THERE SAT Nick Faldo last Friday morning, starched and pressed,
eating a bowl of Special K from the breakfast buffet at a hotel
inside a mall in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break. Toto, we're
not in Surrey anymore. Faldo must have been the only person under
the age of 96 in Florida who had no idea that half the young minds
in America were down at the waterfront waiting for the next wet
T-shirt contest to start. As the world's most focused golfer
prepared for the second round of the Honda Classic, at Weston
Hills Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, he looked slightly out of
place. About 3,000 miles out of place, to be exact.
``It's quite lonely to be away from home all the time,'' Faldo
said. ``Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday seem to take forever. This
is a huge sacrifice for me and my family. We talk every day, and
we're always on countdown until our next meeting. The hardest part
is that my kids don't fully understand. . . .''
The Honda Classic was the sixth stop on Faldo's American Adventure
'95, his yearlong odyssey on the PGA Tour. He embarked on this
journey knowing he would often be without his wife, Gill, and
their three children, who are at home in England. In February the
family spent a week together at Lake Nona, near Orlando, Faldo's
home base in the States, but they are currently in the midst of
what will be a full month apart.
After four forgettable tournaments out West, in which his best
finish was a tie for ninth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National
Pro-Am, Faldo was probably questioning his decision to come to
America. But not so anymore. After winning at Doral two weeks ago
and finishing a strong second to Mark O'Meara at the Honda last
week, Faldo has now pocketed almost $450,000 for the year. ``When
you're working hard every week, bashing away like mad,'' said
Faldo, ``it's nice to be rewarded for it.''
But, hey, wait a minute! Wasn't the Honda supposed to be another
Nick's show? Nick Price? After all, it was Price who rolled in a
prodigious birdie putt late on Sunday to win here in 1994,
sparking the most remarkable season in recent memory on the Tour.
Now he was using the Honda for his '95 coming- out party. But then
Faldo elbowed Price out of the spotlight. Nick nicked Nick.
You could say Faldo stole Price's thunder, except that during the
Wednesday pro-am, Price got all the thunder he wanted, plus
lightning and 80-mph winds. Price fled to the clubhouse during the
near tornado. ``I was shaking when I got in the locker room,'' he
said. ``When it started raining we went into the hospitality tent,
but the walls started rattling and we got out of there fast.''
When Price arrived in Fort Lauderdale last year, he was fretting
over tendinitis in his wrist. ``The Honda victory couldn't have
come at a better time,'' Price remembered. ``I was worried because
the wrist wasn't healing fast. I was thinking, What is going to
happen to me?''
Price would never have believed the answer. First he sank a
35-footer on the 17th hole in the final round to clinch the
tournament. He won the Colonial in late May and the Western the
first week of July. Two weeks later he drained his famous
50-footer on the 17th hole at Turnberry to steal the British Open
from Jesper Parnevik, and a month later he cruised to a six-shot
victory in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Finally -- deep
breath -- he won the Canadian Open in September. You can
understand why a season like that would make any golfer a little
wary of the word encore.
``I'm not even going to try to top it,'' Price said last week.
``Last year was phenomenal, and I would certainly like to have
another year like it, but realistically, that's the kind of year
you dream of and you should just be grateful. I am.''
In all, Price accumulated more than $2 million in prize money
worldwide, and his majestic season was the single best year for a
golfer since Tom Watson won seven tournaments, including the
British Open, in 1980. In the last two years Price has won nine
times on the Tour, plus that British Open, the best record in 15
``I see no reason why Nick can't have another great season, but
nobody has ever kept up that pace, except for maybe Nicklaus,''
says Paul Azinger, who won 11 times between '87 and '93. ``It's so
hard to maintain that success these days. Ten wins in two years.
That's unbelievable. How does a player keep winning like that? Who
knows? Nick's just awesome right now.''
``I've always thought Nick Price had an aura about him even
before he became Nick Price,'' says Mark McCumber. ``I've always
thought he carried himself and walked like a champion. Now he has
the countenance and record to match it. A lot of guys have great
success and then their heads blow up, but if anything, Nick is
even nicer than in the past.''
Having passed up the Tour so far this year to play overseas, Price
seemed to approach the Honda more as early practice for the
Masters. He shot rounds of 71-70-69-74 to finish 13th. Price has
his sights aimed at Augusta, where only once, in 1986 when he set
the course record of 63, was he in serious contention, finishing
fifth. Earning a green jacket would make him the first player to
win three straight majors since Ben Hogan did it in 1953.
With Price not yet at top form, Faldo's competition at the Honda
boiled down to what appeared to be a couple of easy Marks:
Calcavecchia and O'Meara. Though both are talented players,
neither had won a Tour event since 1992. Calcavecchia's last win
came at the Phoenix Open, O'Meara's one week later at the AT&T
After a 66 in the opening round last Thursday, Calcavecchia spoke
hopefully about his chances for a victory. ``It's almost like I'm
trying to get my first win again,'' he said. ``I've got to get
back in the chase more often. Last year I only had three chances.
I want to be in the hunt eight, nine, 10 times.''
Nine years ago Calcavecchia participated in the Honda Classic as a
caddie for Ken Green. The following year he won the tournament
with a caddie of his own. He won again the next season, and in '89
he won two Tour events and the British Open. Suddenly the guy who
had struggled through three qualifying schools and a myriad of
mini-tours was becoming sated. ``It's hard to stay on top in this
game,'' Calcavecchia says. ``You start to win and think you can
relax. That happened to me. You just get complacent.''
