Darren Gough: How Nick Faldo’s Masters exploits got me hooked on golf

THE MASTERS is in full swing and it has always been an event that I have been obsessed by.

Hero: Nick Faldo reacts after making a birdie on the third hole during the par-3 tournament at the Masters.

I am playing golf at my club this morning and there is a little ‘Masters’ tournament and then people will watch the actual Masters when they come in.

People will also be going away on golf weekends with everything based around watching the Masters. It is a special weekend.

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My missus usually hates golf, but, for some reason, the Masters just grabs her attention and she watches it every single night until midnight on the final day on Sunday. It is one of those sporting events that just grabs you, a bit like the Grand National.

Tiger Woods hits a drive on the third hole during the second round for the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Many people do not have much interest in horse racing, but they turn on for that. The Masters is in that ‘club’ of sporting events.

I was supposed to go to Augusta a few years back, but something important arose. So Steve Harmison got a free trip out of it and had a great time.

My first real memories were Nick Faldo’s wins and I was lucky enough to meet him on tour in 1995 and there is a picture of me with him that I will never forget at the Palace Hotel in Sun City – where he was playing in the million-dollar classic.

I was at an age where Faldo was playing really well and I had just got an interest in golf. I remember him coming back and shooting 67 in that final round in 1996 to knock off the legendary Greg Norman – who had a six-shot lead, but lost by five shots. That was some meltdown.

I remember just a year later when Tiger Woods, with a red shirt on, won his first major by 12 shots – and he subsequently went on and won 14 Majors. A lot of people would love him to get No 15 this week.

As a Yorkshireman, who can forget Danny Willett’s win there in 2016 when he became the first Briton to win it for 20 years?

It was great to see a Yorkie win there, a down-to-earth lad winning the Masters.

It went a little bit pear-shaped for him after and his game went off a bit for a while – a bit like Faldo back in the day before he remodelled his swing. But I hope he is coming out the other side.

I do love some traditions like the Champions’ dinner, but, for me, I am not really sure about the Par-3 contest any more. It is almost unwatchable with all the children, wives and girlfriends.

I think it makes an absolute mockery of it; I would like it to go back to a proper tournament. It is a bit of a ‘Mickey Mouse’ one at the minute.

That said, I was glad that Matt Wallace won it as it meant a lot to him. He was desperate to win it.

As for the white boiler suits worn by caddies, I like it. But I am not snobbish about golf at all and I do play on the amateur Trilby Tour where your caddie has to wear white.

I do belong to an elite golf club, but you do not have to wear a shirt and tie or anything after 12 o’clock and you can go for a drink in your jeans and trainers. It is a place to relax and enjoy.

The Masters is definitely old-school golf. I do like a lot of it, but some of the traditions do go a little bit too far.

What I truly like about it is are the colours, beauty, flowers and the quality of the golf. It is the first major of the year and everyone is up for it.

Yes, it is a shame it is not shown live on terrestrial TV. But like most sporting events now money talks and it is a very popular watch and people are watching it all around the world.

On to tennis and Andy Murray returned to a tennis court earlier this month just two months after hip surgery, posting a video on Instagram of him hitting against a wall alongside the caption: “It’s a start.”

I know what it is like as a professional sportsman when you have been at the top of your game. You have an operation and try and get back to what you used to be and know it is not going to happen. It is the most frustrating time of anyone’s career.

I had an injury in 2001 and got told I would be back in eight weeks as good as new and I thought I would be and believed it from start to finish.

Five operations later I was back, but I was never the same and had lost that five miles an hour’s worth of pace and it is the most frustrating time of your life as a professional sportsman because you know how good you can be and you have to settle for something that is not you.

You are one of the best in the world and then, suddenly, you know that injury will just take the edge off.

But you love the game and want to carry on playing and find a way of making a success of it without being as good as you used to be. It is the worst feeling in the world. Eventually, it caught up with me and I had to retire from the longer form of the game.

So I found a way to play one-day cricket for a few more years. But with Andy, having won Wimbledon a couple of times, there is no other way to go. He will either get back as fit as he used to be or he does not play again.

He does not have a choice of packing in the longer-form of the game and just playing the shorter part of the game like I did.