Faldo makes run at the past

HAVEN, Wis. -- You're making your way around the fescue and frigidity that is Whistling Straits, minding your own business, watching a little golf. You take a gander at the leaderboard to check out how some of the big names of the sport -- Mickelson, Els, Singh -- are doing. And then you see it, staring back at you, a blast from the past:


It takes a moment or two to process, but yep, that's him all right. Nick Faldo, the winner of three British Opens and three Masters, but none since 1996, is right back where he belongs -- on the leaderboard at a major championship.

"I was enjoying it," said Faldo, who followed Thursday's 72 with a second-round 70. "A good weekend here would give me a good goal. To qualify for this next year would be a good goal."

Faldo is 47 years old going on 30, the perfectly groomed hair and effervescent smile sticking with him seemingly longer than his golf game has. In a limited European Tour schedule this season, Faldo finds himself 67th on the money list, a list where 12 times he's made the top 10, though not since 1994.

You thought he was done, though he'd never admit it. The 10-year period from 1987-'96 when he won six majors, concluding with the '96 Masters, is more than eight years gone by now. Sure, he's shown flashes -- T8 at the 2003 British; T5 at the 2002 U.S. Open -- but they've been few and far between. He missed the cut at each major in 2004 until he willed his way to the weekend on Friday at the PGA Championship.

His schedule is now part-tournament golf, part-television commentator -- "I'm still going to do a little bit of everything," he admits. -- but in the second round, it was the commentators who were speaking of him. Starting on the back nine, he made a birdie on 10. Then 11. After some pars, he birdied 15. And 16. And later the fifth. Nick Faldo was making a run at a place he hadn't visited in quite a long time.

"I played really well on the front nine and struggled on the back nine," said Faldo, who shot a front side 32. "I didn't feel comfortable, but still made a really good birdie on five."

Maybe 10, 15 years ago, Faldo could have kept it going. But he's a different man now, more committed to his family than his golf, and his golf game deserted him down the stretch run.

A bogey on seven. Another on eight. And again on nine.

You glance over to the leaderboard again, but Faldo's name is gone. Replaced by younger, hungrier golfers aching to reach the heights Faldo himself has seen six times over.

You keep looking up, but it doesn't come back. Faldo's name has faded away, with only memories left in its place.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's Golf Editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.