HOYLAKE, England -- Nick Faldo has proven he can talk a
good game, now he'll have to show he can still play as well.
A three-time British Open champion better known as a commentator
for ABC these days, Faldo has been paired with defending
champion Tiger Woods in the first two rounds of the Open
championship at Hoylake on Thursday and Friday.
Faldo, who has played just six tournaments this year and not
made a halfway cut in any of them, lifted the Claret Jug in
1987, 1990 and 1992. Woods won 2000 and again last year, both at
Faldo celebrates his 49th birthday Tuesday and probably never
expected to be thrust into the limelight in such a way. He has
spent more time commentating on golf than playing it this
season, his last event being back in April in China.
"I have to get used to the buzz again," admitted Faldo, who will
captain Europe's Ryder Cup team in 2008. "I have played with
him in a major before but it was a long time ago."
Shingo Katayama is the third member of the group which will tee
off at 2:09 p.m. on Thursday and 8:58 a.m. local time on Friday.
Woods himself will be playing just his third tournament since
the Masters three months ago. His father died in May and he then
missed the cut at the U.S. Open. Two weeks ago he finished
runner-up at the Western Open.
The 43-year-old Scot has been paired with 1995 champion John
Daly, and Australia's Stuart Appleby.
If there is one player who could give Faldo some tips on playing
in a high-profile group lately its Donald. He was paired with
Woods in the first two rounds in 2003 and then Nicklaus at St
Andrews last year in the Golden Bear's emotional farewell to the
"It's a step down no matter who it is, there can't be any more
attention than there was last year," Donald said. "But I
wouldn't have given it up for anything, it's something I'll
remember for ever, although the last two holes it was hard to
concentrate. It took about 40 minutes to play the 18th."
Spaniard Sergio Garcia, England's Paul Casey and Fred Couples
are among the early groups on Thursday. It remains to be seen
if Couples can make it after injuring his back last week and
pulling out of the Scottish Open.
Asked if he would prefer to be in a star-studded pairing with
Woods or Mickelson, Garcia seemed to prefer the group he had.
"I really don't care if it's one of them, that's perfect, and if
not it doesn't matter," Garcia said. "But I would rather play
with some friends of mine."
European Order of Merit leader David Howell tees off at 8:20
a.m. with world No. 3 Vijay Singh and American
Zach Johnson, while last year's European Tour Rookie of the Year
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is paired with Retief Goosen and
five-time champion Tom Watson.