Faldo on the defensive

By Brian Keogh

Memories of Nick Faldo’s cringe-inducing 1992 Open Championship winning speech came flooding back during a disappointing media briefing by Europe’s Ryder Cup captain at Wentworth yesterday.

Just weeks after being labelled “a prick” by his American counterpart Paul Azinger in a Sunday newspaper, Europe’s greatest Ryder Cup player gave the media little encouragement to warm to him during a new conference that bordered on the absurd.

Straight answers to burning questions, such the vice-captaincy void left by Paul McGinley’s resignation eight months ago, were met with straight bat responses that will have done little to improve his already tenuous relationship with the press.

Many still remember the embarrassment of Muirfield, when Faldo ‘thanked’ the press “from the heart of my bottom” as he lifted the Claret Jug for the third time. Yesterday he played his cards so close to his chest, it bordered on the ridiculous.

Asked if he had plans to announce his vice-captains, he said: “I haven’t got anything to tell you yet, no.”

He couldn’t even say how many he might have, adding cryptically: “Speculate from zero to six. We could go around the houses on this. I'm not here to go around the houses. It will definitely be before the Ryder Cup - just in case they miss the flight!"

Sergio Garcia’s win at the Players Championship was hailed by Faldo as “a massive leap” and he also had words of praise for Darren Clarke following the Ulsterman’s return to form with last month’s victory in the BMW Asian Open.

Faldo said: "It was great, probably more so for what Darren has been through off the golf course. For him to come back was very emotional. He's been trying hard, hasn't he.

"I got a quick glimpse of that, saw the putt and obviously I congratulate Darren on his efforts."

Asked what the win said about Clarke's character, Faldo said: "Well, what he showed at The K Club was character beyond belief really."

The Englishman was also asked if he felt he had made mistakes in his tenure so far, but sniped: “Is that allowed or not? Are mistakes allowed? No, I’ve had learning experiences.”
Given Azinger’s recent comments, Faldo agreed that the Americans were far more serious about the Ryder Cup this time around, adding that his opposite number is “drumming it up a bit more.”

He said: “I think they are going to be coming at us full guns, and I know that’s the way I’m thinking as well.”

As for Azinger’s barbed comments, Faldo joked that there might have been a misprint, jokling mirthlessly: “I got on very well with Zinger. We did two years together at ABC and I think what he said was he was actually very PRo-nICK.”

Seeing that his ‘joke’ caused little rolling in the aisles, he turned to European Tour boss George O’Grady and added: “They are a hard audience, aren’t they? That was the joke of the day. So we’ll start again.”