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Sir Nick Faldo With three green jackets to his name the Englishman is a true Masters legend. He talks to Alex Jenkins about his debut, how he handled Augusta’s notoriously tricky greens and his come-from-behind victory over Greg Norman in 1996. On his debut ... My first Masters appearance [in 1979] was very intimidating. I arrived and although I’d seen Augusta on television I really had no idea about the scale of the place. The first thing that strikes you is the undulations – the course is really very hilly – and the hundreds of acres of just perfect fairways. The looks I received from some of the old boys – as if to say, ‘Who’s that guy?’ – was daunting too. On honorary membership ... Although I don’t play the Masters any more I do take part in the Par 3 Contest (pictured) on the Wednesday. Past winners of the Masters get honorary membership but you don’t get the same members’ rights. If I wanted to turn up tomorrow I’d still need to play with a member. On the greens ... The key to Augusta is the greens. Certainly I’d never played on greens like them before and it takes a long time to appreciate that you need to play different types of chips than you’re used to because of their slopes and speed. I remember practicing one- and two-yard chips because a lot of the time that was the only way to stop the ball anywhere near the hole. On the lengthening of the course ... The lengthening was necessary, given how far the guys hit it. They wanted to get them hitting similar irons into the greens as we used to in the 80s, and I think they’ve achieved that. The subtleties of the course have remained – they haven’t touched the 12th hole for example. I am a fan of what they’ve done. On his favourite win ... All three of my wins are incredibly special but certainly 1996 stands out in a number of ways. That was the best I have ever been mentally on a golf course, and to shoot 67 with just one bogey in that kind of situation ... well, that’s about as good as it gets right there. It also came at a time when I wasn’t at my peak playing-wise – I was getting on a bit in my 78


career – so I was very proud of the way I was able to get it done. It is also without doubt the most famous of my wins. Wherever I am – especially in America – people are constantly reminding me of it. They know I have won The Open too, but they are not always correct about the details – they’ll say, ‘You won at Birkdale, right? and stuff like that. But the Masters in 1996 – everyone seems to remember exactly what happened and when. On Greg Norman handling of the media ... Huge credit to him for doing that. I couldn’t have done the same. I would needed to have slept on what happened and gone back and done the interviews the next morning. To stand there and take it on the chin ... that’s what I said to him on the [18th] green, I said: ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down’ because I knew what was coming. I genuinely felt for the guy that day because that would have scarred me. On that famous 2-iron to the 13th which set up birdie ... The thing about that shot was the timing. It came at such a pivotal point in the round. I was originally going to go with the 5-wood but the ball wasn’t sitting right, so I switched to the 2-iron, which came across as indecision on TV, but it wasn’t. It was a great shot at just the right moment. HKGOLFER.COM