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Posted March 24, 2012, 6:38 pm
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1996: Nick Faldo makes up six shot deficit to win Masters

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    1996: Nick Faldo makes up six shot deficit to win Masters
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  • Article Photos
    1996: Nick Faldo makes up six shot deficit to win Masters
    Photos description
  • Article Photos
    1996: Nick Faldo makes up six shot deficit to win Masters
    Photos description
    Front Page of The Augusta Chronicle after the 1996 Masters Tournament

On Sunday, Nick Faldo methodically chipped away at Greg Norman's six-stroke lead in the Masters and then methodically held on to capture his third green jacket.

He finished at 12-under-par 276. Norman, his nearest competitor, was five strokes back.

Faldo studied each shot from all angles - even the tap-ins. He never seemed to question where a shot would land, even when he drove the ball into the trees at the 14th hole. He studied the angles, tested the wind and knocked it 35 feet from the hole.

As he approached the green, he again studied, marked his ball, took a swig of bottled water and smiled.

The rugged Englishman even acknowledged the fans with a grin and a small wave, and two strokes later saved par.

Oh yes, it was the old obsessed-with-his-game Nick Faldo who won the green jacket in 1989 and 1990 and held the No. 1 spot in the Sony World Ranking in 1993-94 for a record 81 weeks. But as he claws his way back to the top of the golf world, it seems like someone said, ``Hey Nick, have a good time.''

Not that it's all been fun.

Early in 1995, there was the decision to play the PGA Tour full time, which took him out of his homeland for much of the year.

There was also constant retooling of his game with coach David Leadbetter.

But primarily, there was that nasty divorce late in the year from his second wife, Gill, and suddenly very public romance with 21-year-old former Arizona State golfer Brenna Cepelak.

The British press went nuts.

As Faldo remembers it, they rummaged through his garbage, tapped his phone, and every move he made he felt the stare of several-hundred-millimeter camera lenses on his back.

Did it interfere with his game?

Of course, he said at Miami's Doral-Ryder Open in late February.

Faldo, who's never enjoyed the media glare, was suddenly about as far as possible from being the loner he wanted to be.

He started perfecting that loner image early.

Struck by the TV image of Jack Nicklaus and the towering pines of Augusta in the 1971 Masters, Faldo took up golf at the age of 13. It quickly became an obsession to him as his grades in school went to pot. He usually played alone, developing a silent approach to the game that followed him into his professional career.

Faldo was famous for playing rounds in complete silence. Being paired with him was tantamount to being paired with a machine.

Not that all of this silence served him well.

In the early '80s, he was becoming known as Foldo - consistently blowing leads.

In 1985 he did a short tutorial with emerging golf guru Leadbetter, but Leadbetter's prognosis of two years to rebuild Faldo's game scared him off.

It wasn't until 1987, when his career seemed to be quickly winding down, that Faldo went back to the man he now affectionately calls ``Lead.''

He snatched a British Open victory that year. Two years later, he won that first Masters. Then he picked up the second in 1990 and the British in the same year and again in 1992. In 1993 he finished second at the British and third in the PGA Championship.

Then he hit a slide.

He simply wasn't playing very well, he said, and that wasn't acceptable.

So he came to the United States, though he's still a citizen of Great Britain, to play the PGA Tour full time. Specifically, he wanted to improve his putting by working on the consistent greens of U.S. courses.

He also got away from some of the highly technical stuff he and Leadbetter had been working on, opting for ``the natural swing,'' and abandoning the cross-handed putting grip.

He started the year clowning around at Pebble Beach and Phoenix on Super Bowl Sunday. He moved east for the Daytona 500 and a space shuttle launch in Florida, even taking a late afternoon fishing trip at Doral with Cepelak, according to Sports Illustrated magazine.

At Doral, Faldo said he was taking an easy approach to the year, feeling like things were coming together and his battles with the British press were subsiding. His expectations weren't too high - he just wanted to start winning tournaments again, especially the majors.

But not necessarily the first one of the year.

Wearing his old-new green jacket, Faldo said he had modest expectations coming into the Masters - having a good tournament would do.

Now he's in the history books, joining Gary Player, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret as three-time Masters winners. One more green jacket and he's in Arnold Palmer land.

Sunday night, a tearful Cepelak said she was just trying to enjoy the moment.

At the green jacket ceremony on the Augusta National putting green, Faldo applauded the fans, extended condolences to Norman and joked about his faithful caddy, Fanny Suneson, having to drag ``that heavy thing around, and the golf bag, too.''

After the ceremony, Suneson and Faldo had a few laughs talking about the difficulties of taking the flag stick at 18 home on the plane.

Today, he'll play at a charity tournament in Columbia, with pop stars Hootie and the Blowfish.

Just a few months into 1996, Faldo has already climbed his way back to the top of the golf world, and that in itself is something to smile about.

1996 Masters

 PlayerFR1R2R3R4 Earn.
1Nick Faldo-1269677367 $450,000
2Greg Norman-763697178 $270,000
3Phil Mickelson-665737272 $170,000
4Frank Nobilo-571717269 $120,000
5Scott Hoch-467737371 $95,000
5Duffy Waldorf-472716972 $95,000
7Davis Love-372717468 $77,933
7Jeff Maggert-371737269 $77,933
7Corey Pavin-375667371 $77,933
10David Frost-270687474 $65,000
10S. McCarron-270707274 $65,000