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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK
Ballesteros' fall from grace

By Iain Carter
BBC golf correspondent

Seve Ballesteros
Anxious times for Ballesteros

It's sad enough to see a golfing genius lose his game, but for him to then mislay his dignity is far more dangerous.

Seve Ballesteros' latest run in with authority is likely to prove utterly counter productive.

Instead of being remembered for the unique talents that provided the bedrock of European golf, he is in danger of being regarded as a bitter has-been.

Tellingly, he appears without support among his peers.

As one, the leading players say that rules on slow play are fair and that he was wrong to react to the penalty he suffered during the third round of the Italian Open on Saturday.

Ballesteros refused to accept the penalty, erased the five entered onto his card for the hole in question and replaced it with a four to reflect the number of strokes he had taken.

Undoubtedly European golf owes Seve a massive debt of gratitude, but that doesn't mean that rules can be bent

Disqualification was then the only alternative, but it prompted claims from the 46-year-old that he is being persecuted by the European Tour.

He contends that this stems from his membership of the so-called "gang of four" who demanded that the Tour open their books for public examination three years ago.

Bernhard Langer, who along with Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal comprised the group, has said that he has never felt that the Tour has held a grudge against him for taking such a stance.

Indeed the Spaniard's claims appear without merit and sadly seem those of someone desperate to reclaim the limelight who is unable to do it with his golf.

European golf undoubtedly owes him a massive debt of gratitude, but that doesn't mean that rules can be bent. If he is playing too slowly he has to accept the punishment.

Now he faces a potential fine and given his current mood he may refuse to pay. Were that the case, a ban could be imposed and no one would want to see that.

Ballesteros remains a hugely popular figure, but, given the destructive road he has embarked upon, one is left to ponder for how long?

Seve driven to the brink
13 May 03  |  Golf

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