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Faldo to share what he sees with the Masters audience

Times Staff Writer

Nick Faldo left school at age 16 to pursue a career in golf. In an interview at the AT&T; National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, he admitted that he never was much of a student: “They say some people are widely read. I was thinly read.”

It didn’t matter, because Faldo’s ability to read greens is what eventually propelled him to No. 1 in the world.

Now the Englishman -- with 40 tournament victories, six of them majors -- is on the other side as lead analyst for CBS’ coverage this weekend of the Masters.

Augusta National is familiar territory for Faldo, because he won the green jacket here three times. But this is not the same Faldo.

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As a player, he had earned a reputation for being hard-nosed, cranky and intimidating, and disliked having to talk to the media.

Now he is the media, but being an analyst has allowed him to show off his visual ability, seeing the game in a way others can’t, and his sense of humor.

“It’s a chance to be serious or funny from the other side of the ropes,” he said in a conference call this week from Augusta. “I’m ready to enjoy a wonderful experience here.”

Broadcasting, he added, “gives me a chance to be daff for three hours or more.”

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In a February interview with The Times’ Larry Stewart, Faldo conceded he has changed.

“As a player, I very much kept my cards close to my chest,” he said. “Now I do my own thing. I look at life differently now.”

But it wasn’t until he looked at greens differently that he was elevated to star status.

In December 1995, Faldo, desperate to improve his putting game, paid a visit to Denver optometrist Craig Farnsworth, a sports vision specialist.

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Through a series of prescribed visual exercises and Farnsworth’s guidance, Faldo learned better alignment and distance control to the hole.

The result was dramatic. In his 1996 Masters victory, he was the No. 1 putter in the tournament, and ended up in the top five for the season.

Farnsworth said he knew about Faldo’s hard-nosed reputation but found the golfer to be “charming and witty.”

“I knew that one day he would be a great TV analyst,” Farnsworth said by telephone from his home in La Quinta.

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That charm, coupled with some sharp quips, should be evident in the 18th hole tower at Augusta National.

At the Nissan Open in February, Faldo’s British sense of humor emerged as he watched Phil Mickelson line up a tricky putt on the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club.

“This looks a bit smelly,” he said as the camera focused on the distance between the ball and the hole.

Before coming to CBS, Faldo worked for ABC, but when the latter discontinued its golf coverage last year, CBS aggressively pursued Faldo to succeed Lanny Wadkins as lead analyst.

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This will be CBS’ 52nd consecutive year of broadcasting the Masters. Saturday’s coverage begins at 12:30 p.m., and Sunday’s will start at 11:30 a.m.

The Dodgers-Giants game Saturday in San Francisco will be part of Fox’s game-of-the-week coverage, which the network has expanded to 26 weeks this season as part of a new seven-year contract with Major League Baseball.

Former major leaguers Eric Karros, Joe Girardi and Mark Grace have been hired as analysts for work in the studio and the broadcast booth. Karros makes his debut at AT&T; Park with play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin. Game time is 12:55 p.m.

Fox announced that it will also televise the All-Star game on July 12 in San Francisco, the American League Championship Series and the World Series.

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In past seasons, Fox didn’t start its game-of-the-week schedule until May. Tim McCarver, who returns with Joe Buck as the network’s lead broadcast team, said the early start brings continuity to the coverage.

“This gives Joe and I a chance to do games with a fresh start and to see the teams in April all the way through September and October,” McCarver said. “I love cool-weather baseball, and I’m tickled that we are starting as early as we are.”

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john.scheibe@latimes.com

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