As a player, Sir Nicholas Alexander Faldo came to enjoy an erratic relationship with the Fourth Estate. Be it his run-in with reporters while captaining the European Ryder Cup team last year or the whisper into Greg Norman’s ear after winning the 1996 Masters, the references were far from charitable. “Don’t let the bastards get you down,” were his words after he overcame a six-shot deficit to beat Norman. The mention was in anticipation of Norman being hounded for the loss.
Asked about the “hot and cold” association, the towering Englishman’s response was startling. The weather-beaten face broke into a wide grin and he dismissed it as a “pre-conceived notion”. “I was determined to focus while playing”.
His pro career “as good as over”, it was time to surprise the world with some dry, British wit. Aiding him in the effort was the stint as a TV commentator in the United States. “I was grim as a player but my role has changed as an entertainer,” he said, the smile refusing to go away.
Continuing with the reversal of roles, Faldo, one of the game’s most decorated players with 40 pro titles (including three wins at the Masters and Open Championship respectively), descended on Lavasa, a setting that he termed as an “exciting canvas to work on”. Gushing over how it fuelled the desire to approach a project with “no conceived notions”, this picturesque hill resort will be the focus of Faldo’s 6 foot 3 inch frame over the next few years as he begins work on an academy and an 18-hole championship course. The view of the Sahayadri hills from the chopper caught the former World No 1’s fancy and come Friday, Faldo will be “putting on his boots and climbing the hills and crossing streams”. “I don’t believe in applying my signature. Whatever I do has to be the best,” he said.
The best years may be behind him, but the pride of carrying himself with distinction is intact. Faldo, 52, was asked if he yearned to do a Tom Watson. The veteran PGA Tour pro had come close to a dream win at this year’s Open Championship in Turnberry before being pipped in the play-off by Stewart Cink. “It must have left him (Watson) scarred. I have played long enough but golf has never scarred me. In fact, it has just given me a moment to cherish,” he said of the knighthood he received at the historic Windsor Castle on Tuesday.