The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Time for Ballesteros to take stock
- I was the Tiger of my day, says the 46-year-old Spaniard

London: Whatever decision is made this week over Severiano Ballesteros’ recent outburst at the Italian Open, countless supporters of the five-times major champion will ask for the umpteenth time why he is still playing.

The 46-year-old Spaniard is one of the greatest players in golfing history, and quite possibly the most imaginative shot-maker of all time, but his woefully erratic driving has left him without a win since the 1995 Spanish Open.

Last year, he finished a lowly 247th in the European Tour Order of Merit with a highest finish of joint 56th at the Madeira Island Open in March — even though his brilliant short game still remains one of the best on the circuit.

One of the saddest sights in the game today is of Ballesteros battling to make the cut in the occasional European Tour event he plays and his mental torture must have been a factor when he hit out at the European Tour earlier this month.

The three-times British Open champion refused to accept a one-stroke penalty for slow play at the Italian Open three weeks ago and his subsequent disqualification.

He then launched into a tirade, accusing the tour of victimising him and three other players because they had asked for an independent audit of the organisation’s accounts 18 months earlier.

The European Tour has delayed until this week a disciplinary ruling over Ballesteros’ outburst to give the Spaniard a chance to explain himself.

The tournament players’ committee ruled, unusually, that it wanted to give Ballesteros a chance to explain his actions before the Volvo PGA championship at Wentworth, which starts on Thursday.

Ballesteros was unrepentant at the weekend, telling British newspapers about the events in Rome: “It was persecution...I felt I was being abused by the authority of the referee.”

Whatever does unfold over the next few days, and several observers still hope Ballesteros will back down and apologise for his outburst, the Spaniard will have to take stock of his playing future, sooner rather than later.

The charismatic golfer from Pedrena quite possibly has more fans dotted around the world than even Tiger Woods and yet most of them would now prefer he gave up the game, rather than battle on in his unlikely bid to return to the winner’s circle.

Ballesteros himself has sent out conflicting signals on the subject. If his heart is bent on continuing, his mind seems to be focusing rather more on the comforts of family life.

“I’m not going through hell,” he said rather unconvincingly at the end of last year. “It is tough when you are used to playing at a certain level and then, all of a sudden, you don’t play so well. It’s bad.

“But I have had a wonderful career and I have a wonderful life. I’m healthy, have a great family and enjoy a good lifestyle.

“Through life there are always difficulties. Every day something goes wrong that you don’t like but that is how it is.”

In the days following his verbal attack on the European Tour, Ballesteros refused to back down, expressing his disappointment with his fellow professionals and the media for their lack of support.

He also said he would continue playing tournament golf, regardless of the humiliation.

“I keep playing golf because I love this game but I know that the last couple of years I’ve been playing like a 10-handicapper,” he said.

Weird world

“I try my best and I will continue to play this game that has given me so much. I will try to get better. I thought I was getting better but obviously what happened in Rome, and afterwards, has really affected my game and my concentration.”

The man who inspired Europe’s resurgence in the Ryder Cup in the early 1980s and won two US Masters between 1979 and 1988 has readily admitted the treadmill of life on the tour now holds few attractions for him.

“At the beginning, I enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s like when you fly for the first time —everything is fantastic.

“But you get tired of it. You eat in wonderful restaurants and stay in five-star hotels but it’s a weird world.

“When I go to tournaments, everyone shouts my name and idolises me. I feel mbarrassed. To be honest, I’m tired of that, I don’t like that.

“The Ballesteros era is over but I was the Tiger of my day.

“Yet I love to compete. I’m not sure now but maybe I will decide to play on the Seniors’ Tour.

“That would be some tour, wouldn’t it' Me and Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Woosie (Ian Woosnam). It will be like starting again.”

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