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'COME HOME' PLEA TO BATTERED NICK.

A WIND-BATTERED Nick Faldo tasted failure at Royal Birkdale - blown out of contention by the sort of gale he once could tame.

And, in the wake of a disastrous 75 which leaves him 10 over par and among today's no-hopers, came a dramatic call from his long-time coach David Leadbetter.

In essence it tells him: Come home Nick and save your career.

Leadbetter stresses: "America's target golf is inhibiting Nick. He is losing his creativity and imagination - the qualities that made him a superstar.

"Nick needs courses like Birkdale with all sorts of shifting conditions and difficulties.

"In the States the game is played through the air and the ball lands mostly where it is aimed.

"I believe Nick's self-belief would come back in Europe when he began making the inspirational shots we remember."

Faldo has set up home at Lake Nona in Florida with Arizona blonde Brenna Cepelak.

Last season he came back across the Atlantic to play European tour events just nine times.

And Nick claims to be happier in the States, where there is no highlighting of his personal problems or huge expectation from fans.

But, in the worst slump of Faldo's life, Leadbetter feels Nick needs to rediscover his confidence on the continent where he became a superstar.

"Nick is not far off," insists Leadbetter. "This is not a Seve Ballesteros situation, he is not clueless about what is wrong.

"There is at least one more major in Nick and a lot of very good golf.

"It's just a question of digging deep and coming through this bad spell.

"It's significant that he has made the final day on this thinking-man's course."

It's hard to judge on Faldo's efforts yesterday. Like almost everybody else, the big man spent his 41st birthday blown every which way.

The strains of "Happy Birthday to You", competing with the whining southwesterly greeted Nick as he finished, almost gratefully, with a bogey.

The hopeful sign was that, even in adversity, Faldo could jest. "I would shoot the cat if it sang as much out of tune as that," he told the shivering fans.

But Faldo came in with horror stories. At the 421-yard second hole Nick belted two woods and was still significantly short of the target. And when he made a regulation par five on the 480-yard sixth he glared back down the fairway and said: "That IS a par five, believe me!"

He also had his moments of joy. A 45-foot putt obligingly dropped at the fourth for a birdie. And there was another at 17 when he got up and down from the back of the green for a four.

"You have to scramble your way round here," he said.

"That's the bottom line. You need to get up and down from everywhere.

"A really good score today would be 73. Anything less is just great.

"I'm not worrying about my injured elbow. I can't make that an excuse.

"You still miss greens here when you think you have really nailed the shot. You feel the shot is fine then it flies way off line.

"On the greens it's a contest between the natural breaks and the wind.

"At the 13th I hit one putt nearly two feet off line and amazingly nearly holed it when the wind swung the ball back. I really believe three over par might win this whole thing tomorrow.

"Me? I shall just keep battling away. Playing in these conditions brings some kind of perverse gratification - even when I could hardly stand up."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Clark, Bill
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 19, 1998
Words:590
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