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Golf Life: Celebrity Golf Roundup

HONORS Marshall Faulk
RUNNING BACK, BUNKER PUTTER

"You'd think I would have gotten hooked on golf when I was in college at San Diego State, but I missed that chance. The game didn't get me until seven years ago, when I was playing with the Indianapolis Colts and lived across the street from Eagle Creek Golf Club, the team's home course. I started working with a pro there, Brad Mays. We spent two months on the driving range before he actually let me onto the course. I shot somewhere around 100 the first time out.

"These days you won't find me hitting balls on the range unless I'm waiting for my tee time. I've found that playing golf is easier than practicing. I'm not that way about football, of course—practice is an essential part of the job. But in other ways, my approach to the two games is similar. It's interesting that the better I've become at golf, the better I've become at football. It might seem two sports that are so different wouldn't correspond, but they do. For me, it's mostly mental: Golf has improved my focus at football. The preparation you do before every shot is a lot like the preparation we go through as we get ready for a game. And when you figure there are about sixty offensive downs in every game, it's easy to see that every offensive play is like a shot in golf. You have to survey the defense and adjust to it in much the same way you survey a course and account for wind and water and every other factor that comes into play.

"It's amazing how much my golf swing changes once training camp starts. Then the season begins and my swing feels totally different from what it was a few months before. I don't play much during football season, but whenever [St. Louis Rams coach] Mike Martz throws us a bone and gives us a day off, I'll head for the course. After a day of running and hitting, it takes time to get the old golf muscles working again. It's not as relaxing as playing in the off-season—I always feel like I'm rushing, which is kind of funny considering that rushing is what I do for a living.

"It's funny, too, that the better I get, the less I play. When I sucked at golf, I went through a stretch where I played every day, literally from sunup until sundown. Now I'll do crazy stuff like take a week off before playing in a Celebrity Players Tour event. Some of my best times on the course are at charity events for kids. When I joined the NFL in '94, I started a foundation to raise money for inner-city youth programs, and golf is a great way to do that. For the past three years I've hosted the Marshall Faulk Celebrity Classic at Far Oaks Golf Club in Caseyville, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. It's a public course—though they made me an honorary member. This June, our event raised more than $140,000 for the kids. We had more than 150 players, including my current and former teammates—guys like Kurt Warner, Dre Bly, Marc Bulger, Az-Zahir Hakim, Ricky Proehl. Even Kyle Turley and Jason Sehorn, who just joined the team, came. We play a scramble, and Sterling Sharpe's team won this year—beat my team by one stroke. Sterling can hit it a mile.

"Just don't ask me who I beat out there, because I won't talk bad about anybody else's game. Basically, if you play golf, you're in with me. I can dink my way around the course pretty good, but I don't gamble on golf—it's a hard enough game without adding more pressure to it.

"Speaking of hard, I played Augusta National two years ago. That's one tough puppy. I did okay—I mean I shot in the seventies—but I was like a blind man on the greens. You've got to listen to your caddie on that course. The one time I didn't, I putted my ball right into a bunker. But I cherish that experience. Man, it humbles you, and it makes you appreciate how good the pros are. Thank God I have a day job."

Scorecard: MARSHALL FAULK AGE 30
HANDICAP 6
BEST SCORE 69 at Highland Golf and Country Club, Indianapolis
HOLES IN ONE 3
EQUIPMENT Titleist driver, Cobra three-wood, Cobra two-iron, Titleist 690CB irons, Vokey sand wedges, Scotty Cameron Newport putter, Titleist Pro V1X balls
MEMBERSHIPS Highland Golf and Country Club, Indianapolis; Fox Run Golf Club, St. Louis; and "about ten others."
NFL MARKS Most Valuable Player, 2000; most touchdowns in one season (26 in 2000); most consecutive seasons with more than 2,000 all-purpose yards (four, 1998-2001); six-time Pro Bowl selection; 1995 Pro Bowl MVP

The Marshall Plane
ANALYSIS BY CLAUDE HARMON III
Marshall Faulk has one of the best celebrity swings I've ever seen. His setup is athletic, with a solid leg base with which to start his swing. He then does well to turn his shoulders around his lower body on the take-away instead of turning his hips—a common amateur error. At the top, he has full control of the club after a very efficient backswing. His body starts to unwind nicely on the downswing, ensuring that both body and club release at impact. His follow-through is perfect. Faulk's swing exemplifies a powerful yet composed golf swing, with little excess motion—and absolutely no rushing.

DRIVING RANGE An Erudite Beast

By Tom Jensen

With its new M45 sedan, Infiniti has done something so clever and sensible, you wonder why no one has tried it before: Take the best performance parts from its top-of-the-line sedan, eliminate some of the more costly features, wrap it in sexy sheet metal and sell it at a bargain price.

Infiniti touts the M45 as "the muscle car with brains," a description pretty close to spot-on as marketing lingo goes. The muscle comes from a 4.5-liter, 32-valve V-8 engine, which produces a whopping 340 horsepower and 333 foot-pounds of torque.

This is the same engine found in Infiniti's top-of-the-line Q45 sedan, and it is powerful, tractable and comes with reasonably good fuel mileage: 17 m.p.g. in the city and 23 m.p.g. on the highway. None of this tells you, though, how good the big engine feels and how smooth it is at every level of throttling, whether you're sedately cruising or voraciously flogging the M45. There's a nice V-8 rumble to the exhaust note as well, though to my ears it's just a tad too muted. Muscle cars, after all, aren't retiring types.

The M45's chassis contributes the brains to the equation. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive platform features independent suspension at all four corners, with large, vented disc brakes fore and aft. Infiniti's Vehicle Dynamic Control System, Traction Control System and Electronic Brake Force Distribution—basically a collection of fast-reacting computers—effectively manage all of these components that help drivers stay out of trouble in low-traction situations. Toss the car into a turn at high speed and it still hugs the road with a surprising security.

Given that the M45 weighs a relatively bulky 3,851 pounds, the Infiniti engineers have done an outstanding job of balancing the conflicting demands of maximum performance and maximum comfort. This is a sedan that satisfies enthusiasts and sybarites equally—no mean feat.

The M45 rides a 110.2-inch wheelbase, about 2.8 inches less than its big-brother Q45. Still, the family resemblance is clearly visible, especially from the inside. The M and the Q share a dash featuring Infiniti's Vehicle Information System, a 5.8-inch color LCD that displays climate-control, sound-system and trip-computer info. A navigation system is optional, as is Infiniti's voice-command-recognition system.

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