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It's Right Up Faldo's Alley

Golf: Englishman stretches his lead early and cruises to three-shot victory at Riviera.


Nick Faldo's advanced course in golf geography took off in a new direction Sunday.

Get the map. He has won the British Open in the thistle and the gorse of Scotland and he has won the Masters in the azaleas and the dogwood of Augusta, Ga.

And now he has won amid the kikuyu and the eucalyptus of Riviera Country Club, in a place famous enough to be known as Hogan's Alley, where the 72nd Nissan Open became, well, what exactly?

Faldo's Freeway?

The 39-year-old from England won his first tournament west of the Mississippi when he toured Riviera with a closing 68 worth a three-shot victory over Craig Stadler.

Actually, it wasn't so much a high-speed chase as it was some sort of march toward the finish line. The last time anyone had seen anything quite so methodical, it was at bookkeeping school.

This really isn't a bad thing, though.

"They used to write I was mechanical and boring," said Faldo, who won $252,000. "I'm delighted to be back to that."

Faldo pulled away when he birdied the 10th and 11th holes with wedge shots that put the ball so close to the hole they must have been related.

After that, Faldo didn't get another birdie, but he didn't need one. In fact, he bogeyed the 15th when he three-putted from 40 feet, but it didn't matter, basically because most everybody else out there was tumbling as if they were doing barrel rolls down that hill behind the clubhouse.

Stadler came the closest. He finished with a 70, which is his 24th consecutive round this year at par or better.

Other than making $151,200, of course, that has to do as the day's highlight for Stadler, who missed too many short putts to make a move.

Stadler's nine-under 275 was three shots better than his winning total of last year, but three shots behind the winner.

Go figure. It's probably Faldo's fault.

"This week was as solid as I've ever played," Faldo said.

Stadler, who was paired with Faldo the first two rounds, said he never picked up the notion that Faldo was really dialed in this week.

"But I didn't look at him that hard," he said.

Scott Hoch took a long, hard look at the lead when he made three birdies on the front, but he played the back nine one over and wound up with a 69 for third place at 276.

Fred Funk's 68 moved him into a tie for fourth with Tom Purtzer at 277. Omar Uresti had five consecutive birdies in his round of 68 to tie for sixth with Robin Freeman and Scott McCarron, who could manage no better than a two-over 73.

Faldo began the day with a one-shot lead over Stadler and McCarron and needed exactly one hole to make his first birdie. After a four-iron, he chipped to one foot and made it.

On the fifth, Faldo used a seven-iron to knock the ball within six feet of the hole, then made the putt for a two-shot lead.

Faldo gave himself some room when he birdied the par-four 10th. The secret was his F-wedge, which he used from 87 yards out. The ball stopped four feet from the hole.

But the key to the round was how he managed to birdie the 561-yard 11th hole, even though he knocked his drive far right. From there, Faldo had 205 yards to clear the barranca and he decided to go for it.

It was a good decision. Faldo's five-wood carried the ditch. With only 108 yards to the front of the green, Faldo hit a wedge to one foot. He rolled in the birdie putt and the end was in sight.

"From then on . . . well, it made me keep going, which was good," Faldo said. "For me to make birdie was a big swing."

He even allowed himself to skip a little before playing the 18th hole, which is about the biggest emotional outburst you're going to see from Faldo.

Even so, he said winning at Riviera is something special, even for someone with three Masters victories and three British Open triumphs.

"It's not just another tournament," he said. "It's got such great history. You know I have a great feeling for Ben Hogan, so this was great for me. This is the sort of golf course I was meant to win on."

That's what everyone else found out. They just couldn't do anything about it.


Nissan Open at a Glance


272 (-12)--$252,000

Nick Faldo: 66-70-68-68

275 (-9)--$151,200

Craig Stadler: 71-66-68-70

276 (-8)--$95,200

Scott Hoch: 65-71-71-69

277 (-7)--$61,600

Fred Funk: 67-71-71-68

Tom Purtzer: 67-71-69-70


279 (-5)--$31,325

Payne Stewart: 65-72-72-70

Fred Couples: 68-70-70-71

Mark O'Meara: 67-69-72-71

281 (-3)--$14,600

Tiger Woods: 70-70-72-69

283 (-1)--$6,938

Tom Watson: 67-71-76-69

Scott Simpson: 69-73-70-71

286 (+2)--$3,295

Corey Pavin: 73-70-72-71

288 (+4)--$2,954

Mark Brooks: 71-72-73-72



Difficult week ends with a two-under-par 69. C12


Captain Ballesteros sure couldn't miss this one. C12


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