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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK
True Brit: Nick Faldo
Who's the greatest?

Who is the greatest Open champion?

THE CONTENDERS
Tom Watson has beaten off five other Open legends to win your nomination for the greatest ever Open champion.

All week we asked you to vote on your favourite winner, and we can now reveal the five-time Open champion polled 37% with three-time champion Nick Faldo in second on 26%.

Seve Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus - voted your Masters master back in April - shared 14%, while Gary Player and another five-time winner Peter Thomson were well back.

America's Watson ruled the Open roost in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His easy manner and affinity with the British crowds made him a popular champion.


Nick Faldo
By Alistair Watkins

Other players may have won the Open more times, but few have had to work as hard to win it as Nick Faldo.

They say great champions are born, but they are also made - and that is what makes Faldo a true great.

Nick Faldo
Born: 18 Jul, 1957, Welwyn Garden City, England
Turned pro: 1976
Major titles: 6
Open wins: 1987, 1990, 1992
Open runner-up: 1993
Other Open facts: 13 top-10 finishes, tied for lowest round in event history with 63, tied for highest number of sub-70 rounds at 33 with Nicklaus
In the mid-eighties Faldo was a good player, a winner of several tour titles and a successful Ryder Cup player. But he was not a major winner.

So Faldo sat down and planned how to become one - and reaped the reward with six majors that included three Claret Jugs.

It took two years of hard, painstaking work to rebuild his swing into the most consistent weapon on the circuit.

There were times when he questioned whether it was all worthwhile, but he stuck at it, practised until the blisters on his hands bled and refused to give in until he finally came out of it a new, improved player.

While this technical work was going on, Faldo was also developing his physique and his mind.

Many would have given up, many would have despaired, but Faldo only had eyes for his first major. And he got his reward in 1987 when he finally triumphed at Muirfield.

The tournament was played in horrendous conditions. It was wet, windy and even misty, but Faldo's swing stood the test and his nerve held as he recorded 18 consecutive pars during the final round to edge out Paul Azinger by the tensest of margins.

His second victory, three years later, saw Faldo at his greatest as he left the entire field in his wake as he romped to a commanding five-shot triumph at St Andrews.

Nick Faldo
Faldo's 1992 win sealed his place as the best British golfer since Vardon
It was his third win in 1992, and his second at Muirfield, that shows Faldo at his greatest.

The clear favourite to win, the pressure on Faldo was immense from the start and it grew and grew until it reached fever pitch on the Sunday.

Facing a late charge from inspired American John Cook, Faldo lost the lead he had held for so long but, with time running out, he picked himself up and clawed it back in the most dramatic fashion to secure an emotional victory.

When backed into a corner he did exactly what great champions should do - he came out fighting and rose to the challenge.

His ruthless dedication over those trophy-laden years had turned him into something of a loner, someone who failed to inspire the affection that contemporaries like Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam did.

There was always respect and admiration for his success but it is only now, 12 years on from his last Open triumph, and eight years from his last Green Jacket, that Faldo has won the fans' adoration.

His powers may have waned and others have usurped him - but, like the true champion he is, nobody will be trying harder come Thursday at Troon.




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