The waiting ended two days later when O'Meara held off the late-charging Faldo to win by a stroke. "It was a huge win for me right now, a huge confidence boost," O'Meara said. "I let myself know that I can still do it, that I can still win under pressure. I'm just glad it's over."
O'Meara's only other competition on Sunday came from the upstart Ian Woosnam, who finished two shots back. Woosnam, who hadn't raised a pulse on these shores since he won the 1991 Masters, was playing in his first tournament since the Johnnie Walker World Championship last December. He had followed that event with a two-month hiatus from golf to pursue his other favorite sport, fishing. After playing only seven practice rounds leading up to the Honda, Woosnam announced early in the week that he just hoped to make the cut, but instead found himself tied for the lead on Sunday before finishing like a guy who hadn't played in three months. "Down the stretch I felt myself chickening out a little bit instead of going for my shots like I would in season," Woosnam said. "But all in all not bad for a guy just off holiday."
Although his bid to win a second straight was thwarted by O'Meara, it was still a significant showing for Faldo, who is rounding into form for the Masters and perhaps a season such as Price enjoyed last year. He also seems to be mellowing slightly. "We've talked about his time in America quite a bit, and I think he misses his family a great deal," says Colin Montgomerie, a fellow Brit who was a runner-up to Ernie Els at last year's U.S. Open. "But if he can get past that, the expectations for success are lower here, the pressure of playing for Britain is off. He seems more relaxed here, more talkative."
Says Faldo, "It is just easier for me here. There are so many fewer distractions that I can have some fun and be myself more."
After he won at Doral two weeks ago, Faldo acted like the host of his own variety show. During the championship press conference a telephone rang nearby. "That must be my wife," Faldo remarked. "Tell her I've got the check in my back pocket. You can now shop. My wife shops for Great Britain."
He then went on to share an off-color joke about American beer and a boat...never mind. "I've known Nick for a long time, and to me he has always had one of the best senses of humor of anybody I've ever met," says Peter Jacobsen, a qualified judge of comedy. "It's just that he's focused on the golf course. He becomes somebody he thinks he needs to be to win. And you know what? It works."
"I just didn't know what to expect out here," says Faldo. "Very few players can come on and off the U.S. Tour and win. It seems like you've got to get acclimated. I started slowly, but now I'm doing exactly what I hoped to do over here. I'm excited about the future."
But lest anyone think that Faldo's new approach has cut into his practice time, forget it. At the Honda he worked for an hour and a half every day on putting drills to perfect the cross-handed style he adopted last September. Then he went to the driving range and practiced dozens of knockdown shots with nearly every club in his bag to combat the violent wind gusts at Weston Hills.
Perhaps the true testimony to Faldo's discipline occurred two weeks ago at Doral as he sat in the scorer's tent on Sunday afternoon waiting for the final pairing of Greg Norman and Jacobsen to finish. Tied with Norman and leading Jacobsen by a single stroke, Faldo refused to watch them play the 18th hole and stared instead at the flaps of the canvas tent. He listened to the crowd gasp as Norman dunked his approach shot into the water and Jacobsen narrowly missed a 50-foot putt that would have sent the tournament to a playoff.
When he was asked about it later, Faldo recalled the final moments of a tournament in Leeds in 1982 when he walked out onto the clubhouse balcony to watch a competitor hole out. "The guy sank a long putt to drop me from fifth to sixth and cost me a hundred quid," Faldo says. "Ever since then it has become a superstition of mine that I never watch the others finish out. That's why I didn't look back."