Faldo shows the way on coming from behind at the Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) No lead is too safe at the Masters. No deficit is too daunting.
And no one can appreciate that more than Nick Faldo.
Twenty years ago, Faldo won his third green jacket in what remains the greatest collapse in major championship history over the final 18 holes. Six shots behind going into the final round, Faldo closed with a 67 that will never get enough credit because Greg Norman shot a 78.
That was the most famous turnaround. It wasn't the only one involving Faldo.
Faldo was five shots behind in 1989 when he closed with a 65 and beat Scott Hoch in a playoff. A year later, he was three shots behind when he shot 69 and beat Raymond Floyd on the second hole of a playoff.
''You know if you keep clawing away, it is so easy to make a birdie and somebody makes a bogey, and there it is,'' Faldo said. ''The other thing about the Masters is the fact it's played there every year, and there's a history. You know there are guys have had a big lead and lost.''
Augusta National is filled with such stories.
Ed Sneed bogeyed the last three holes in 1979 and lost in a playoff. Ken Venturi had a four-shot lead in 1956, shot 80 in the final round and lost by one. Five years ago, Rory McIlroy had a four-shot lead going into the final round, shot 43 on the back nine and wound up 10 shots out of the lead.
''As you've seen before, a lot can change on that last day,'' McIlroy said. ''If you're three or four behind going into the final nine holes, you feel like you still have a chance. ''
McIlroy was reminded how quickly fortunes can change on Friday when he was eight shots behind in the middle of his second round just as Jordan Spieth was starting his round. By the end of the day, McIlroy was one shot behind going into the weekend.
Jack Nicklaus was five shots behind with 10 holes to play in the most famous charge in Augusta history. He shot 30 on the back nine because the Masters allows for good scoring in the right conditions. He also needed some help. Seve Ballesteros hit 4-iron into the water from the middle of the 15th fairway. Norman fell back with a double bogey on the 10th hole, rallied with four straight birdies, then sent his approach to the 18th into the gallery for bogey to finish one shot behind.
No one came back as often as Faldo in the Masters, and that experience from 1989 and 1990 served him well when he faced Norman and a six-shot deficit in 1996.
His plan was to cut the deficit in half at some point on the back nine because he knew the history of comebacks and collapses at the Masters, such as Sneed in 1979 and his own experiences. He just didn't know it would change that quickly.
There were two indications that a comeback from six shots was possible.
He hit his tee shot into 6 feet behind the hole on the par-3 sixth, giving him confidence that he had full control of his irons. And he couldn't help how fidgety Norman was on the tee at No. 2.
''He started to regrip,'' Faldo said. ''He regripped the thing about 10 times before he went and I thought, `Well, that's different.'''
Norman spun a wedge off the front of the green at No. 9 for a bogey, and his lead was down to two shots.
''On 10 I really thought he was in trouble,'' Faldo said. ''That was a straight-forward 8-iron and he pulled it left, then he jammed his chip about 15 feet. And that's when I thought, `He's really feeling the nerves.'''
On the 11th, when Norman three-putted from about 12 feet. They were tied, and Norman hit his next shot into the water for a double bogey. The Shark never caught back up, sinking even further when he pulled his tee shot into the water on the 16th for another double bogey.
Faldo birdied the last for a 67. It was the lowest score of the weekend, particularly impressive because he played in the final group. He remains the only multiple Masters champion to have never led going into the final round.
And he has never experienced the other side, which is why he felt so badly for Norman.
''If I had a six-shot lead and had blown it, I'm scarred. I'm scarred for life,'' Faldo said. ''I've lost majors, a few decisions here and there, a three-putt. But I'm not scarred by anything, thank goodness. I genuinely felt for him. I told him, `I don't know what to say, so I'll give you a hug.'''