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Faldo can feed his competitive curiosity at Scottish Open

THE proprietors of the Ashvale Fish Restaurant on Aberdeen's Great Western Road may have to get the finest silver cutlery out during the week of the Scottish Open.

They could be getting a visit from a Knight of the Realm, after all. "I need to find a good chippy when I come to Aberdeen," said Sir Nick Faldo as he mulled over his culinary requirements for his trip to the Granite City next month. "Tell me the best and I'll be there."

When it was put to him that the aforementioned Ashvale might just hit the spot, the multiple major champion seemed more optimistic about getting a decent feed there than he was of serving up any tasty golfing fare of his own on the links of Royal Aberdeen. We may yet hear the immortal words, "Fit like, Sir Nick? Jist the usual?" drifting out over the deep fat fryer.

There is a back story to this fishy tale, of course. Checking out Scotland's various chip shops has become something of a Faldo tradition. "It happened by accident when I arrived at Muirfield in 1987," recalled the Englishman. "I arrived late after the Scottish Open finished on the Saturday night at Gleneagles and couldn't find a place to eat as everywhere was shut. Then I found a chip shop and that's how it started."

Faldo will be back on Scottish soil in July as he competes in the domestic showpiece for the first time in five years before hurtling down the road to Hoylake for the Open Championship. He spends more time in the commentary booth than he does on the golf course these days but the 56-year-old is relishing the prospect of some competitive action. The Scottish Open will be a nice limbering up exercise.

"I'm still curious about what I can do," he said. "Last season I threw myself in at the deep end really and played the Open at Muirfield after three years without any competition. It was pretty stupid. I should have played the Scottish Open first.

"So this year I am really looking forward to it. Getting a bit of links experience and getting the cobwebs off will be good. I have read quotes from Tom Watson saying Royal Aberdeen is maybe the best nine holes of golf anywhere in the world so I am very keen to see it. If you haven't played competitive golf you are not competitive, but my mind is good and I think I can be competitive and that's the No.1 battle. I am playing partly through curiosity to see what I can do."

In his pomp, Faldo played very well in Scotland. His three Open Championship triumphs were all achieved north of the border, at Muirfield in 1987 and 1992, and at St Andrews in 1990. The home of golf will always have a special place in his heart.

"The first time I came to St Andrews was 1978 and I loved the links and I loved playing the Open," he reflected. "The atmosphere feels so different to anything else. The Open was my goal as a youngster and to finally win it at Muirfield was very special. It was very important for me to win at Muirfield on one of the world's greatest courses. The win at St Andrews was at a place which has the greatest atmosphere of any golf course in the world. I couldn't have picked two better ones to win."

These days, it is a new generation of players who are going toe-to-toe for golf's major prizes. With Tiger Woods still in the midst of convalescence following surgery on his back, there is an opportunity for those in the upper echelons of the global rankings to develop a modern day rivalry to match the captivating clashes of times of yore.

"I think Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott can establish a top-two rivalry in the world," noted Faldo. "The famous rivals were the big three of Jack [Nicklaus], Arnold [Palmer] and Gary [Player]. In my era, it was Seve [Ballesteros], Greg Norman and Nick Price. Then there was Tiger's domination when you also had Ernie Els and Vijay Singh. Then we got a little lost and we haven't had the next big six and that's what I believe will evolve.

"Rory is the only young multiple major champion. It's now a case of whether these other guys will step up. You have Keegan Bradley and he's struggling so will he do it again? You have Jason Day and Jordan Spieth. There is also Jason Dufner. But Scott seems the most obvious one to fight it out with Rory for the majors as Phil [Mickelson] and Tiger get older. These youngsters know they can have seven or 10 years of great golf. This is a great opportunity for them."

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