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July 29, 2021

Three Hours with Nick Faldo

In the fall of 1995, my friend, Dr. Craig Farnsworth got a call from Nick Faldo's manager requesting a putting lesson for Nick. The time and place was arranged for a full day session at Lake Nona Country Club in Orlando, Florida around late November or early December. When Craig told me about the lesson and the date, I mentioned that I was playing in a Senior event near Tampa that week and asked if I could view the lesson. Craig said yes as long as I was quiet and didn't interfere with the instruction. Of course I agreed to those terms. After the session, Craig remarked how unusually reserved I had been during the three hours plus on the putting green.

Dr. Craig Farnsworth is a Sports Vision Optometrist, who has worked with professional basketball teams, major league baseball teams, Olympic athletes, and the United States Government teaching visualization, concentration, and eye coordination skills. But his passion is golf, where he has worked with over 150 professional tour golfers improving their putting, including the past two Masters champions. In 1995, Nick Faldo heard of his success with other professionals and that prompted his call. Nick credits Craig with much improved putting and his great come from behind victory in the 1996 Masters over Greg Norman. They remain great friends.

It was most interesting to see the then number one player in the world, a winner at that time of five major championships being taught the basics of putting. Nick was totally committed and focused to improve his putting. What Craig was introducing was a different approach and visualizing helping Nick to better see the line and develop improved distance control. During the three plus hours, I NEVER SAW NICK FALDO HIT what I considered a pure putt. He gained a lot of knowledge and techniques that he would have to practice. He was very pleased with what he was hearing and experienced. He felt encouraged that he had a logical path to improved putting.

To give you a little background into Nick Faldo the person and golfer, he was generally considered by his fellow pros a loner and someone that was hard to get to know. He was probably the hardest worker on the Tour and was as close to a perfectionist as a golfer can be. He was a high caliber cyclist before turning to golf and worked out religiously. At 6'3" and extremely fit, you would expect him to be one of the long hitters on Tour. No, he reigned in his power for accuracy to the point that he was shorter than average. His game was very conservative in his approach. He was extremely structured in his method to every shot to the point that he looked like a mechanical man playing golf. His early career was successful, but not one that showed he was capable of playing with the best in the game. His swing would fail in pressure situations and some in the press would call him Nick "Foldo". Under the guidance of David Leadbetter, he rebuilt his swing in order to raise his game to the next level. He was single-minded in his approach and incorporated each Leadbetter advice down to the letter, hence the robot like manner.

In an earlier session, that I did not attend, Craig had brought his optometry equipment and special eye acuity tests that measured depth perception, eye coordination, and other eye exercises that revealed Nick's visual abilities. Craig was also my optometrist, so I had done those complete tests in his office in Denver. Nick, being sequence oriented, needed to give up the perfectionistic aspect of his personality and embrace his creative side to better his putting. Putting is more an art form than mechanics. His mechanical approach worked for his full swing, but left him mediocre on the putting green. I am not at liberty to discuss the exact specifics of what Craig imparted to Nick, but it centered on visualizing and routine building.

My three plus hours on that putting green at Lake Nona was revealing to see a little bit inside the mind of one of the best players to ever play our game. Nick was very pleasant and warm to me. I liked him as a person. We talked, but he was there to learn and to get better, not to be distracted. That is what drove him to be number one in the world. That dedication, at the expense of other pleasures, would have to wait so he could be as good as he could be. Craig asked him to describe his routine before hitting a full shot. Analytical visualization started the process, but then it was a step by step mechanical approach UNTIL he was to actually take the club back to hit the ball. He said then he switched to feeling the shot and seeing the shot act like he planned. Oddly, he couldn't switch off the mechanics as well with his putting. Improved putting is usually a slow process to get you out of a mechanical stroke and to a feel visual oriented motion. Nick knew he was not preforming to his peak, so he went to the best and applied what he learned. One trait that you see with the greats in their sport is the constant need to get better. In a short three hours, that dedication and commitment came through with Nick Faldo.

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