Faldo: I wanted to be a millionaire by the time I was 30. But look at Rory McIlroy, he's won 12m and he's only 22
00:20 GMT, 11 March 2012
On the other side of the Atlantic, Sir Nick Faldo is revered as a witty and insightful broadcaster whose work for the CBS network and Golf Channel is enriched by an English sense of humour that Americans adore.
One minute he can be prone to sound like Michael Caine, the next like one of the cast of Monty Python.
And, even in moments of mimicry, he always sounds knowledgeable.
Respect: Nick Faldo after his famous
US Masters victory over Greg Norman
at Augusta in 1996
His light but probing touch behind the microphone has been influenced in part by the style John McEnroe brings to his tennis commentary.
In their playing days, neither man could have been accused of having the potential one day to charm armchair audiences.
While McEnroe sulked and raged, Faldo was a singular, headstrong, blinkered golfer who, on the course, rarely communicated beyond a handshake at the start and end of a round.
He cared only for himself, they said.
Yet Faldo, back home last week at his business headquarters in a suite of offices a short walk from Windsor Castle, insists that beneath the demeanour of the cold-eyed assassin that he brought to a golf course during the years he became the most successful British player in modern history, there lurked a child-like mischief that few ever saw.
Meltdown: Greg Norman watched his six-stroke lead disappear in the final round at Augusta
'What I don't like is people saying that I have reinvented myself, just to be popular,' he said.
'That's the biggest load of rollocks. I wanted to be a daft dad to my four kids – that was probably my No 1 thing. I take that to golf, TV needs it; and I guess, I have a bit of entertainer in me, luckily.
'I did look at the way Mac broadcasts, as well as studying other commentators in American sports. I think my sense of humour works well in America and I make sure I go to the range, or the gym, to speak to the guys to know what's happening. My way of entertaining before was just hitting golf balls bloody well.'
Faldo's record for doing just that has stood the test of time. His six majors – victories in the Open in 1987, 1990 and 1992, coupled with his three wins at The Masters in 1989, 1990 and, most famously, in 1996, when he defeated Greg Norman, who held a six-shot lead on the final day – established him for life.
Bitter-sweet: Faldo hugs Norman as they finish up on the 18th hole at Augusta in 1996
Among the photographs on the walls of his boardroom, offering snapshots from his illustrious career, is one of Faldo hugging Norman on the 72nd green at Augusta.
On Friday, Faldo looked at the picture and explained how Norman's meltdown had left him speechless.
'I said to Greg: “I don't know what to say to you, mate, but I want to give you a hug”.'
Augusta had not witnessed anything comparable since until Britain's Rory McIlroy surrendered a four-shot advantage on the final day as Faldo watched uneasily from the CBS commentary studio.
Faldo has known McIlroy since he appeared as a teenager in his Faldo Series, his hugely successful search for a star programme, and he warned American viewers early that afternoon.
'Poor Rory. He's reached that point where the mind shuts down,' he said on air.
Glory days: Faldo receives the Masters green jacket from the 1995 winner Ben Crenshaw
'Once you scare yourself at Augusta – and we have all done it – there's little hope.'
But Faldo does not fear there will be lasting consequences for McIlroy when he returns to the heart of Georgia in three weeks.
'I think Greg was scarred for a while by what happened, but he was towards the end of his career,' said Faldo.
'Rory is still so young, so bulletproof, and he is one of my favourites to win the Masters. 'His No 1 goal will be to be in the same position on the Sunday as he was last time. He's got to world No 1 and he's smart enough to deal with all the questions he can expect when he gets back there.
'He is secure because two months after losing the Masters he won the US Open. I'd back him to play a big part at Augusta in a few weeks' time. He's got a level head – he's a special kid.'
Once that had been a tag pinned to Faldo.
'I wanted to be a millionaire by the time I was 30,' he said, with the
wry look of a man with multi-millions in the bank as the 25th
anniversary of his first major approaches.
'It is a hilarious ambition for these kids playing now. What's Rory won, 12million already! They have no idea.
'I see these silly clips on TV now, and
they call me the one-in-a-million wonder kid. I had long hair and a
ratty set of clubs that didn't match. I used to pack one suitcase and
play in America for three months.
