Slimmer Faldo is in good nick to break drought

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 December, 2004, 12:00am

'There's no reason why not. That's the goal'

The roar from the gallery on the 18th hole brought memories flooding back for six-time Major winner Nick Faldo as he turned the clock back to put himself into contention.

A glorious 24-foot putt on the last was a wonderful end to what was a brilliant round for the 47-year-old Englishman, who has put himself in prime position to lift his first tour title in seven years.

Faldo has tasted success in Hong Kong before. He won the Johnnie Walker Classic back in 1990 and now Europe's leading points scorer in Ryder Cup history has a chance to end his title drought after carding an impressive five-under-par 65 that put him within touching distance of the leaders.

Asked whether he could win in Hong Kong again after finishing the day in joint fourth position, the England great said: 'My goodness. I'll just try to do the same, just keeping it in the same mode. There's no reason why not. That's the goal. Keep churning out the routine. I want to still be competitive.

'I have been working on fundamentals of the swing and everything and all areas to find out what works and stick with it. I'm just going to do that tomorrow. I'm not going to slack it around,' continued Faldo, who is nine under after three rounds. 'It's a great opportunity, so let's test it all tomorrow. I know what to do, it might take more of a conscious effort to do it.' Since winning the Nissan Open in the United States in 1997, Faldo has not been able to rise to the same heights, but all that could change today. If he does win, he owes his success to persistence, hard work and a 'South Beach' diet that has made him a new man.

'I've just been cutting out the naughty stuff, that's the goal,' explained Faldo of his new diet. 'So you have a more consistent sugar level throughout the day rather than going up and down. Obviously, certain fruits will send it up. I've cut out the fried stuff and desserts. I'm allowed one dessert a week, which is a treat. I know what are the foods I should eat,' said the Englishman, who revealed he has lost about 6kg since going on the diet in late August.

'I got advice from my good old doctor who said I needed to lose a few and it's worked. If you're weighing six kilos less, that's a significant amount,' he said.

Faldo was ready to step up the challenge at Fanling today. He played two superb holes on the 17th and 18th that had the gallery cheering. The three-time British Open champion was pleased with his round that saw him score seven birdies and just two bogeys.

'Yeah, very nice, 24 feet at the last and also on 17 was also from 24 feet for birdies. I just have to keep plugging away and hit very good shots. I'm just doing what I'm trying to do. Working hard on reading the greens, lining up and it's paying off,' he said.

While one former Major winner had a brilliant round, another ex-Major champion faded out of title contention.

Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal shot a disappointing one-over-par 71 that put him in joint 14th place on four under for the tournament. The two-time Masters champion was clearly not happy.

'It was really disappointing. I putted really badly today. The putting just let me down today. The conditions were tough, but I just didn't putt well. I had birdie chances on two, three, four [holes], but I didn't make them,' said Olazabal, a former Hong Kong Open winner.

'On the seventh, I had another birdie chance and I even had an eagle chance on the 12th. It was just like that. I don't know what I need. I am six shots behind. There are a lot of people in between. I would really need an extraordinary round [to win it].' Olazabal did have a birdie blitz when he won the Hong Kong Open, but the Spaniard insisted: 'That was during the last three holes [of the last round], but I will need something like nine-under to do anything. Realistically, I think I will aim for the top 10.' Another former Major winner, Paul Lawrie, enjoyed his best round so far after carding a two-under-par 68 that put him eight shots off the lead.

'I played very well today. I hit them nicely and holed a couple of decent putts. I still missed a few chances. Yesterday, I had a couple of bogeys on the back nine. But 71 wasn't a bad score. I played nicely today,' said Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion.

'Obviously, the conditions are the same for everyone. You've got to hit some lower shots as opposed to some higher shots and you accept the weather is part of the game.

'I have no target [in the final round]. I will just play one shot at a time and take whatever comes. Obviously, you can't play well every day. We'll see what happens. But I am hoping for the best.'

The Scot was looking forward to going home as he signs off for the year after playing in the final round today at Fanling.

'I'm going home tomorrow night and I won't be playing for a few weeks.

'My schedule has not been decided for next year. I've been here a few times. It's been great here. I love it. I played in China [Volvo China Open in Shanghai] last week.

'It's nice to come to these places where golf is booming. It's good for everyone,' he said.

'I'm looking forward to going home. I have been away only last week and this week, but it will be nice to go home,' he said.