Sir Nick Faldo to return to Sky Sports studio a year after tearful exit from commentary booth
Less than a year after crying live on air when hanging up his microphone on US TV, Sir Nick Faldo has been coaxed back into the booth by Sky Sports to commentate on next week’s Masters for his home audience.
With the BBC still to sign a contract to screen highlights from the season’s first major, the capture of Faldo is a huge coup for Sky. It is understood that Faldo, who has retired to a ranch in Montana, will also perform the same duties for the subscription service at the Open at Hoylake in July.
This will be the first time the six-time major winner will be working solely for Sky, although the 64-year-old did appear occasionally as a studio guest when he was contracted to CBS.
In his 16 years as lead analyst with the American network, Faldo became a fans’ favourite with his dry British wit and it was an emotional scene when he departed at the Wyndham Championship last August.
Initially, Faldo insisted he would not be making a broadcast comeback, laughing off rumours that he would sign up with the LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded circuit run by his former nemesis Greg Norman. But he could not resist the chance to wax lyrical once again, for an 18th Masters in a row, at the revered course where, in 1989, he became the first Englishman to don a green jacket – going on to win two more in 1990 and 1996.
Faldo was due to attend the Champions’ Dinner in the Augusta National clubhouse on the Tuesday anyway and his reports from the night should be interesting, with six of the LIV Golf rebels also invited, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, the Spaniard who Faldo labelled last month as “the most immature player I’ve ever witnessed”.
Last week, Faldo quipped on social media that the atmosphere might be so tense in the dining room that it might be wise only to use “plastic knives and forks”.
Seventeen LIV golfers are set to be in the 88-man field, with Cam Smith, the reigning Open champion, rated by bookmakers as the fifth favourite to ensure that Norman’s enterprise holds the two biggest titles in the male game. Their divisive presence among Georgia’s cathedral pines is certain to be a main storyline at the 87th Masters.
There had been conjecture that Augusta would ban those who jumped ship, but through gritted teeth Fred Ridley, the Augusta chairman, announced a few months ago that their exemptions would be honoured – for now at least.
“Regrettably, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it,” he said.
“Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honour the tradition of bringing together a pre-eminent field of golfers this coming April… As we have said in the past, we look at every aspect of the tournament each year, and any modifications or changes to invitation criteria for future tournaments will be announced in April.”
Ridley will detail any alterations at his traditional press conference on the eve of the tournament. By then it will be clear if the BBC has cut ties with the major that it first broadcast 56 years ago. Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed in January that no agreement had been made between the club and corporation and it is known that BBC TV is not sending over a commentary and presenting team.
However, there is a possibility that an 11th-hour deal could be struck to show highlights via the world feed, perhaps only from the final two rounds. When asked on Tuesday, a BBC spokesperson cryptically replied: “We don’t comment on discussions so we don’t have anything to say whilst they are ongoing.”