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GOLF / MAL FLORENCE : A Little Body English Helps Faldo Through a Summer of Successes

Earlier in the year, it seemed that Fred Couples had established himself as the world’s best player.

He had won three tournaments, including the Masters last April, and finished high in other events.

Then England’s Nick Faldo asserted himself again.

There is little doubt now that Faldo, a precise, dedicated player who attends to every detail in the golf swing, is the best these days.

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His record alone in major events this year would justify such a designation.

Faldo won the British Open last July at the Muirfield course in Scotland for the third time and tied for second in the PGA championship in August at St. Louis.

Earlier, he tied for fourth in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. At one stretch on the European tour, he won four of six events.

He won the Masters in 1989 and 1990, lost in a playoff for the U.S. Open championship in 1988 to Curtis Strange and barely missed getting into an Open playoff in 1990.

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In a conference call, Faldo was asked to compare his 1992 season to 1991.

“My game went off for a while in 1991,” he said. “I didn’t do anything as well as I expected, or I would have liked.

“In September of last year I went to work aggressively on each part of my game, but slowly. You can’t do it in two days. I made my bunker play a priority, or I’d spend a little more time practicing driving.

“In the spring I worked with (teaching pro) David Leadbetter in Orlando (Fla.) to change my body posture and spine angle throughout the swing. I worked with that for a week and it started to click.

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“I also watched a video of Sam Snead and saw how incredibly straight his spine was throughout the swing and that gave me a good mental picture. I’ve just done more things better simply by testing what I need for each part of my game.”

It’s clear that Faldo, 35, is a thorough technician. He said that he’s taking some time off because of a heavy schedule, having played 12 of the last 14 weeks.

“The hardest sacrifice in golf is coming home Sunday night, spending a couple of hours with the kids and then being on a plane Monday night or Tuesday morning,” he said. “You do that for a few weeks and you wonder what it’s all about.”

Faldo will play in a unique tournament in Hawaii Nov. 10-11. The PGA sponsored tournament, the $1-million, 36-hole Grand Slam of Golf, matches the winners of the four major tournaments this year: Faldo (British Open), Couples (Masters), Tom Kite (U.S. Open), and Nick Price (PGA Championship).

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No one will be a financial loser with $400,000 for the winner, $250,000 for second, $200,000 for third and $150,000 for fourth.

The tournament was originally scheduled at Kauai Lagoons, but devastation caused by Hurricane Iniki prompted a change of the site in Hawaii yet to be determined.

Asked if there are any specific goals he wants to pursue, Faldo said:

“Every year you have four more majors, along with other goals in your life as well. That’s why it has been such a good year for me. I set some goals at the beginning of the year. I wanted to get myself back to No. 1 in the world, and I wanted to win some majors.

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“The good thing about golf is, as long as you’re hungry and have desire to compete, you keep setting yourself some goals and you go for it.”

Faldo had an impressive summer run.

“It was my best over one stretch,” he said. “I went 11 weeks and my worst finish was fourth on both sides of the Atlantic. I had a better understanding of my golf game.”

As for the Grand Slam event, Faldo said: “It will be quite a mixture of characters. Freddie will be blasting it out there. I think everybody is very aggressive. Price is a long hitter and good iron player. It could be very close.”

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Faldo was asked if constant media attention is a burden. Couples, for one, has been uncomfortable with his celebrity.

“If you’re playing well, nothing bugs you at all,” Faldo said. “The problem comes when you’re playing badly and people pick on you and ask you questions, analyzing everything you do. That sort of thing.

“People won’t leave you alone off the course. If things aren’t going well, it’s hard work because people are constantly reminding you that you are failing.

“The media do not have patience. It’s just as much a story that you’re struggling and they want to make heavy work of it. If you play well, it takes away everything.”

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The way Faldo is playing, nobody is bothering him.

Golf Notes

Asked to comment on John Daly’s victory in the recent B.C. Open at Endicott, N.Y., Nick Faldo said: “He has the game where there are a few golf courses on the tour that are really suited for him. He can blast it out there a mile and turn it into a pitch and putt (course).” . . . The Southern California Professional Golfers Assn. Senior Championship is scheduled for Oct. 15-16 at Jurupa Hills Country Club in San Bernardino.

Arnold Palmer’s 16th annual golf exhibition and clinic, benefiting Methodist Hospital of Arcadia, will be held Oct. 19 at Brookside Golf Club. Palmer will be paired with LPGA pro Juli Inkster in an exhibition match against PGA Tour pro Billy Andrade and Pat Rielly, honorary president of the PGA of America. . . . The Southern California Golf Assn. Mid-Amateur tournament will be played Monday and Tuesday at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta.

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The Greater L.A. golf tournament will be held Oct. 19 at Wood Ranch in Simi Valley. The tournament benefits National Jewish, a medical center for respiratory, allergic and immune system diseases. . . . The Tishman Realty & Construction tournament to benefit the the University of Judaism will be held Nov. 9 at North Ranch CC in Thousand Oaks.


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