With the Ryder Cup approaching, we asked Europe's all-time points leader, Sir Nick Faldo, to share his greatest moment from the matches, how he's grown in the booth, and why there will never be another Seve.
As a player, you took part in 11 Ryder Cups and won 25 points, both record marks for the Europeans. If you had to put one moment in a time capsule, what would it be?
It would be 1995, at Oak Hill, coming down the last hole when I made a four [for par] and got up and down from 93 yards. I was one down against Curtis Strange with two to play, and I ended up winning the match on 18. That was a great moment for me, because I walked off the green and Seve [Ballesteros] was in tears. He hugged me and said, "You are a great champion." That was the greatest moment of my career. That up and down may be the greatest Ryder Cup shot I've played.
How do the nerves you feel at a Ryder Cup compare with the butterflies when you're in contention at a major?
Ryder Cup pressure is worse. At a major you go out and do your own thing, and if you play great, fine, and if you make a mess of it, that's that. The hardest thing about a Ryder Cup is, if you're playing good, you can't wait to get out there. You and your partner can't wait to go out and to take everybody on. But if you're playing poorly, and you know it, and you're fighting your swing, then you've still got to make something happen with a game you're not confident with. And that's brutal, because you don't want to let your teammates down.
Some consider Seve's 245-yard 3-wood from a fairway bunker at the 1983 Ryder Cup, against Fuzzy Zoeller, the greatest shot in history. Would you agree?
I was there for that one. The bunker had a steep lip, and those were the days of the old Toney Penna 3-wood, which had about 12 degrees of loft, and he just whistled it up there, over water, and it barely missed the back left corner of the green, about 25 feet from the hole. That was an unbelievable shot. Classic Seve.
You had an ace in 1993 in your singles match against Paul Azinger. That's not bad either!
Mine was good because I half-called it. I walked onto the tee and kicked the leaves away, and I said to my caddie [Fanny Sunesson], "Okay Fanny, good time for a hole in one." That week I was hitting the ball so good — I was chipping in, and I said, "I'm going to hole a full shot." Because it's match play, that's what you're trying to do. If you're standing over the ball with any club in your hand, you're thinking, "How close can I get this?" So I actually said to Fanny, "I know I'm going to hole one this week." And I did.
In 2008, you captained the only European team to lose in recent years. What's your relationship like with that year's U.S. captain, Paul Azinger? Does he still bust your chops?
Not really. He's had to apologize to me for a few dumb things he's said [Azinger called Faldo a "prick" in an interview with the UK's Daily Mail in April 2008], but we're all right now.
It's been eight years since you climbed into the booth as the lead golf analyst for CBS. How have you grown in that role?
You try to get better. Once you get confident that you can just "rattle," as I call it, it's quite good because then you just talk. I simply share my experiences — I've got 40-plus years playing this game. I like to get a few gems from the players before the tournament — what they're doing, how they're playing, a few bits about the course. But generally, I just react in the moment to the picture I get in front of me, the same picture that the viewer gets at the same time.
What on-air moment are you most proud of?
I've had a few good calls. Earlier this year, I said to watch Hideki [Matsuyama], and that panned out when he won the Memorial. I'm always pleased if I get a real hunch. You have to trust it and go with it. I actually kick myself when things happen that I haven't said or tweeted about the morning before. Like, I just knew Rory was going to win the BMW PGA Championship. He was seven back going into the last day, and I knew he'd win—but I didn't say anything! If you've got that feeling, just say it. It doesn't matter if you're wrong. You're entitled to say, "I think this." If you're wrong, who cares?
Where do you stand on the Tiger vs. Jack debate? Can Woods, who has 14 majors, catch or surpass Jack's tally of 18 wins?
The majors are the yardstick. Jack and Tiger were so equally matched for a while, in age and wins and majors. But I think the media will always hold Jack's 18 majors as the benchmark.
One last thing. Not that we want to get rid of you, but of today's players, who do you think could one day have your job in the booth?
Everybody would love to have Freddie Couples up here. I don't know how much he'd enjoy all that travel and going to all those Tour events. But he's a fan favorite, the darling of America.
Nick Faldo: Three Things I Know for Sure
Don't spend time worrying about things you can't change.
If you have a problem, ask yourself: Can I change or fix it? If you can, then focus on changing or fixing it. If you cannot change or fix anything, just let it go. You cannot chew that over and over and over if you can't do anything about it.
Fundamentals are the key to success.
When I walk the range and ask the best players in the world what they're working on, it's almost always fundamentals: grip, posture, alignment. Alignment is huge for weekend players, but it's important for pros, too.
There will never be another Ryder Cupper like Seve.
Why? His passion. He was easily offended. I think he generally felt that he didn't have the respect he deserved, [because] in the '80s, the American tour was much bigger than the European tour. There was a little bit of hate in there — just enough to fire the passion.