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Nick Faldo
Nick Faldo spends too much time in his civilian clothes these days to be completely comfortable with his golf game, he says. (Getty Images)

Wednesday Notebook: Faldo's scary admission

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- In his prime, Nick Faldo was one of the game’s most feared competitors. A man who could pick apart any golf course and stare down an opponent not unlike Tiger Woods does now.

So even though he spends his time in the broadcast booth these days and rarely plays competitively, to hear Sir Nick say that “venturing out on the golf course is a little scary right now” was quite an admission.

Now 52, Faldo is 20 years removed from his victory at St. Andrews, which was the second of his three British Open titles. He’s playing in his 34th this week with his son Matthew, who was a year old when his dad won at the Home of Golf, on the bag and his parents and three daughters in attendance.

And does he think about contending like Greg Norman did at 53 at Royal Birkdale and Tom Watson, then 59, did last year at Turnberry? Not at all.

“Obviously Greg was very impressive because he plays a minimal amount of golf, and then we all saw Tom,’” Faldo said. “To me, Tom was going to be one of those shows, was this the greatest sporting achievement. … In my opinion, this game delivered a scarring to him to get that close, almost get your hands on it was hard, unbelievably hard. 

“But for me … I sit on this (chair) for six hours a day now, and it feels like it's still stuck at the back of my shirt when I'm trying to play golf. My No. 1 goal is the fact that, as I said, I've got Matthew on the bag and I've got to just make sure I have a good time out there.”

WESTWOOD WOWS 'EM: The Association of Golf Writers held its annual dinner at St. Andrews on Tuesday night with more than 350 journalists, golf officials and players in attendance.

Oh, and the Duke of York, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, was among the speakers. Prince Andrew was the Captain of the Royal & Ancient from 2004-2006 and is actively involved in promoting the game.

Lee Westwood, who received the Golf Writer’s Trophy 2009, led the contingent of players at the festivities that also included recent U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell, European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Robert Karlsson and Geoff Ogilvy.

The affable Westwood, who earned about $1.5 million for winning last year’s Race to Dubai on the European Tour, had several good lines. One came at the expense of his wife, Laurae, as he thanked her for her support.

“You look gorgeous,” Westwood said. “I think some of the money from the Race to Dubai went into that dress.”

But the line of the night came as the Englishman looked over at PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, who was seated at the head table with Westwood.

“Please pass on my congratulations to Steve Stricker,” Westwood said, referring to Sunday’s John Deere Classic champion. “It’s lovely to see an American win on your tour.”

Eight of the last 11 tournaments on the PGA TOUR have been won by international players, including Westwood’s victory at the St. Jude Classic presented by Smith & Nephew.

In the other major presentation of the evening, the AGW’s Michael Williams Trophy for Outstanding Services to Golf went to Seve Ballesteros. Montgomerie accepted for the Spaniard, who is battling brain cancer.

“In America you are very fortunate to have Arnold Palmer,” Montgomerie said. “In Europe we have Seve. Let’s all hope that we see that passion, inspiration and genius for many years to come.”

SOMETHING SPECIAL FROM SERGIO: Count Sergio Garcia among the many Spaniards who are still giddy over his country’s World Cup victory on Sunday night. In fact, he’s working on a special outfit to wear this week at the British Open.

“Hopefully a nice surprise -- be patient,” he said. “It was great, so intense. For the country it has been the best thing ever. Everybody has gone ballistic. It is great to see.”

So can he draw inspiration from Spain’s world champions or his good friend Rafael Nadal’s win at Wimbledon a week ago? Maybe. Garcia only has one top-10 on either side of the Atlantic this year, but he has six top-10s in 13 British Open appearances, including a tie for fifth at St. Andrews in 2005.

“I hope so,” Garcia said. “That’s what we’re here for. I love this tournament. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not going through my best time but I wouldn’t miss this tournament for the world. I’m here to do well.

“I know the people are always behind me here. It’s very special. The whole experience is great -- the championship, the course and the crowd. They have carried me so nicely over my career and hopefully I can give them something to cheer.”

POULTER THE PROVOKER?: As he is wont to do, Ian Poulter stirred the pot a little earlier this week with some of the comments he made to Lawrence Donegan of The Guardian UK.

"The American guys who have won all the tournaments over the past few years are getting older," the colorful Brit said. "Phil [Mickelson] is 40 – can he do what Vijay [Singh] did in his 40s? He's strong enough; it's whether he is hungry enough, I guess.” 
Poulter went on to explain that the best players in the United States are getting older while the Europeans in their late 20s and early 30s are coming into their own. Think Justin Rose, who has won two of his last three starts, and U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell. Even Poulter, who got his first TOUR win in February.  

"In five years' time we should have taken a few majors,” Poulter went on to say. “I don't want to put a number on it but the [English] guys that are in the top 40 in the world are all capable of winning them. It's for us to go out there and prove it but we can certainly win one or two a year, for sure."

Asked later about Poulter’s comments, Mickelson took the high road. “Yeah, April went well,” the Masters champ said to laughter in the press room.

“I didn't see comments. I like Ian, I think he's a good guy. I love his clothes, I think that they're stylish and fun.  I think they look great on him.  I compliment him all the time.
   
“We get along well, and we've had a lot of fun in the Ryder Cups playing against each other, and we have some good fun out on TOUR.  I just think Ian is a good guy, so I don't know what else to say.”

BRITISH OPEN WEATHER: There’s a 70 percent chance of rain during the first round of the 150th British Open but with a high of 66 – more than 10 degrees higher than it was on a wet, bone-chilling Wednesday -- it might feel almost balmy.

Some thunderstorms are expected Thursday afternoon with wind gusts of 22 mph. The rain should continue into Friday, the gusts will increase to 28 mph and the temperature will drop back into the 50s.

The chance of precipitation on the weekend decreases to 60 percent with some bright patches on Saturday and more wind from the southwest. The breezes off St. Andrews Bay will be gentler on Sunday but rain could still be an issue.

“We always joke around that they should try and play the British Open in the summer some year,” said U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who grew up in Portrush on the northern coast of Ireland. “… I’ve got all kinds of wet gear and cashmere and woolly hats and mittens, and we're ready for anything the course is going to throw at us this week.”

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