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Golf News: - Posted 24th September 1998

Faldo splits from David Leadbetter


Cologne, GermanySix-time major champion Nick Faldo said yesterday a "lack of communication" with coach David Leadbetter led to his split from the man who guided him for 13 years.

Faldo, in Cologne for the German Masters which starts today, said Leadbetter's absence from last month's PGA Championship in Sahalee, near Seattle, led to his switch to Chip Koehlke, head professional at his own Nick Faldo Golf Academy in Florida.

Leadbetter told Reuters his split with Faldo was a "slap in the face" and that the 41-year-old player had hurt him by writing a cursory note to dispense with his services.

Leadbetter said he missed the Sahalee tournament because his father died. "It's the first major I've missed in 12 years. My father just died in the summer and I had a lot of stuff to look after," he said.

He added he had not been able to tell Faldo directly that he would not be attending the tournament but that he had spoken to his manager.

Leadbetter, who also works with Nick Price, Ernie Els and Greg Norman, said Faldo's concentration appeared to have suffered in the past year.

The 41-year-old Englishman totally revamped his swing after linking up with Leadbetter in 1985, going on to win the Open in 1987, 1990 and 1992 and the Masters in 1989, 1990 and 1996.

His success made the partnership one of the most successful in the game and elevated Leadbetter from relative anonymity to his status as the best of the golfing gurus.

But Faldo's form last year and in 1998, particularly his putting, has slumped dramatically.

He said Wednesday he began to look elsewhere when Leadbetter did not go to Sahalee.

Then he found a method to suit him again in his own backyard with Koehlke, whom he praised for rescuing his game and helping produce his best round for a year, a closing 65 as he finished sixth in the Trophée Lancôme in France on Sunday.

"Things have not been working with David even though I've been busting my buns for a few months," said Faldo, who takes on a field containing PGA Champion Vijay Singh and titleholder Bernhard Langer this week.

"There's been a lack of communication for some reason. David wasn't at the PGA much to my surprise and I haven't spoken to him for weeks. He's been off doing his own thing.

"So I had to do something and I decided to get Chip to look at me down at my academy.

"He had a good look because I just kept missing flight after flight and after meaning to be with him for just an hour, I stayed four days.

He said he was immediately impressed with his new mentor. "Chip showed a lot of bottle because he told me that in some cases I would have to do just the opposite to what I've done for years if I wanted to improve.

"Everything made sense. He's a disciple of my methods, read my books and teaches my methods, read Hogan, the lot. Why shouldn't I be doing what I tell everybody else is the best way?

"With those four days and with over a week last week in France, I've had 10 days working with him and he's slowly unravelled the knots."

He said there has been a good dialogue with Koehlke. "He's thrown in his two-pennyworth and me mine. And the translation has been back to better feel."

Faldo missed the halfway cut at the European Masters in Switzerland at the start of this month. "That was a bit too early to expect a result but last week in the Lancome we did get some results.

"I'd got bogged down but now I've got something to play with. Sunday's 65 in the Lancome was a great feedback from what we're working on.

"Chip's gone into everything, even putting, just cleared the air. It was silly that I should be going elsewhere when I had my own tried-and-tested teaching system all set up for me."

Koehlke, an American in his 'mid-30s' whom Faldo even interviewed for the job at his academy, is also regarded by Faldo's manager of 20 years, John Simpson, as the man to reinvigorate his player's game.

Faldo is seeking to bank enough points on this return to Europe to ensure his appearance in next year's Ryder Cup team without having to rely on a wild-card.

"Teaching by his own academy coach is perfect," said Simpson.

Simpson expressed surprise that Leadbetter had not been at the PGA and also wondered whether his man's injury -- a "golfer's elbow" which caused him to pull out of the Loch Lomond World Invitational just before the Open -- may have been because of 'tired method'.

"You do wonder if the injury may have been caused by the swing they were working on," added Simpson.

Leadbetter said that he hoped he and Faldo could repair their relationship. "I am certainly not going to harbour any ill-will. I still think he has a lot of golf left in him if he can find his focus again."