Calcavecchia says that missing the cut by one stroke at the PGA
last season turned him around. ``I told myself, That's it. I'm
tired of getting beat by guys I know I can beat,'' he remembers.
``I'm tired of floundering around 30th or 40th on the money list.
I want to feel like I'm a player to be reckoned with again.''
All of that said, Calcavecchia came out Friday and shot an
unsightly 77 that concluded with a botched one-foot par putt on
18. He then bolted into the locker room and barked at nobody in
particular, ``Four beers to go.'' Alas, on the week- end he added
a lackluster 74-72 to finish 47th.
O'Meara's troubles have had nothing to do with a lack of desire.
He slipped to 86th on the money list last season while coming
nowhere near winning a tournament and places the blame on family
matters, including the construction of a new house outside
Orlando. But of more significance was the illness of his longtime
caddie, Donnie Wanstall. Wanstall was discovered to have multiple
sclerosis after collapsing on the driving range at The Players
Championship last March. ``It puts everything in perspective,''
says O'Meara. ``I haven't played well for the last year and a
half. This game has a way of eating away at your confidence. It's
a tough, tough game. The secret is standing up and having that
feeling, a comfortable feeling, a flow, and that's just now
starting to come back. I'm anxious but cautious.''
O'Meara, who has made the cut in all seven tournaments he has
played this season, shot 68-65 to grab a three-shot lead at the
halfway point at the Honda, whereupon he was asked about his
winless streak. He sounded remarkably like Calcavecchia the day
before. ``I'm not going to put pressure on myself,'' O'Meara said.
``I'm not going to say that it'll be miserable if I never win
again. It won't be. But I believe I'll be back in the winner's
circle. If not this week, then next week or the week after that.
I've never lost hope.''
The waiting ended two days later when O'Meara held off the
late-charging Faldo to win by a stroke. ``It was a huge win for me
right now, a huge confidence boost,'' O'Meara said. ``I let myself
know that I can still do it, that I can still win under pressure.
I'm just glad it's over.''
O'Meara's only other competition on Sunday came from the upstart
Ian Woosnam, who finished two shots back. Woosnam, who hadn't
raised a pulse on these shores since he won the 1991 Masters, was
playing in his first tournament since the Johnnie Walker World
Championship last December. He had followed that event with a
two-month hiatus from golf to pursue his other favorite sport,
fishing. After playing only seven practice rounds leading up to
the Honda, Woosnam announced early in the week that he just hoped
to make the cut, but instead found himself tied for the lead on
Sunday before finishing like a guy who hadn't played in three
months. ``Down the stretch I felt myself chickening out a little
bit instead of going for my shots like I would in season,''
Woosnam said. ``But all in all not bad for a guy just off
Although his bid to win a second straight was thwarted by O'Meara,
it was still a significant showing for Faldo, who is rounding into
form for the Masters and perhaps a season such as Price enjoyed
last year. He also seems to be mellowing slightly. ``We've talked
about his time in America quite a bit, and I think he misses his
family a great deal,'' says Colin Montgomerie, a fellow Brit who
was a runner-up to Ernie Els at last year's U.S. Open. ``But if he
can get past that, the expectations for success are lower here,
the pressure of playing for Britain is off. He seems more relaxed
here, more talkative.''
Says Faldo, ``It is just easier for me here. There are so many
fewer distractions that I can have some fun and be myself more.''
After he won at Doral two weeks ago, Faldo acted like the host of
his own variety show. During the championship press conference a
telephone rang nearby. ``That must be my wife,'' Faldo remarked.
``Tell her I've got the check in my back pocket. You can now shop.
My wife shops for Great Britain.''
He then went on to share an off-color joke about American beer and
a boat . . . never mind. ``I've known Nick for a long time, and
to me he has always had one of the best senses of humor of anybody
I've ever met,'' says Peter Jacobsen, a qualified judge of comedy.
``It's just that he's focused on the golf course. He becomes
somebody he thinks he needs to be to win. And you know what? It
``I just didn't know what to expect out here,'' says Faldo. ``Very
few players can come on and off the U.S. Tour and win. It seems
like you've got to get acclimated. I started slowly, but now I'm
doing exactly what I hoped to do over here. I'm excited about the
But lest anyone think that Faldo's new approach has cut into his
practice time, forget it. At the Honda he worked for an hour and a
half every day on putting drills to perfect the cross-handed style
he adopted last September. Then he went to the driving range and
practiced dozens of knockdown shots with nearly every club in his
bag to combat the violent wind gusts at Weston Hills.
Perhaps the true testimony to Faldo's discipline occurred two
weeks ago at Doral as he sat in the scorer's tent on Sunday
afternoon waiting for the final pairing of Greg Norman and
Jacobsen to finish. Tied with Norman and leading Jacobsen by a
single stroke, Faldo refused to watch them play the 18th hole and
stared instead at the flaps of the canvas tent. He listened to the
crowd gasp as Norman dunked his approach shot into the water and
Jacobsen narrowly missed a 50-foot putt that would have sent the
tournament to a playoff.
When he was asked about it later, Faldo recalled the final moments
of a tournament in Leeds in 1982 when he walked out onto the
clubhouse balcony to watch a competitor hole out. ``The guy sank a
long putt to drop me from fifth to sixth and cost me a hundred
quid,'' Faldo says. ``Ever since then it has become a superstition
of mine that I never watch the others finish out. That's why I
didn't look back.''
Why bother when you've got so much to look forward to?