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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Seve driven to the brink
By Tom Fordyce

Seve Ballesteros looks for a lost ball
Seve searching the rough - an increasingly familiar sight
On Tuesday, the tournament committee of the European Tour met to decide how to handle the curious case of the exploding golfer.

Seve Ballesteros has always been a maverick. Now this wonderfully-gifted player is in danger of turning into a rogue in the less complimentary sense of the word.

Seve, still one of the most popular players in the game, has been kicking up a stink that threatens to tarnish his once-shimmering reputation.

After being disqualified from the Italian Open for refusing to accept a one-shot penalty for slow play during his third round, the 46-year-old called the European Tour's Ken Schofield a "dictator" and described the Tour as being "like the Mafia".

His words and actions in Italy are unsavoury enough, but hidden behind the insults lies a starker truth - Ballesteros' game has fallen apart.

Why is Seve so slow around the course these days? In large part because he has to walk further than anyone else.

Ballesteros has always been a wild driver, even back in 1979 when he won his first Open. But over the past five years he has sunk to a level that would embarrass even a weekend player.


His driving statistics are staggering. To find the fairway with just 40% of your tee-shots would be considered unacceptable on an office golf day, let alone a European Tour event.

Why are there no stats available for 2002? Because Seve missed so many cuts that he did not play enough rounds to enter the Tour's calculations.

And this has been going on for so long that it suggests a mindset where pride overrides pragmatism with disastrous results.

Ballesteros has an arrogance that you would expect from a great sportsman who has won five Majors.

Sadly he no longer tempers that extreme self-confidence with sufficient humility to merit a place on the Tour.

Seve Ballesteros's tattoo
Seve's tattoo - of himself, winning the 1984 Open
A sensible man would accept that his driver was only damaging his scores and instead take an iron - even a high iron, as long as he kept his ball in play.

Ballesteros will not. This is a man who has a tattoo on his arm of himself winning the 1984 Open, a man who writes the following paragraph on his website:

"Golfing authorities point out that in Seve there was Hogan's elegance, Snead's ability and force, Palmer's power and aggressiveness, Player's tenacity, Nicklaus' technique and Watson's temple."

Of his second Masters win, he writes, "Without doubt, this is one of the key moments of golfing history."

It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic, because the rest of Seve's game is good enough for him to still be a contender.


Once Seve gets to the green, he's up there with the best. It's just that it takes him so long to get there - both in terms of time and shots - that his putting skills are rendered meaningless.

The worse his game gets, the worse his behaviour becomes.

When fellow pros as fair as Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer and Padraig Harrington all come out against you, you know something is seriously amiss.

It was Harrington who best summed up how most golf fans feel about the Spaniard's decline.

"There is not a player who wouldn't give an arm to have had the career Seve has had," he said.

"Why is he fighting everybody? He should sit back and think about his career. He should bask in his glory."

Surely it is time for Seve to heed that advice.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Seve Ballesteros
"It's not good for anybody to keep talking about it"


SEE ALSO
Seve claims dismissed
11 May 03  |  Golf
Ballesteros' fall from grace
08 May 03  |  Golf
Players saddened by Seve
07 May 03  |  Golf
Seve furious with Euro chiefs
03 May 03  |  Golf

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