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Golf: The Open Championship 2003 - Best of Faldo past but late slips grieve gallery.

Byline: Michael Blair

He never quite made it to the sharp end of things but the nostalgia content of his last two rounds of the Open Championship at Royal St George's was priceless.

Nick Faldo showed that you can keep old fires burning. He shot 67 on Saturday and, eleven years after his last Open win, became a contender again.

Out in 34 yesterday and two more birdies later, he was level par and in fifth place.

Great days revisited. But he couldn't keep it up.

He dropped shots at three of the last four holes and the whole of the south-east of England grieved.

But he was under par in two of his rounds and, in the context of this Open, that was certainly worth writing home about.

He made his move yesterday at the fifth and two holes later rammed down a huge putt for an eagle.

Pity about the 18-incher he missed at the next, though.

Birdies at the eleventh and the 14th brought memories flooding back but he got into a bunker on the 15th, missed a shortish putt at the next and there was to be no storming finish.

But nobody was as affectionately received on that long walk up the 18th.

'I had a good weekend,' he said. 'I played something like 42 holes in six under and that's probably as good as anybody.'

It took him to joint eighth.

'This sort of lifts me and tells me I need to work on my stamina if I am to finish something off and win again.

'I really wanted to give it a go today and when I took a glance and saw I was out of it, the steam ran out of me and I finished badly. But there were times when I was doing all the right things.'

The Ryder Cup, he revealed is his last big playing goal.

'From September to September we have points and that gives me time to gear myself up. I want to play as well as I can for that year.'

If Faldo is an enjoyable reminder of great golf past, Ernie Els is very much the manifestation of excellence now.

Els versus Woods was the general expectation but, apart from his second-round 68, Els did not feature.

He had put it about that level par might win the tournament but he couldn't get to that mark.

He shot 72 yesterday and that left him at six over the card.

'I'd have loved to defend successfully,' said last year's champion, 'but I didn't play well enough. That's basically it and good luck to whoever wins.'

He thought that he had got the tough half of the draw, had not been able to start well and thereafter made too many mistakes.

'And blew it.'

Like Faldo, Fred Couples had turned the clock back early in the tournament but he faded to finish eleven over. Had fatigue caught up with him?

'No. A lot of bad shots and not many good ones today. But it's over.

'It was a lot of fun; it was just a hard course. You make quality shots and you can't get birdies. Phil Mickelson exuded good grace, as he invariably does when his disappointment must be intense.

'I enjoyed the tournament,' he said, 'and I thought the R&A did a great job setting up the course. I thought it was a very fair test for this championship.

'I thought that if I could get a good start I might have a chance of making a run, especially if the wind came up. And I birdied the second hole. But I turned in one under, which wasn't good enough and when I triple-bogeyed the tenth I lost a ball and that took the fight out of me.'

Tom Watson had a memorable Open and his six over at the end was a score that defied his years.

'But it was a struggle,' he said. 'Whenever I finish playing here I feel as though I've been 15 rounds with Lennox Lewis. My week was highlighted by my very good putting.'

He has now, at the age of 53, been on the leaderboard in two major championships.

'Yes, I'm happy about the way I played in the kids' majors.'

Greg Norman was another who put in a strong word for the older generation and he, too, was six over at the end. He had been pleasantly surprised. 'All in all I have performed fairly well. ' St George's, he repeated, was an uncomfortable type of course. 'But it rewards the guy who has the courage of his convictions.'

Troon next year, where he lost in a play-off in 1989?

'I like that golf course.'

CAPTION(S):

Nick Faldo, who dropped shots at three of last four holes, walks up the 18th fairway to rapturous applause with caddie Fanny Sunesson
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 21, 2003
Words:812
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