Changed His Game To Achieve Success
In the mid-1980s, Faldo decided to take drastic action to make himself a better player. He decided to change his swing, which many observers had considered a pretty, long swing. Faldo believed it was unreliable, and used too much wrist. With the help of coach David Leadbetter, Faldos's swing became more efficient, compact, and tight. To accomplish his goal, he hit 1,500 practice balls a day, a large number for a player who already practiced obsessively. This action also improved Faldo's putting game.
The hard work paid off when Faldo came into his own in the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning several majors and becoming the pride of Great Britain. Faldo led a high profile life on the European PGA Tour, but also had a number of run-ins with the press. In 1987, Faldo won his first major, the British Open. He won it at Muirfield in Scotland, shooting a 279 on the tournament and making 18 pars in the final round. He repeated in 1990, when he won by five strokes and shot a 270, and in 1992, with a total of 272. Faldo was also the runnerup in 1993.
Winning the majors in the United States proved harder. Though Faldo won the Volvo Masters in 1988 and was in contention to win the U.S. Open that year as well, he lost in a playoff to Curtis Strange. But in 1989, he won his second major tournament, the Masters, in a sudden death playoff against Scott Hoch. Faldo repeated as Masters champion in 1990 (again in a playoff, this time over Ray Floyd) and in 1996. Faldo won a number of other tournaments in 1989, including the Volvo PGA Championship and the Dunhill British Masters.
In 1990, Faldo was at the top of his game, winning the two majors, as well as the Johnnie Walker Classic. He also finished very high at the U.S. Open. All of his success proved that he could win with the lead as well as from far behind, in both Britain and the United States, and on any kind of surface condition. He also proved himself to be a trailblazer on the greens as well, when he hired a woman, Fanny Sunesson, to be his caddie.
Faldo did not rest on his laurels. Because of the rigors of the golf tour and the possibilities of injury, he began to exercise intensely to increase the muscle mass on his 63'3" body. Though Faldo was playing well, he was never really embraced by Americans—not fans, journalists, nor other players. Despite a problematic image, Faldo supported youth golf initiatives in his country. He built Nick Faldo Golf Centers where children could learn golf for little or no cost, and later funded the Faldo Junior Series to nurture young British golf talent.
Faldo faltered in 1991, winning only the Irish Open that year. He tied for 12th at the Masters, and tied for 16th at U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. The frustrating year led Faldo to again change. He dropped the physical training, and stopped practicing so much. Faldo also modified his style of play, making his full swing different, reading greens less analytically, and becoming more creative in his shots. He told Jaime Diaz of the New York Times, "I had to learn to cope with my game being off. At first it was tremendously frustrating. The breakthrough came when I finally realized that you can't hit the ball as well as you'd like all the time. There is a human element."
The changes worked in the short term. Faldo had what many considered the best year of his career in 1992, winning the British Open, the Scandinavian Masters, Euro Open, and Johnnie Walker World Championship. That year, he became the first player to win more than £1,000,000 in a season, and finished atop the Order of Merit.