Pablo Larrazabal and Nick Faldo are in separate corners of the world this weekend, but both are dealing with attacks of a sort. Larrazabal is dealing with the physical kind, while Faldo is dealing with assaults on his decision-making and character.
On Friday morning in Kuala Lumpur, Larrazabal was playing hole No.14 at the Kuala Lumpur Country Club in the Malaysian Open when he was attacked by a group of hornets. Larrazabal said there were 30-40 of them and they were “three times the size of bees.” His caddie told him to run and he did, but the flying assailants were relentless. Luckily there was a water hazard on the hole and the other players yelled at him to “jump in the lake.” The Spaniard took his shoes off, laid down his scorecard, and took their advice.
When the danger was over Larrazabal got treatment for around 20 stings, including injections, and went back to playing his second shot. Amazingly, he would go on to birdie the hole and finish up his round at four under 68. He made the cut and is in the top-25 for the tournament at two under. Larrazabal said it might have been his shirt that attracted the hornets, saying that when he put it back on after his dunk in the lake the hornets returned. He played the rest of his round in a borrowed shirt. Lee Westwood leads the Maybank Malaysian Open at 13 under par.
It was an attack of character that has put Nick Faldo on the defensive. Faldo, who has given up playing competitively and is a golf analyst for CBS Sports, is playing in this week’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, SC. Faldo got his first U.S. win in the event in 1984, and decided to play in the tournament to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of his personal milestone. As he devotes very little time to practicing these days, it was no surprise that he recorded a less-than-stellar six-over 77 in the first round.
His performance prompted some angry reaction on Twitter from web.com golfer Josh Broadway, who tweeted that Faldo should “get back in the booth” and let some of the young golfers have a chance. More tweets from Broadway followed the same line of criticism. The point he was trying to make was that certain “wild card” spots, which are exemptions for unqualified players handed out by specific tournaments each week, should be given to current touring pros. In one tweet he suggested that those spots should be given to players who “aren’t making a million” to broadcast on the weekend.
There has been no published reaction from Faldo to the attack, but the guess is that he will address the issue if he misses the cut and takes his place in the CBS broadcast booth on Saturday. Nick Faldo has won six majors and does not need to apologize to anyone. There are two big reasons why his participation in the RBC Heritage makes sense. First, it is a sentimental journey for Faldo. He got his first American title at Harbour Town Golf Links and the 30-year anniversary is significant. Second, the RBC Heritage takes place the week after the Masters, and having a name like Faldo in the field is helpful if the event is to thrive and continue to be a viable stop for touring pros on the PGA circuit.
Pablo Larrazabal and Nick Faldo have both been attacked this weekend. Larrazabal required a quick-thinking and desperate defense. Faldo should need no defense at all.
Golf Shots is a daily series which provides analysis and commentary on the PGA tour and golf-related topics all year long.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky