t last. All I did was practice in the morning and play in the afternoons all day every day. When you’re then asked to be studying in the classroom I lost my practice time. Nobody practiced as hard as me. I didn’t like it, so I lasted ten weeks and came back. I won a tournament at Craigmillar Park in Scotland and nobody seemed interested. A friend said 'why don’t you turn professional?' In those days you had to apply to the PGA, they put it forward and then you were approved. I made the decision in April, had the meeting in May and played my first event at the French Open in June at Le Touquet.
The hardest thing about our sport is that you have to have 100 % trust in what you are doing. When you have even the most minute doubts then it won’t come off. That is just how brutal the game is.
There was no Plan B with my swing change in the mid-1980s. It was all in and the timing of it was pretty ridiculous. I met David Leadbetter in South Africa at Sun City at the end of 1984, we talked about it. I saw him again a few months later and at the time was fed up with my game and we started working on it together. I was working on a new backswing with an old follow through. Everything went downhill. My golf was terrible, I lost pretty much every sponsor but I battled through it. I should maybe thank my mum for the determination that she helped instil in me. I didn’t throw the towel in, kept going and had my head beaten in. I would go down to the range five times a day, trying to work it all out, miss a cut and go through the whole process again until it finally clicked. There were some tough moments. I had to finish second or better at the Walt Disney World Golf Classic in 1983 to keep my PGA TOUR card which I amazingly did.
It clicked in the spring of ’87, went to Hattiesburg and shot four 67s, finished second and then came back to Spain and won. Then I knew I was ready for The Open. I initially thought I needed to win again on Tour before The Open but I told myself I didn’t need to and felt ready to go to Muirfield and win. The weather was pea soup on the day of my first Major win. The golf ball was going nowhere. One yardage I do remember is the 16th where I had 186 yards and I hit a two iron and it went 182 yards. To have made the 18 pars that day was pretty cool. It has become iconic. In a sense it dawned on me through social media that people would start to write ‘I nearly did a Faldo’. That really was a historic day in my career.
Everyone has a totally different make-up, but I would strongly advise to players now to play your career first. There is plenty of time to be a businessman later on if you wish to do so. Once you try to get involved in contract deals it takes away your focus. When I started way back with IMG and Mark McCormack they did everything. They even said they’d pay for my gas bill. I thought it was very important for me to have that knowledge that business matters were being dealt for me. Once I did get involved in business it was detrimental to the mindset. You need to be clear, have 100 % focus on just being a golfer.
I can promise you I never foresaw a career in broadcasting. I came on Tour before I was 19, just, and was a golfer for nearly 30 years and I always had said ‘I am never coming back to talk about golf’. But then of course I was given an opportunity by ABC in 2004. I had just missed the cut at The Open and was asked whether I wanted to call the golf and sure enough I did. They liked me and I thought, ‘this is a cool gig’. I thought I could add to it. I worked with Paul Azinger and Mike Tirico before ABC completely pulled out of sport after two years and then the whole golf world changed. I then worked for CBC alongside Jim Nantz which was great and did 16 years with them.
I felt I had a good eye to see something different. That is important, the viewer watching back at home doesn’t want to hear the obvious. You learn quickly not to state what people can see. My role really was to try and be the how, what and why man.
To be honest I then got tired of it, specifically the travel. The gig is great, and I just probably wore myself out doing it week after week. I am still going to do some work for Sky Sports and others, but I couldn’t continue to be on the road. My lifestyle has changed with my wife Lindsay in our dream of living in Montana. I am mid-60s so it is time to slow down a little bit. We are now pursuing really hard the design business and this tournament gives another responsibility to try something different.
I hate all these statistics. They drive me nuts because in my day the most important statistic was how many birdie chances you had given yourself. For sure, the current generation have far more analytics to call upon but that was my only statistic that I wanted to know! If you had a dozen looks for birdie then you were bound to have a good score. You can see in a player’s eyes on the seventh hole whether a player is happy or not in a situation. I thought try and bring all of that back home to the viewer.
I am delighted to be the long-term host of the Betfred British Masters. It is nice at this stage of my career to still be involved and see all these youngsters out there that are about a third of my age! My goal is to hopefully elevate this event as much as possible over the coming years.
I am interested to see if I can have an involvement with the course design and layout here at the Belfry. The schedule will also be important in terms of continuing to build this event. The best players only play X number of events so you want to be in that window of when it can be a good time to play prior to another tournament. Everyone thinks ahead about their run of tournaments so I hope we can keep elevating it.