ABERDEEN — When his 40-foot eagle putt wound its way along the undulating sixth green and straight into the cup, golf suddenly felt easy again for Nick Faldo.
Britain’s most successful player had just picked up four shots in three holes and was even in sight of the leaders at the Scottish Open on Friday.
Not bad for a 56-year-old playing just his sixth competitive round this year.
Then it all went wrong.
“I made a couple of bad swings and it just scared me,” Faldo said, shaking his head. “I didn’t know what to do for a while.”
One of his country’s great sporting treasures, Faldo left the sanctuary of a TV studio — he is a golf analyst in the United States — to take up an invitation from the Scottish Open this week ahead of a 36th appearance at the British Open.
It’s his first European Tour event since 2010, but he is likely to miss the cut on 4-over 146 after two rounds.
The game that brought him six major titles from 1987-96 is just not there anymore. And he knows it.
“You hit shots that you aren’t 100 per cent sure where they are going to go,” Faldo said. “I’m here on curiosity, that’s the bottom line.”
Massaging his right forearm and stretching his hamstrings after his round, the strain of playing 36 holes in barely 24 hours over a windy links course clearly took its toll on Faldo.
He hasn’t played full-time on the European Tour since 2004 and says he is in northern Scotland purely for the “love of the game.” The stalwart also wants some practice so he doesn’t embarrass himself at Hoylake next week.
“Last year I played Muirfield straight out of the box, I hadn’t played competitively for three years,” he said. “I thought, ‘If you are being smart, let’s play a couple before the Open so at least you don’t arrive there completely cold.’
“I played last week, this week. You are learning a few more little bits all the time. Still learning.”
It was vintage Faldo early in his round on Friday, making birdies at Nos. 4 and 5 and then rolling in that eagle at No. 6. It put him on 2-under-par but he dropped six shots in his final 11 holes played mostly into the wind.
“I’m less than a part-time golfer but you still want to play well,” he said. “That’s why I’m playing, to see if I can have a good day or two.”
Faldo has missed the cut in his last five appearances at the British Open, dating to Hoylake in 2006. He won his home major in 1987, ’90 and ’92.