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Nick Faldo: Life Swings

Release date: 01st December, 2004
Publisher: Headline

List Price: £18.99
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Book review

Nick Faldo: Life Swings
By Nick Faldo with Robert Phillip
Headline Publishing

4Sportsbooks.co.uk price: £13.30 (saving £5.70 on rrp)

Nick Faldo is Britain's most successful-ever golfer, one who has enjoyed a playing record that will take some beating. There have been six 'Majors', 34 Tour victories in Europe and the USA, while his succession of Ryder Cup records, most appearances (11), most matches played (46), most matches won (23) and most points won (25), place him unquestionably at the heart of the sport's pantheon.

Yet possibly because of a perceived aloofness, a detachment professional sportsmen consider essential to maintain concentration and prolong success, Nick Faldo divides opinion; sports fans are indifferent towards him.

In his foreword, none other than Jack Nicklaus suggests that, at his peak, Faldo "was among the purest strikers of a golf ball since the peerless Ben Hogan", an assessment with which it is difficult to argue. The Big Bear believes the man from Welwyn Garden City is a sporting hero, up there with Roger Bannister, Seb Coe, Jackie Stewart and Lennox Lewis, so why the indifference?

One answer might be that each of these sportsmen was capable of evoking raw emotion in spectators, whereas golf is not that type of game. Thankfully, British golf does not yet attract American-style crowds keen on hollering, "In the hole!" as soon as the club face has made contact with the ball on a 585 yard par five.

If the absence of spectator-fuelled emotion is one answer to the question of the sports fan's indifference towards Faldo, this at times searingly honest autobiography reveals why he was never likely to be one who wears his heart on his sleeve and was thus unable to make the regular, passionate, fist-clenched connection with his followers and the wider public.

The publication of Life Swings was delayed because Faldo had so much difficulty reliving some of the very personal incidents he describes in it. "To be confronted by all the old demons," he writes, "has been a tough exercise. I thought producing my autobiography would be a gentle stroll down memory lane charting my greatest triumphs with a few humorous anecdotes for light relief; instead of which, it has been a surprisingly difficult process."

In fairness, Faldo does not seek the reader's sympathy, which makes his description of the split with swing guru David Leadbetter after 13 years, or the decision by Fanny Sunesson to break their player-caddie partnership in 1999 all the more believable. In these instances, he reports the facts, although allows himself to be a tad more subjective when it comes to what looks like being an ongoing feud with that "funny old chap", Mark James.

Nevertheless, the book is not without humorous anecdotes. From the Harry Potter-style opening, when a family lodger, a scientist based at the Malaysian Rubber Company in Welwyn had analysed young Faldo's handwriting and discovered a 'desire for greatness', to the time he was testing six different 3-woods ahead of a tournament in Switzerland. Having marked and then hammered 72 balls down the fairway with the new woods, he hurried along to see which club had performed the best. As a big favour, a man who had been watching scooped all 72 balls and had arranged them in a neat pyramid. "Call me a loner?" asks the author, "Now you know why."

This book spends much time on family issues and there is no doubting Faldo's commitment to encouraging youngsters to take up golf, hopeful as he is that they will get a 'feel' for the game. After revealing so much, Faldo will hope to persuade readers that he is not aloof or remote and thus change the sports fan's rather unfair perception of him.



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