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Faldo Severs Ties With Coach

September 22, 1998

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Nick Faldo has ended his 13-year relationship with coach David Leadbetter, who rebuilt Faldo’s swing and then watched him win six major championships.

Leadbetter told GolfWeb that Faldo notified him of the split with a letter sent to the Leadbetter Golf Academy. He said Faldo decided to work with Chip Koehlke of the Faldo Golf Institute.

``It’s disappointing when you work so hard with a player for so many years,″ Leadbetter said. ``We had a good relationship, as far as these things go in this field. Sometimes you need a fresh outlook, I suppose. Still, it was a bit of a shock.″

They comprised one of the most famous teacher-student relationships in golf. Leadbetter was often at Faldo’s side on the practice range wearing his trademark Panama hat; Faldo often referred him to simply as ``Lead.″

Faldo, a rising English star who had come up short in the biggest tournaments, turned to Leadbetter in the spring of 1985 and asked him to revamp his swing from top to bottom. Faldo went two years without winning, but emerged as the world’s dominant player.

He made 18 pars in the final round to win the British Open at Muirfield and went on to win the Open in 1990 and 1992. He also is the last man to win back-to-back Masters (1989-90), and added his third green jacket in 1996 with a final-round 67 to come from six strokes back to beat Greg Norman.

When Faldo was inducted into the Hall of Fame in May, he credited Leadbetter for turning his game around.

In his letter, Faldo said he felt he should start with someone new because of the worse slump of his career. Faldo has dropped to 65th in the world rankings and has not won since the 1997 Nissan Open in Los Angeles.

Leadbetter also said it could be a business-related decision.

``He was asked to promote the Nick Faldo Institute as much as he could in the last year,″ Leadbetter said. ``That’s why you didn’t often hear my name associated with his when he spoke.″

Leadbetter conceded he has not spent as much time working with Faldo recently, in part because the teacher’s father died in early summer and he spent a lot of time traveling to England. Leadbetter also works with Norman, Ernie Els and rookie sensation Se Ri Pak.

But he also suggested that Faldo has not been as focused as he had been in the past.

``He has been good for me and I was good for him,″ Leadbetter said. ``There was a time when every player at a major would look over his shoulder and wonder what Nick was doing. I wish him well in the future. If he gets his focus back and starts putting well, I still think he can win.″