Exactly three years after his last competitive appearance, three-times winner Sir Nick Faldo will make a sentimental return to Muirfield and the Open Championship this July.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, the 55-year-old Englishman, now the lead analyst for both the Golf Channel and the CBS network in the US, plans to play the famous East Lothian links, where he twice claimed the famous Claret Jug, in 1987 and 1992.
“I made the decision to go only last Monday,” he said. “I was in the gym at home and just thought ‘go and play’.
“I’ve been saying for years now that I was done playing and to go back would be stupid. But this will be the last time I will have the chance to walk Muirfield. I don’t want to sit back when I’m 70 and think, ‘I should have gone’.”
Understandably, Faldo’s expectations are somewhat lower than in his heyday, when he won 40 times around the world – six of those victories in major championships – and spent a total of 98 weeks ranked No.1.
“I’m already looking forward to it,” he continued. “It will be so much fun to play practice rounds with the guys. My aim is just to enjoy the whole experience. Realistically though, the ultimate goal will be to make the cut.
“Having said that, I don’t want to call this a ceremonial thing, even if I’m doing it as much for my family as I am for myself. My son, Matthew, will be on the bag. And my other kids will all be there to watch. I just want to mingle with the best golfers in the world one last time. Plus, it’s Muirfield and the last time I’ll be able to play there in an Open. I’m fit enough right now that I won’t embarrass myself. I have no intention of playing when I’m fat and can’t make a backswing.
“Some days I hit shots and think, ‘that’s alright’. But other times it isn’t. So I’ll go there with the attitude that I will give 100 per cent on every shot and what will be will be. That’s going to be my theme for the week. I know the people watching won’t really care what I shoot. But I will, even if it is three years since I played any golf with a card in my hand.
“I have no idea how I will perform. I can still hit the short shots well enough, but the 3-irons can be a bit ‘clunky’. Which is why I carry a hybrid. I hate mis-hitting shots. I just want to hit the ball nicely.”
One final sign of the times will also be evident. Citing hands that are “not what they used to be”, Faldo will employ the so-called “claw grip” on his putter.
“It works,” he said with a smile. “It tricks my mind, I think. Next stop hypnotism.”