Golfing great Sir Nick Faldo is back at Mission Hills Shenzhen-Dongguan in southern China and is putting his time at the resort to good use, practising for his 'comeback' next week.
Between watching scores of young golfers compete in this week’s Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, the six-time Major winner is, "trying to be a golfer again!" he said.
“I have a Champions Tour event next week in Mississippi and this is my ‘preparation’ for it, spending two weeks on the other side of the world.
“So I’m trying to do a little bit of practice here and there, although I’ve got a couple of injuries I need to be conscious of. I’m playing more out of curiosity than anything else. I’m wondering how well I can play and how long can it last?
“It’s a good calorie burner. I’m trying to keep myself fit. I enjoy training as a golfer and I still do all these crazy golf exercises. I enjoyed playing at Muirfield last year [in the Open Championship] and that’s what really inspired me because I hadn’t done anything competitively for three years.”
Faldo will play in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, a US seniors event, next week and then the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage at Hilton Head Island in mid-April, where organisers have invited him back on the 30th anniversary of his first US victory there.
“I’ll play a couple more times during the summer, including the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, and then do another event on the Champions Tour towards the end of the year,” he added. “The plan is to play six to eight times this year, if the body obliges.”
Faldo’s strong association with Mission Hills dates back 17 years, to when he was approached to design one of the courses at Shenzhen-Dongguan.
“I remember Dr David Chu [the late Chairman of Mission Hills] flew all the way to London with the contract. We had a meeting, I signed it, and he flew back. That showed his level of commitment to the project. Then I came here to see the course under construction.
"We’ve always been in close contact with Mission Hills and it was a natural first partner for us to help develop the Faldo Series and give it a home in Asia. It’s a great partnership."
The Faldo Series Asia Grand Final is being played at Mission Hills Shenzhen-Dongguan for the eighth year. It is staged on the Faldo Course, one of 12 that makes the resort officially 'The World’s Biggest Golf Club' according to the Guinness World Records.
Faldo’s regular visits to Mission Hills mean he is well qualified to talk about golf development in China and he has no doubts the country will soon be turning out world class talents.
“They are taking up the game here in their thousands and they are getting Westernised with their instruction and the programmes that are being put in place,” he said. “Given the sheer numbers, they’ve got a great chance of quality golfers coming through.”