Tiger beware, this is the start of Rory's era: Faldo

Tiger beware, this is the start of Rory's era: Faldo
British golf legend Nick Faldo (left) going head to head with Singapore golfer Marc Ong.

Tiger Woods has hired a new coach but unless he fixes his old problems, the former world No. 1 will find it hard to unseat the current top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

To the surprise of many golf commentators, the American has linked up with the previously unheard-of Chris Como last week, a Texas-based coach known for his work in biomechanics which, given Woods' lengthy injury problems, could be beneficial.

But a number of existing issues still need to be addressed, six-time Major winner Nick Faldo told The Straits Times yesterday.

"One thing he has got to find is a go-to shot, a safety shot when there's water left or water right... And he hasn't for a while. He struggled when he tries to hit a fade and aims left and hits it left. We've seen a few of those at the wrong time. That just breaks your confidence."

Woods has been stuck on 14 Majors since 2008 and his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' tally of 18 has slowed almost to a standstill.

"Playing some golf with freedom, that would be the next thing," added Faldo, 57, who is now a golf analyst on television. "And putting as well. Tiger was a fantastic putter, wasn't he? But that was the (old) Tiger."

While Woods was the big cat in the late nineties and noughties, a new period of dominance by his Nike stablemate McIlroy is starting to take shape.

McIlroy captured the final two Majors of the year, the British Open in July and the PGA Championship a month later. Said Faldo: "Four Majors at 25, crumbs, you're something special. So yes, this is the start of the Rory era.

"When you watch television now, they give a report on Rory even when he's not leading, exactly like how it was with Tiger."

Faldo's own place in history as Britain's most successful Major winner is also in danger. He joked: "I just hope Rory sends me a telegram saying 'hard luck' or he invites me for Christmas to celebrate when he gets to seven."

McIlroy was also a key member of Europe's Ryder Cup winning team in September, which Faldo attributed to harmony in the locker room.

While Europe traditionally has had strong partnerships for the fourball and foursome matchplay format, options were limited for their counterparts across the Atlantic. He said: "America has only one good modern partnership, Phil (Mickelson) and Keegan Bradley. That's their best partnership and where's the back-up?"

The mutiny that arose on the final day when Mickelson openly criticised captain Tom Watson's judgment also revealed some faultlines. Said Faldo: "We were a little shocked at the timing of it... but obviously there was discontent in the team room so I think they want to solve that as well."

Faldo was caught in his own controversy that week when he labelled Sergio Garcia's efforts in the 2008 Ryder Cup as "useless" after fellow commentator Terry Gannon described the Spaniard's career as "exceptional".

He said: "It was live TV. The word exceptional went out; I reacted. I got the wrong word. I apologised to Sergio, end of story."

This article was first published on Nov 28, 2014.
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