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Nick Faldo enjoying time in broadcast booth

In a perfect world, Nick Faldo would be playing the Nissan Open in Los Angeles this week, not sitting in the ABC television booth. He knows a thing or two about the famed Riviera Course after the winning there in 1997.

That was his last victory on the PGA Tour. Now 47, Faldo realized it was time for a change.

When ABC offered him a chance to share the 18th tower with Paul Azinger and Mike Tirico this season, Faldo jumped at the opportunity.

"I'm in my 30th season as a pro and I was getting a bit jaded," Faldo said. "I always kept saying that I would like to have a bit of a breather. I had had worn myself out playing-wise, business-wise and mentally with all the stuff that has gone on. It's great to have a breather for a while."

ABC could be the beneficiary. When lead analyst Curtis Strange left the broadcast team last summer, the network approached Faldo to do a few tournaments. Faldo, a six-time major champion, discovered he enjoyed being in front of the camera.

"I have a knack for this," Faldo said. "I don't want to get too personal, but if something happens out there, they want me to say my opinion. I've been there. I can speak from `I felt this' or `I did that.' ''

ABC then made an inspired decision in pairing Faldo with Azinger. The former Ryder Cup rivals aren't shy with opinions.

Faldo hasn't backed off in his early broadcasts. During the Buick Invitational last month, he was aghast when Tiger Woods hit a terrible approach shot to the 18th green in Sunday's final round.

"He fanned it," Faldo said incredulously.

The Faldo-Azinger combination gives ABC the best 18th tower presence this side of Johnny Miller. Faldo, though, isn't looking to compare himself with NBC's star analyst.

"I don't want to force a style," Faldo said. "I talk in funny voices when I'm at home. As I get more relaxed, I'm hoping some of that will come out. I'm still a little reined in. I have to get the self-belief that I can let it go. The day when I can put my feet up and go at it will be a nice day."

Faldo still is hoping to have a few nice days as a player. His schedule has him doing 12 events for ABC, including the Cialis Western Open. That will give him room to play 15 tournaments this year.

Faldo also could find himself in the spotlight if he is named captain for the European Ryder Cup team in 2006.

Faldo is one of the finalists along with Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle. There's a lot of politics involved, and Faldo has rubbed some people the wrong way over the years.

But it seems inconceivable Faldo wouldn't get a shot considering he played in 11 Ryder Cups and owns a record 23 victories in matches.

"There's going to be a decision made," Faldo said. "I've learned that if I'm not involved in the decision, it's best just to sit back and wait."

Faldo also has another big tournament circled on his calendar. During a preseason show, he and Azinger gave their picks for the majors. When it came to the British Open, Faldo went with his favorite player: himself.

Faldo won at St. Andrews in 1990. Even though his game has faded of late, he doesn't want to sell himself short.

"If I put it all together and disconnect the brain from memory, you never know," Faldo said. "Things could even out for me at St. Andrews. If it's windy and my game is on, I believe I have half a chance. Otherwise, there's no sense being out there."

Meanwhile, as Faldo is sitting in the ABC booth, his predecessor, Strange, will make his debut on the Champions Tour in the ACE Group Classic this weekend.

Strange, a two-time U.S. Open winner, hasn't played much in recent years. He entered only four events in 2004.

Strange acknowledged it might be difficult for him to find the competitive edge.

"I'm not going to expect a lot out of myself because I know it's going to take a while," Strange said. "I always believed in myself, but I've got to be patient. I haven't really done this competitively for five or six years. I expect to hit some good shots, but I also expect to do some of the stupid things that irritated the heck out of me before."

 

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