Sir Nick Faldo On Cars, Golf, And The Pursuit Of Awesomeness
He's always made it look so easy, hasn't he?
The laugh, the stories, the swing...it's part of that unteachable grace so few people have. And luckily for us (and now you), golf legend Sir Nick Faldo, winner of six majors, hung out with Supercompressor last week at New York City's Golf & Body club in midtown Manhattan for an hour-long interview. Faldo talked cars, watches, his future, and of course everything golf. Warm, engaging, and damn it if he isn't still as handsome as ever, the 57-year-old Englishman was in town pushing Glenmorangie on a promotional tour he later took to Chelsea Piers.
The man who has sunk more holes-in-one than you have toes (well, we hope, for your feet) really needs no introduction, so we'll stop here and let you read a conversation with perhaps the most interesting man England has produced in the 20th century. Enjoy.
What are you driving right now?
My fun car, a Carrera 4S. I’ve always been a Porsche fan. It’s white. Very sweet...I always wanted to try [the 4S]. I had heard about this engine, and they were right: it’s a fabulous, fabulous car. Emma [his daughter] loves it. She’s 11, so I can take it on school runs. We can make lots of noise in the right places.
How fast do you get it going?
As you get a bit older, you get a bit more sensible and you realize that somebody might be over the hill. So rarely do I push it.
But I’m sure you used to…
I think I’ve been around 160, 170 mph, mostly with a couple famous Porsche drivers and Rally guys as well. Ari Vatanen, that was my greatest sporting experience. I had never met Ari before, and he puts me in the car on his track with him. Those cars, they are so solid, so tight, but he’s trying to break everything! He’s changing gears every second—bang! bang! bang!—and every boulder, every pot-hole he hit deliberately. He’s trying to break the car because that’s the only way we rebuild the car is if we break it.
Sure enough, the thing caught fire after 10 minutes. The press guy comes in and says, ‘How ya doing?' and Ari goes, ‘Oh we haven’t started going quick yet.’ We’re driving 110 mph and he doesn’t think we’re going quick yet.
So later when we get on this straight—or what I thought was a straight—we’re flying, we’re doing around 120 mph now on these dirt roads that are about 10-feet wide. I’m thinking, We’re going off the road. And right then he holds the wheel with one hand, and with the other he grabs my knee and he looks me right in the eyes and screams, “IS EVERYTHING ALRIGHT!?” Honest when I say that my stomach was through the ceiling.
Have you ever crashed a car?
I’ve spun a few, but never [airlifted] out or anything like that.
Any car you’ve hung on to over the years?
I haven’t. When I left England, it was kinda like, sell everything. No point in them sitting there in the garage. When I came to America, I thought, most of the driving in Florida is done in a straight line, so it’s not really a sports car world.
Any car you let get away?
At the end of the day, you wish you didn’t sell any of them. It’d be nice if you had a garage where you could just put ‘em all and they’d all be right there.
Well we’re here because of whiskey. Any other vices you’re strong on?
I’m a square. I’m square in the drug region. I haven’t even seen a drug. I’m 57-years-old and I’m proud to say I haven’t even seen a drug. I do enjoy whiskey. My dad introduced me to whiskey when I was a lad. That’s always been my nice little evening tip-off. I’ve learned now to savor it better.
How do you do that?
You put special water in. Well it’s not special, it’s just water. But you put in a quarter of a teaspoon in and it breaks the membrane of the taste buds. It all changes. You’ll be amazed. New flavors will come out. You go, 'Wow!'
I keep everything in proportion. Even on the road, I only have one beer, one glass of wine, one whiskey. It you want to play decent the next day, you couldn’t hit it too hard the night before.
You never played hungover?
No, no, no, no, no, no.
Fair. What’re some of your worst habits then?
I’m boring. I pride myself on eating well, exercising well for a good 25 years. It began around when we started to understand more about exercise. In the '80s, it was all a guess. All you did was run, a few diverse golf exercises, but nothing new. It was only in the '90s we really started to investigate what a golfer really needed for his body, his mechanics.
Now, we have doctors with us out on tour, people with Masters degrees in biomechanics. So you know, it’s a science on how to train a golfer. I’ve tried to stick with that. I want to still be moving when I’m in my eighties. That’s my goal. I very admire any elderly gentlemen in his eighties who is still fit in body and mind.
Let’s talk about your cell phone.
I’m a BlackBerry man.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I’m stuck in the dark ages. (Faldo’s son, Gavin, in the background: "Yeah, tell me about it.")
That’s a nice watch.
I was the original ambassador for Audemars Piguet. [Fact check: true.] Began in 1989, so I’ve been with them 25 years. It’s been a good time. I had won a few majors [early on] and I got them into the sport. And now they have a variety of celebrities, like LeBron James, and now it’s cool because they’re really back into golf. They have people like Henrik Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen…[Editor's note: Keegan Bradley and Bud Cauley are a few others].
I think they were the first to do graphite, now they’re into ceramic—this one I’m wearing is the Alinghi watch. Limited edition.
You missed out on a lot of the new technology in golf. How involved with it are you now?
I’m a great believer in the tech! You don’t have to go hit 1,000 balls and go, ‘What was that?’ You now can hit one golf ball and get feedback. If they had the technology then, I would have moved across the street from whatever my sponsor brand was and gone in there every morning to see if I’m hitting a hook, am I doing this, am I doing that. You put the ball up on the screen and they go yes, ‘You’re doing that.’
The best example is putting. I can go in there and I have three different grips to try and I want to try a few different putters. So I get that putter, that grip, and I hit a perfect ball. It’s like, 'Okay, thank you!' Before, I had to practice all day, six or seven hours, and by the end of it, you don’t really know if it’s right.
You recently had your swing compared to players of today. How’d you do?
I did alright. You get older, you get bigger; I’m sitting on my butt more than I used to doing TV. But some of my moves, some of my positions were right in the middle of tour average.
Your swing was?
My big goal is to get it back to 110 mph. I’m about 108 right now. The best thing about this game is just yesterday, Peter Kostis gave me a tip on rolling my [left] foot over a little bit more, and the ball came off more soundly, hit it a little better. That’s the beauty of golf, you pick up something every day and then try it again tomorrow.
Seven holes-in-one, right?
Oh, okay. Do you remember them all?
Well yes, it’s easy. The first six I made were with a six iron. Then, a seven iron, then back to a six, then four iron, four iron, six iron. The last one was a long time ago. It was mid '90s. My holes-in-one are drying out.
Ryan Hatch is the deputy editor of Supercompressor. He is not a Sir. Yet.