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Do You Know Me? Not Bloody Likely!
Rick Reilly
April 08, 1991
There's a loose side to tightly wound golf star Nick Faldo. But he does his best not to show It
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April 08, 1991

Do You Know Me? Not Bloody Likely!

There's a loose side to tightly wound golf star Nick Faldo. But he does his best not to show It

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Melanie never gave him kids, but Gill bore him Natalie in 1986 and was pregnant again two years later. This time, though, Gill came home from amniocentesis looking red-eyed. The doctor had said it was possible that their son would be born with Down's syndrome.

So, how does a perfectionist handle Down's syndrome? How does that fit in? "We both believed, Gill and I, that life is hard enough without starting without a full set of marbles," says Nick. "It wouldn't be fair to try life like that, so we both believed, if the tests were positive, that we should abort it. But looking back on it now, who knows what we would have done."

The doctor promised to call in two days, but after three he hadn't. Nor after four. Nor after five, either. Every time the phone rang, Faldo thought, Is this the call that tells me it's all wrong? The tension was so thick that Nick and Gill could hardly stand to look at each other, much less talk about what they were going through. On the sixth day, Gill took Natalie to a birthday party just to try and forget for a while. Naturally, that's when the phone rang.

When Gill came back, Nick was waiting at the door with the world's widest grin. They both cried. Matthew was born, perfectly normal, in March 1989.

"I've grown up," says Nick. "I've gotten wiser. Before, maybe golf was everything to me. Now it's not. It's not the be-all and end-all. I know I'd trade it all in to keep my family—in a heartbeat."

Now Faldo is thinking maybe it wouldn't be the end of the world if he showed people he is not the latest offering from IBM. Maybe the man with 1,000 impressions could try doing himself. "I really would like to express myself more," he says. "I'm a totally different guy than I've been portrayed. I just can't seem to smile much on the course. I think of funny things to do, but I don't do them. Sometimes my wife will come down the stairs looking ravishing in a red dress, her hair all done up perfectly, and I'll think, My god, she looks so gorgeous. But before I can think to say it, she'll say [he imitates a high voice], 'Well, don't you think I look nice tonight?' Then it's too late, isn't it?"

He's got a lot of Joyce in there but a lot of George, too, and George usually wins. Maybe he's too British to change. "You don't know what British people are like," he says. "If I started smiling more, Brits would say [high Cockney voice], 'Oh, look at 'im, would you. Everything is so rosy for 'im. But you watch. 'E'll get 'is comeuppance.' Brits are like that. Besides, I'm afraid I might lose track of what I'm trying to do. It'd be, 'Sure he's fun, but what has he achieved?' "

That's it, really. There is too much left to achieve for Faldo to let his guard down now. There are too many trophies to hold before the picture hangs straight, before the fireplace is centered. He must win a U.S. Open, that's for sure. He must win a PGA. He wants more majors. He wants more legend. "I'd like people to say, 'Did you see Nick Faldo play golf in his heyday? I did, and he was something.' That's part of greatness."

But he wants more than that. "You know how I would really like to be remembered?" he says, pausing for effect. "I'd like to be remembered as having the perfect swing."

That's golf to Faldo—a bicycle to take apart, a game to be broken down past wins, past majors, past greatness, past everything, down to the very cogs. Perfect to the tiniest screw, that's Faldo. But what good is legend if people can't say they knew you? What good is perfection if it feels cold to the touch? And what good is standing out on the patio on freezing nights, looking hard at the kitchen window, and seeing only the swing, always the swing, never the man?

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