Matthew Bates continues our series profiling the golfing greats with a timely look back at the career of Nick Faldo, who became only the second golfer to be knighted when he was named in the Queen's Birthday Honours list last week.
Nick Faldo is the most successful European golfer of the modern era with six major victories, and remains the leading points scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup.
Born in July, 1957, in Welwyn Garden City, Faldo turned professional in 1976 following a relatively successful amateur career, and it didn't take him long to get established on the European Tour.
But he was a late starter, having been inspired to take up the game at the age of 14 after watching Jack Nicklaus finish tied second in the 1971 Masters.
Faldo's rapid rise
The Englishman took to the game extremely easily, and incredibly, just six years after picking up his first golf club, became the youngest player ever to appear in the Ryder Cup.
But he didn't let the occasion get to him as he won all three matches he played in, with two of those victories coming with the help of partner Peter Oosterhuis in the fourball and foursome formats.
Faldo went onto to make 11 consecutive appearances in the event, winning half of the 46 matches he played in.
But while he may have established his place in the Ryder Cup after his performances on the European Tour, during the first decade of his career Faldo failed to bring home an elusive major.
Faldo mounts major challenge
Faldo finished in the top 10 of the Open Championship four times between 1982 and 1986, but it was not until the following year that he finally broke his majors duck.
He always looked at home on the British links courses, and the tournament at Muirfield in Scotland saw Faldo par every hole of his final round to beat Paul Azinger by a shot.
However, he didn't always look so comfortable in the other majors, which are played in the USA. He never won the US Open or the US PGA Championship in his career, although he did come second in both.
Faldo the Master
Faldo was, however, more suited to the Augusta National course that hosted the Masters and he won the famous tournament a total of three times.
After his first victory in 1989, Faldo won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, becoming only the second golfer to do so following Dai Reeves in 1957, and he remains the last golfer to win it.
The following year, he won the coveted green jacket again, becoming the first man to retain the trophy since Jack Nicklaus in 1966.
True grit of a champion
Both the 1989 and 1990 Masters victories had been won via a playoff, with the first against Scott Hoch and the second against Raymond Floyd.
The fact that he was able to come out of both situations victorious showed Faldo?s strength of character, as well as his competitive nature.
The latter year would prove to be a pivotal one in Faldo's career, and one that saw him win the award of US PGA Player of the Year, the first time that a non-American had won it.
As well as the Masters, he also earned his second Open Championship, finishing five shots clear of the field at St Andrews, the home of golf.
Greg Norman had looked to be Faldo's closest challenger, and after two rounds the pair were all square. But Norman's third round 76 proved to be his downfall and he finished sixth. It was not to be the only time that Norman?s loss was to be Faldo's gain.
Faldo breaks the Shark's heart...again
Going into the 1996 Masters, Faldo had already won another Open Championship after his 1992 victory at Muirfield, and was looking for his sixth major championship.
But going into the final round Faldo was six shots behind leader Norman, who had looked superb after a first round course record of 63.
Sunday would be a very different day for Norman, however. His round of 78 came out of nowhere and opened the door for Faldo, whose top-class round of 67 completely swung the tournament into his favour.
It was to be Faldo's last major victory and the following year saw him take part in his last Ryder Cup as a player.
The ultimate honour for Faldo in Kentucky
But in 2008 he returned to the tournament as captain of the European team.
It was not to be a successful reign for Faldo, though, as his side were heavily beaten away from home at Valhalla Golf Club, Kentucky by Paul Azinger's rejuvenated US team.
Faldo's captaincy received negative publicity throughout the competition, and his relationship with the press has been frosty throughout his career.
This was especially true after Faldo's 1992 Open victory speech, where he said that he would thank to the press "from the heart of his bottom".
His wildcard pick of Ian Poulter also received criticism, but his decision was more than justified after Faldo?s fellow Englishman clocked up four wins from five matches.
His captaincy may have ended in defeat, but it should take nothing away from Faldo's life in golf. In 1991 he set up the Faldo Series, a project set up to help young golfers.
One successful graduate is the European Tour's Nick Dougherty, who finished seventh in the 2007 Open.
Faldo's playing career is heavily restricted today, as injuries and other commitments can get in the way, but he has entered himself into this year?s Open at Turnberry, and he is still a very capable golfer at the age of 51.
There are not many people who will dispute Faldo's knighthood, and this week he claimed he was surprised when he heard of the honour. But golf fans that have witnessed his play and his competitive spirit will not be. Arise, Sir Nick.
- Matthew Bates, for Golf.co.uk
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