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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
A stiff upper lip - Nick Faldo

Who is the true master of Augusta?

MASTERS' MASTER CONTENDERS

Jack Nicklaus beat off the claims of four other great Masters champions to be crowned your king of Augusta.

To celebrate Arnold Palmer's 50th straight appearance at the Masters, an event he won four times in seven years between 1958-1964, we asked you to pick your all-time Master.

And we can reveal that Nicklaus' six Green Jackets edged him narrowly ahead of Palmer and Gary Player to make him the BBC Sport website users' greatest Master of them all.


Nick Faldo
By Jamie Lillywhite

It was the sight of another Masters legend, Jack Nicklaus, that inspired Nick Faldo to set off on a determined path to emulate him.

Faldo watched Nicklaus win at Augusta and then devoted himself to the sport.

He advanced to schoolboy international ranks, alongside the more naturally gifted Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam.

Soon he won professional events, but demonstrating a single-mindedness that was to characterise his career, he decided to totally rebuild his swing.

FALDO FACTS
Born: 18 July, 1957 England
Turned pro: 1976
Career wins: 38
Major titles: 6
Masters wins: 3 (1989, 1990, 1996)
Masters top-20's: 8
Other Masters achievements: 12 sub-70 rounds; Low round 65; High round 81

He turned to Englishman David Leadbetter, who became the first of the celebrity golfing gurus.

For several years, Leadbetter was seldom to be seen away from Faldo's side at the practice ground as ball after ball was struck, the results scrupulously analysed as if at a NASA laboratory.

The new swing brought the consistency to challenge virtually every week, and yielded an Open victory in 1987 and second in the 1988 US Open.

The following year brought even greater glory.

At the Masters he opened with a 68 which contained the longest putt ever recorded at Augusta, a monster from the edge of the mammoth second green.

Unusually, there was a lot of bad weather that year, which contributed to rounds of 73 and 77.

That disappointing third round, in which putting problems came to the fore, had to be completed on the Sunday, and it was while waiting to begin his final round that Faldo made a crucial decision.

From left to right: Palmer, Player , Nicklaus, Faldo

He changed his long-term Ping putter for a flat-bladed Wilson, and began to hole from all angles in a scintillating 65. Sales of Wilson putters were to go through the roof that summer.

However, it needed a missed two-footer at the 17th from Scott Hoch to put Faldo in a play-off, in which he sent his approach into a bunker.

But inexplicably Hoch missed again from two feet.

In fading light at the 11th, Faldo holed a 15-foot putt for the title and was presented with the Green Jacket by old rival Lyle.

He dominated the golfing world for several seasons after that, in much the same way as Tiger Woods was to soon afterwards.

As defending Masters champion, Faldo carded weekend rounds of 66 and 69 to force another play-off.

This time his opponent was 48-year-old Ray Floyd, and remarkably the title was again decided on the 11th after Floyd's approach plummeted into the pond.

Faldo became only the second man, after Nicklaus, to defend the Masters and the first in the history of majors to win the same event in consecutive play-offs.

Greg Norman (left) congratulates Nick Faldo in 1996
Greg Norman (left) congratulates Faldo in 1996

But it was for the 1996 Masters that he will be best remembered.

Despite reaching eight-under at the halfway mark, a third round 73 left him six shots behind leader Greg Norman with seemingly with no chance of overhauling the Australian, who looked supremely confident in his wide-brimmed hat and colourful shirts.

The two were paired together for the final day and Norman bogeyed the first hole, beginning the most dramatic turn of events ever witnessed at Augusta National.

There was a seven-shot swing in as many holes. Norman capitulated as Faldo intensified. And with a final birdie the Englishman lifted his arms in triumph after completing a round of 67 for a phenomenal five-shot success.

Norman finished with a 78 and was runner-up for the eighth time in majors. There was an 11-shot swing in those 18 holes.

Much could be made of Norman's collapse but it could be argued that it might not have occurred against anyone other than Faldo, one of the greatest-ever match players and an Augusta legend.





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