Nick Faldo began his preparations for the US Masters today, fervently hoping to cling on to his special piece of tournament history.
Faldo is one of only three men to have won the first major of the year twice in a row, but knows Tiger Woods is a hot favourite to rewrite the record books yet again with his third consecutive victory.
Jack Nicklaus missed the cut in 1967 after winning the previous two years, and Faldo finished joint 12th in 1991, five shots behind winner Ian Woosnam, after winning back-to-back play-offs in 1989-90.
“I hope Tiger doesn’t do it,” Faldo admitted as Monday’s practice day was washed out by heavy rain and thunderstorms, the first time since 1983 that the gates were closed to the public on a scheduled day.
“I want the three of us to share the record, me Jack and Tiger. I don’t want him to get that third title. I’m being as nice as I can but I want to keep our record.
“I don’t want it to be him and oh, those other guys won it twice.”
Faldo may have finished just outside the top 10 in his attempt for a third straight win 12 years ago, but the 45-year-old feels he was never really in contention for victory.
A combination of the pressure involved and a game not quite at its peak meant his chances effectively ended after a second round 73 which left him nine shots behind leader Tom Watson, and seven behind eventual winner Ian Woosnam who had overtaken his Ryder Cup team-mate as world number one the week before.
“You are a marked man,” added Faldo. “You do think about it, people talk about it more and that affects it. That’s really the hardest part.
“You know in your heart of hearts you have a chance. In 1991 my game went off a little bit so you know in the back of your mind that you haven’t quite got it that week. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not comfortable.”
Woods’ preparation for his hat-trick attempt included missing last week’s BellSouth Classic in nearby Atlanta, but there are no doubts about his form after recovering from knee surgery which kept him out of the early part of the season.
He won three of his first four events this season, including the World Matchplay and an 11-shot victory in the Bay Hill Invitational despite battling food poisoning in the final round.
That was his fourth straight victory in the event, putting him alongside Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen as the only players to win the same event four times in a row.
So will the world number one be able to succeed where Faldo and Nicklaus failed and cope with the pressure?
“That’s the biggest thing Tiger is able to do,” added Faldo, in the Augusta Chronicle.
“He’s number one, he’s got the spotlight on him and he goes and delivers.
“I did that a couple of times. I went to majors the world number one and favoured and went and won. Too bad I don’t know how I did it now.
“Knowing Tiger, the bottom line is who’s going to stop him. The only one who’s going to stop Tiger is Tiger.”
One tradition that will be missing from the Masters this year is that of the honorary starters kicking off proceedings on Thursday.
For the first time in more than 20 years there will be no honorary starters following the death last year of three-time champion Sam Snead.
Snead acted as starter from 1984 onwards – mostly alongside Byron Nelson and Sarazen – but died six weeks after last year’s Masters, four days shot of his 90th birthday.
For the first time last year Snead needed help teeing up his ball and his opening drive flew right into the gallery, breaking a man’s glasses when it hit him between the eyes.
It will not be the end of the honorary starters however, with Arnold Palmer next in line to fulfil the role when he finally retires.
Palmer thought he had played his last competitive round at Augusta in 2002 after club chairman Hootie Johnson sent out a letter in 2001 asking former champions to give up lifetime exemptions, later adding that from 2004 the age limit would be 65.
That ‘rule’ has since been changed however, with the club now relying on former champions to know themselves when they are unable to compete.
Therefore Palmer will make his 49th consecutive appearance this week and may yet achieve his ambition of making it to a remarkable half-century next year.