GULLANE, Scotland (AP) – Nick Faldo will make his seniors golf debut Thursday at Muirfield, where he won two of his three British Open championships.
Familiarity, however, has not created a spike in his confidence level for the 50-somethings version of the British Open.
“I have been busy with TV and course design visits across Europe and America,” said Faldo, who turned 50 a week ago and spends 44 weeks of the year working for CBS.
“This my longest season of golf – two weeks – in the year.”
Faldo also played at last week’s Open at Carnoustie, but failed to make the cut.
“I can go on memories, but I still have to hit the golf ball,” said Faldo, who also won three Masters. “These guys have played probably 20 tournaments this year. I have played two weeks.”
Among his memories of Muirfield were 1987 when he famously played 18 straight pars in the final round to win, and 1992 when he started out 66, 64, 69 and then had to battle back to beat John Cook.
Returning to Muirfield 20 years after his first major triumph on the course, Faldo also will be seeing some familiar faces from his three decades on the tour.
Gary Player, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tony Jacklin, Craig Stadler and Ben Crenshaw have been playing seniors golf for years. Faldo, Mark O’Meara and Wayne Grady, who turns 50 on the opening day Thursday, are among the players joining them this year.
Players like Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer will follow when they reach the landmark age this year or in 2008.
Faldo will have Watson and O’Meara for company the first two days. They were drawn together for the 21st Senior British Open which will is being played for the first time at Muirfield.
“I have worked hard trying to get a couple of swings that will work and grinding the putting,” Faldo said. “Seventy-two pars will be very good around here. It’s a tough golf course and a very good test for us.”
As they begin the tournament, Faldo leads Watson 2-1 in terms of victories at the tough links course east of Edinburgh.
“I intend to even the score this week,” said Watson, whose triumph at Muirfield in 1980 was one of his five Open titles. “I am really looking forward to playing against him again.”
Watson has captured two Senior British Open titles at Turnberry in 2003 and Royal Aberdeen two years ago.
Defending champion Loren Roberts, who beat Eduardo Romero in a playoff at Turnberry a year ago, believes Faldo’s successes at Muirfield make him a strong contender to take his title away.
“If you add his previous record on this golf course then the guy’s going to be a threat,” Roberts said. “We are expecting him to be competitive, especially here.”
Being competitive is certainly a goal. Just how competitive remains to be seen.
“This is very special,” said Faldo. “Twenty years on from my first Open win, my son Matthew on the bag. But I’m not confident. I’ve just got to go and play.
“Obviously, I will do my damnedest to keep the score as low as possible and we will see where that plays, but I have no idea what level these guys can play on a links like this.”