Imagination passion only part of the Seve genius

By Doug FergusonMay 8, 2011, 12:25 am

Seve Ballesteros first showed off his magic to a worldwide audience as a 19-year-old at the British Open, playing with touch and imagination, bouncing shots between bunkers and finishing second to Johnny Miller.

Five years later, Ballesteros gave Miller another lasting impression.

It was 1981, the inaugural Million Dollar Challenge in South Africa, with a $500,000 first prize that dwarfed anything else in the world. The two were tied after regulation and went into a sudden-death playoff.

“The first extra hole, I take it right over the flag to about six feet,” Miller recalled during a phone interview Saturday from his ranch in Utah. “He takes out a 6-iron and takes it over the water and it hangs on the lip.”

The playoff went nine holes before Ballesteros blinked with a three-putt bogey. Miller said the Spaniard’s brother told him later that Ballesteros cried for the next two hours.

“You could see how much the guy cared about winning,” Miller said, hours after learning that his rival and five-time major champion had died at age 54 from a cancerous brain tumor.

“That’s the reason he was so attractive to watch,” Miller said. “It’s a little bit like Tiger. He just wanted it so bad. He never did anything lackadaisical.”

Jack Nicklaus said Ballesteros’ enthusiasm was unlike that of any other player, and his imagination also was without comparison.

“I have watched him play 1-irons out of greenside bunkers when just fooling around,” Nicklaus said. “He could do anything with a golf club and a golf ball.”

Hale Irwin played with Ballesteros in the final round of the 1979 British Open at Royal Lytham, famous for Ballesteros making birdie from the parking lot. Irwin said the Spaniard hit three fairways in the final round and still won his first major.

“It wasn’t because he was lucky,” Irwin said. “It was because he created some shots that were unbelievable. As sad as I was, I look back and scratch my head and say, ‘How does he do it?’ It wasn’t an accident or lucky. It was a skill factor he had.”

The skill was undeniable.

Ballesteros once said he would rank himself among the top 15 players of all time. Among Europeans, Harry Vardon and Nick Faldo have won more majors, and Bernhard Langer has played in more Ryder Cups.

But a more important figure in European golf?

Padraig Harrington suggested that an image of Ballesteros – perhaps his celebration upon winning at St. Andrews in 1984 – become the logo of the European Tour. Ernie Els referred to him as an iconic figure, the flag bearer for Europe.

“He opened up so many doors for Europe’s players by winning all over the world, and particularly in America,” the South African said. “The European Tour would not be what it is today without him.”

The philosophy of Ballesteros might best be explained through what some consider the greatest shot he ever hit, the top of a long list.

His tee shot had landed near a swimming pool. He was blocked by a 7-foot wall in front of him, trees everywhere. His caddie, Billy Foster, suggested he pitch to the fairway. Ballesteros saw a tiny gap – no one else would have noticed it – opened the blade of his pitching wedge and went over the trees, ending up just short of the green. Then he chipped in for birdie.

“I like to keep going forward,” Ballesteros said.

His shotmaking skill is legendary. He learned to play using the rusted head of a 3-iron, that he attached to whatever sticks he could find. He used pebbles on the beach near his home in Pedrena as golf balls, and from such humble beginnings learned to create.

“He saw shots no one else could see,” swing coach Butch Harmon said.

Before he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999, Ballesteros told of his son, Javier, starting to play. He sent the boy out to their par-3 course with only an 8-iron.

“What happens is he goes over there and sees the other children with a full bag,” Ballesteros said. “And he always says to his friends, ‘Why do you carry a full bag?’ And the others say, ‘That’s how it’s supposed to be.’ And Javier says, ‘No, no. My father says it’s supposed to be playing with only one club.’

“It’s simple and clear,” he added. “One club. You have to develop your imagination.”

The legacy of Ballesteros goes beyond his incredible shots, however.

It was the Spaniard who pushed to bring continental Europe into the Ryder Cup, and he made his teammates believe it was the most important event of the year. He was part of the “Fab Five” in Europe that included Langer, Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam. Ballesteros was the first of that bunch to win a major, and the first to win the Masters. 

“He was the backbone of the European Tour for so long,” two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange said. “Seve was their Arnold Palmer. We embellish the truth about things a lot of times, but it is the absolute truth.”

Charisma is hard to define, but there’s a reason Ballesteros is said to have had equal impact on Europe as Palmer did in America. Peter Alliss, the great British broadcaster, said that when Ballesteros was in a good mood, “the world smiled with him.”

“He could change the weather with his face,” David Feherty said.

Ballesteros had his battles with players and tours on both sides of the Atlantic. He missed the 1981 Ryder Cup during a dispute with Europe over appearance money, and he once was fined by his tour for refusing to accept a one-stroke penalty for slow play and signing for the lower score. He challenged the U.S. tour over the number of tournaments they demanded he play.

And then there was the Ryder Cup.

Paul Azinger mixed it up with Ballesteros more than once, calling him the “King of Gamesmanship,” to which Ballesteros once replied that the Americans had “11 nice guys and Paul Azinger.” They settled their difference in Jamaica one year, a conversation that ended with Ballesteros telling Azinger, “We make this like toilet water. We flush.”

Asked for his memories Saturday, Azinger called him an “encourager.”

“Look at the way he treated his partners at the Ryder Cup,” Azinger said. “There was always a pat on the back. He could bring the most out of his partners. I played with him in 1988 at Brookline and had a chance to win there. Seve was encouraging me the last few holes because he could no longer win. That was his nature. He would say, ‘You need to birdie the next hole. You can do this.’ I loved him.

“Anyone who was around Seve learned from Seve,” Azinger said. “And you can’t say that about everyone.”

The shotmaking. The charisma. The adulation from galleries. The legacy he left behind.

“Seve had it all,” Miller said.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.