Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Belt Trick Proves Nick Won't Buckle

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Belt Trick Proves Nick Won't Buckle

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SMITH

ANYONE who has spent time watching Nick Faldo on a golf course will have seen how he attends to the most minor of details in a constant quest for perfection.

For example, when making a practice shot he will glance back and mentally check each inch of backswing for plane and angle.

However, Faldo's obsession with the minutiae of his sport was surely verging on the absurd when, a week last Monday, he removed the belt from his shorts before embarking upon two of the most pressured rounds of a glorious career.

Telling the story, Faldo suddenly realised his audience had made a collective decision that he was now bonkers where once he had been brilliant.

"Seriously," he insisted, "I thought, 'I'm not carrying that bit of leather around. I'm only going to get it wet with sweat'.

"I'm like those guys who climb Everest: they cut their toothbrushes in half to save weight. I thought the same thing - 'I'm going for light'."

Faldo had his own mountain to climb in attempting to qualify for the US Open which got under way here today.

It was not enough that this winner of three Open Championships, three Masters titles and 33 other tournaments was having to play his way into a major for the first time in over a quarter of a century.

He also chose to do it on one of the hottest days in June - hence the shorts - at a Lake Nona Country Club which may have been a convenient two-minute drive from his home in Orlando but where 61 wannabes and hasbeens were chasing just three places in the 156-player field for this year's second major.

Had Faldo chosen the regional qualifier at Columbus he would have been among 184 players seeking 33 US Open entries. You do the maths.

Yet in an age when quitting is often seen as the easier option, the fact Faldo, a month short of his 47th birthday, should win through thanks to a birdie at the last hole confirmed the character of a belt-less but tremendously brave competitor.

John Cook, beaten by Faldo into second place at the Muirfield Open in 1992 and also playing at Lake Nona, saluted his rival. …

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