'Now, these kids have jets and clothes waiting for them in the locker room that they wear once and leave behind!'
Faldo's voice carries not a hint of envy. He is the only golfer to have
been knighted in his lifetime and, for all the criticism his
self-detached attitude to the game brought him, Faldo's art was
uncomplicated; the harder he practised, the luckier he became.
Friday, as tourists eagerly snapped photos of Windsor Castle to show
loved ones at home in Toledo, or Tokyo, Faldo stood in front of the
gates dating back to the reign of Henry VIII with a broad smile. Only he
knew intimately the pomp and circumstance of what lies beyond that
entrance guarded by vigilant armed policemen.
Faldo, who grew up as an only child in a council house in Welwyn Garden City, recalls with affection and pride the day he was asked to kneel before the Queen to be knighted.
'The procedure is so wonderfully precise, so British,' said Faldo.
'I was told: “You'll start here and walk shoulder to chest with Gordon.” In the King's and Queen's Room you are asked if you would like to practice how to kneel. You are told you have to have your left foot beside the cushion first, then drop onto your right knee. Well, I saw the funny side of this… I stood looking at it like a long jump. Do I start lef-tright or right-left If you get it wrong, you could fall into Her Majesty!
'What I remember most is Her Majesty seems to be standing a long way back when suddenly, a sword, almost as big as a driver, comes at you. The sword is more than 200 years old and it's cool to think whose head that has been on.
Meltdown: Rory McIlroy suffered the agony of Augusta in last year's final round
You've got to be choking: McIlroy went to pieces when holding a final day lead
Hole new ball game: The world's No 1 will head to the Masters as top dog next week
'I cried afterwards. No doubt, it was the most emotional day of my life, off the golf course, apart from the birth of my four children. It was brilliant to see my mum and dad so proud.'
As Faldo recalled that precious moment, he smiled: 'I am a serious softie.'
Those who played against Faldo would testify against such an admission in court without the need of a subpoena.
But Faldo argued, defiantly: 'For me to be a hard bag of nails on the golf course was generated for the purpose of being a successful golfer. So, I think I did a damn good job. I didn't necessarily make friends. I could do all the things psychologists say are good to do; which others train their backsides off to do. They call it getting in performance-mode nowadays. That's a great quality, isn't it
'But people would see me like that and didn't like it. I was focused, obsessed. But what was an enviable quality on the golf course was seen as not such a great quality off the course.'
Family man: Faldo with his now grown-up children Natalie, Matthew and Georgia, and ex-wife Gill
Faldo is comfortable with that. His three failed marriages tell, at least on the surface, a price Faldo has paid for his insular lifestyle. Yet he has retained strong, loving relationships with his three adult children, Natalie, Matthew and Georgia, as well as with seven-year-old Emma, who lives with her mother, close to his home in Florida.
'Natalie's just started on the production staff of a TV show in America, Matthew's worked for me in the past, and everyone likes him, and Georgia's studying law at East Anglia University – and if she does company law, there will be a job waiting for her!'
Natalie was just a toddler when his career took off, at Muirfield, through the grainy light of an inhospitable Scottish summer.
King of the castle: Sir Nick Faldo in Windsor last week
Faldo typically held the best golfers at bay with 18 holes of par golf. Only months earlier, he had been still trying to piece together a game that had been utterly remodelled with swing coach David Leadbetter.
'I was missing cuts, sponsors were leaving me and I was earning zip,' recalled Faldo.
'At Muirfield, I was so flipping nervous. I worked my tail off on every shot, in terrible weather, under that new kind of pressure.'
At 54, and building a new apartment with views of Windsor Castle, he says he carries only one scar from golf. No one has scored more points for Europe and Ireland in the Ryder Cup than the 25 won by Faldo, but his year as captain ended in defeat, in 2008.
'I think there were lots of people who wanted me to fail, as they thought, “Faldo's got everything”,' he said, sadly.
'It was tough.'
But history will ultimately be generous to Sir Nick Faldo, the English knight adored beyond these shores for the knowledge and entertainment he brings to American TV audiences.