There sat Nick Faldo last Friday morning, starched and pressed, eating a bowl of Special K from the breakfast buffet at a hotel inside a mall in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break. Toto, we're not in Surrey anymore. Faldo must have been the only person under the age of 96 in Florida who had no idea that half the young minds in America were down at the waterfront waiting for the next wet T-shirt contest to start. As the world's most focused golfer prepared for the second round of the Honda Classic, at Weston Hills Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, he looked slightly out of place. About 3,000 miles out of place, to be exact.
"It's quite lonely to be away from home all the time," Faldo said. "Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday seem to take forever. This is a huge sacrifice for me and my family. We talk every day, and we're always on countdown until our next meeting. The hardest part is that my kids don't fully understand...."
The Honda Classic was the sixth stop on Faldo's American Adventure '95, his yearlong odyssey on the PGA Tour. He embarked on this journey knowing he would often be without his wife, Gill, and their three children, who are at home in England. In February the family spent a week together at Lake Nona, near Orlando, Faldo's home base in the States, but they are currently in the midst of what will be a full month apart.
After four forgettable tournaments out West, in which his best finish was a tie for ninth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Faldo was probably questioning his decision to come to America. But not so anymore. After winning at Doral two weeks ago and finishing a strong second to Mark O'Meara at the Honda last week, Faldo has now pocketed almost $450,000 for the year. "When you're working hard every week, bashing away like mad," said Faldo, "it's nice to be rewarded for it."
But, hey, wait a minute! Wasn't the Honda supposed to be another Nick's show? Nick Price? After all, it was Price who rolled in a prodigious birdie putt late on Sunday to win here in 1994, sparking the most remarkable season in recent memory on the Tour. Now he was using the Honda for his '95 coming-out party. But then Faldo elbowed Price out of the spotlight. Nick nicked Nick.
You could say Faldo stole Price's thunder, except that during the Wednesday pro-am, Price got all the thunder he wanted, plus lightning and 80-mph winds. Price fled to the clubhouse during the near tornado. "I was shaking when I got in the locker room," he said. "When it started raining we went into the hospitality tent, but the walls started rattling and we got out of there fast."
When Price arrived in Fort Lauderdale last year, he was fretting over tendinitis in his wrist. "The Honda victory couldn't have come at a better time," Price remembered. "I was worried because the wrist wasn't healing fast. I was thinking, What is going to happen to me?"
Price would never have believed the answer. First he sank a 35-footer on the 17th hole in the final round to clinch the tournament. He won the Colonial in late May and the Western the first week of July. Two weeks later he drained his famous 50-footer on the 17th hole at Turnberry to steal the British Open from Jesper Parnevik, and a month later he cruised to a six-shot victory in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Finally—deep breath—he won the Canadian Open in September. You can understand why a season like that would make any golfer a little wary of the word encore.
"I'm not even going to try to top it," Price said last week. "Last year was phenomenal, and I would certainly like to have another year like it, but realistically, that's the kind of year you dream of and you should just be grateful. I am."
In all, Price accumulated more than $2 million in prize money worldwide, and his majestic season was the single best year for a golfer since Tom Watson won seven tournaments, including the British Open, in 1980. In the last two years Price has won nine times on the Tour, plus that British Open, the best record in 15 years.