My Shot: Nick Faldo
After winning six majors (including three British Opens), he has some thoughts on TV, ghosts, aliens and his prospects at 50
Age 48 • Orlando, Florida
When I flew into the country a while back, the customs officer, who obviously was a golfer, recognized me. I hadn't filled in the window listing my occupation, and he wrote "Sports analyst." I said, "Why not just write 'Golfer'? What about the six majors?" He said quietly, "We both know what you do best these days." Couldn't argue with him there—though I wanted to.
ESPN called on behalf of Michael Jordan last year and said, "We'd really like to have you at Michael's tournament in the Bahamas." I said, "I'd love to. I'd swim there to play with Michael." The executive paused and said, "Not as a player, Nick. We need an announcer." I'm telling you, those majors feel like they happened a million years ago.
There are some secrets you'll never get out of me. The biggest is the strategy we Europeans use in foursomes during the Ryder Cup. It's one area of the Ryder Cup we've dominated, and this strategy really is the reason we've won four of the last five Ryder Cups. Tony Jacklin invented it, and it's beautiful in its simplicity and devastating in terms of its effectiveness in the alternate-shot format. If the Americans got wind of it, there would go the Ryder Cup. It's subtle, but very visible when you look at it head-on. An observant person can see it.
On the other hand, when I told Greg Norman, "Don't let the bastards get you down" on the last green at the 1996 Masters, that was a secret I knew had a statute of limitations. When it comes to history, you eventually want to set the record straight. So into my book it went, and nobody was the worse for wear.
As a boy, I was a hothead. Threw clubs up trees and carried on when things weren't going right. Then, in 1977, I missed a shot during a tournament and buried a club in the ground. Gerald Micklem, the former chairman of the R&A Championship Committee, saw me do it and walked over. I expected a real tongue-lashing, but he said, "I used to do that, and it never did me any good." Then he walked away. That was very powerful. I was embarrassed by what I did and really humbled by the way Mr. Micklem handled it. I got mad after that, but no more losing my temper.
I had only one sporting hero growing up: Bjorn Borg. He never argued with the umpires or got into it with other players. Strong. Quiet. Absolutely prepared for anything. Tough mentally. Played the fifth set the same as the first set. No ebb and flow emotionally. Four or five years ago, it occurred to me that I had subconsciously modeled myself after him.
Finally, after years of idolizing Borg, I met him. He played an exhibition against John McEnroe at Buckingham Palace, and I was introduced. I said, "Do you know you've been my hero for the last 25 years? It is a great privilege." His reaction? He just nodded, like he'd just won a point in the first set.
Golf on TV in Great Britain is characterized by showing lots of shots of the countryside or a nearby loch. It's much more pastoral, suited for the people at home drinking tea and eating scones. It can be too slow; in Barcelona once they showed three players walking onto a green, and all three players three-putted. The camera didn't leave the green once. With due respect to that production style, I'm partial to the bang-bang style we have here in America.
It helps to be different, and in my case I do it without trying: I have a British accent. Americans love a British accent, and golf audiences really love it. I play on that, obviously. I'm not above saying, "Of course, old chap, I do say, jolly good," and so on.
Note to the TV networks: This boy has it all. I can be serious and analytical. Or philosophical, or dramatic. I'm quick and always good for a laugh. And I play nice with the others. I want to work, and you know where to reach me. But please phone on Thursday—I'm busy on weekends.
Listen to your heart and your gut. That small voice inside you. How often have you left the house knowing you've forgotten something, and it turns out you have? Intuition is very powerful, and certainly it's true in golf. The young person tends to fight intuition, whereas people my age learn to go with it.
Can't figure women out, eh? You must accept that on virtually every issue you are not right—she is. That is the key to peace and happiness. I'm always mindful of something a friend once told me: "When I'm out walking in the woods, all alone, I'm still wrong."
I appreciate that my apparent personality transformation is hard to grasp. Certainly in my better playing days I kept my head down and the blinkers on, never showing my cards. Get out of my way! But I had to do it that way. I tried to be funny and entertaining a couple of times, but a few bogeys later, enough of that. The Hogan in me won out over the Peter Jacobsen in me.
When I was a boy, we had a little gang that played every day. I lived in a small house, two rooms up and two down, and across the street were some woods. It was our explorer area, and five of us lived in those woods. All day long we'd be over there, making up fantasy games, wars and so on, lots of quests with elaborate plots. When we got older we left the woods and took to riding bicycles, and we wore out the streets of that town. I would disappear and not come back until the food was on the table. There is a lot to be said for that sort of rough-and-tumble upbringing, but sad to say, that time has come and gone. Can you imagine turning your children loose for 10 hours without checking in on them?
Favorite movie? That's a tough one, but the Austin Powers movies come to mind. A bit part in one would go a long way to making me an even happier man. Just one line. You know the producer?