In his heyday SeveBallesteros would periodically give us Statesiders a chance to know him. Neveramounted to much. He'd play our windless courses and eat our dull food andretreat quickly to his home in Spain and to his tour in Europe, where he wasking. Now Ballesteros is returning to our shores, not to give us a chance butto give himself one.
On the Mondayafter the Masters he turned 50, and this week he's scheduled to play in aChampions tour event called the Regions Charity Classic in Birmingham. He plansto play the Champions tour regularly for the rest of the season, but don'texpect too much. At Augusta this year--where he entered for the first timeafter a three-year self-imposed exile--he shot rounds of 86 and 80 and missedthe cut by 14 shots. Hank Haney observed recently that Seve has the full-swingyips. Of course, the senior circuit has no cut, and the RTJ Golf Trail at RossBridge is not Augusta. Still....
He can't go outthis way, struggling to break 80. He looks great, but he's an old 50. He was apro at 16, he was winning at 19, and at 40 he was weary. Fred Funk was young at40, and now Seve, a Hall of Famer, can't beat him.
Seve's herebecause there's nowhere else for him to go. He's so mad at the European tourfor various slights, insults, penalties and fines over the years that he won'tplay the European senior tour. So there he'll be next week, chasing Dr. Dirt(Brad Bryant), last year's winner of the Birmingham event. Seve's not cominghere to hang out. Chip Beck, Tom Purtzer, Bobby Wadkins--these are not hispeople. He's coming here to make a score. Can you find your game at 50? Notlikely.
But Seve's life,more than most, is rooted in optimism--his many escape shots the proof ofit.
If you came togolf in the Tiger years, it would be hard for you to understand how thrillingSeve was through the Thatcher/Reagan years. He was nothing like Woods, who istechnically superior, but Seve had it all over Tiger in one area: style. Sevelooked as if he was winning on will alone. Tiger beats you because he's betterin every regard. Seve--at Augusta in 1980 and '83, at the British Open in '79,'84 and '88, in all of his Ryder Cups (the three events that matter inEurope)--looked as if he wanted it more than anyone else. Rules officialsquaked in Seve's presence because he craved the questionable drop more thanthey dared to stand up to him.
Many American golfwatchers never really got him, and nothing will change now. The stakes are toolow. It was a nice moment when Jerry Pate, sober and God-loving, won the seniorevent in Tampa last year, but that was mostly a personal victory. What fansremember is brash Jerry Pate winning that U.S. Open in '76, making that swingat the end, five-iron in his hands, the whole world watching. That's what makesa golfer a legend. Seve's a true legend. Nobody ever talked about Seve's swingcoaches. We saw the swings he made, and that was enough for us. But as thisfresh start indicates, not enough for him.
by JAMES P. HERRE
The pros are right: Nick Faldo, not Johnny Miller, is the top analyst onTV.
Phil Mickelson tips $2,000 after his caddie's birthdaydinner
[OLDER BONES + HUNGRY PACK] + [GENEROUS HOST + PHIL'SWALLET] - $5,400 TAB = GOOD KARMA
DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP (BALLESTEROS)
Ballesteros, who last made a cut in 2003, shot rounds of 86 and 80 at theMasters.
ROBERT BECK (JIM MACKAY); JOE MCDONALD/CORBIS (HYENAS); DAVID WALBERG (AUTOGRAPHS); AL TIELEMANS (MICKELSON FIST PUMP)