Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3: Seve Ballesteros

By Randall MellDecember 26, 2011, 1:00 pm

His game couldn’t contain his giant spirit.

Bold and willful, charming and flamboyant, charismatic and stubborn, it all radiated off Seve Ballesteros in his regal marches across St. Andrews, Augusta National and beyond.

With his death from brain cancer on May 7, golf writers around the world searched for words to capture the essence of Europe’s celebrated champion.

With more than 90 worldwide titles, 50 European Tour victories, five major championships, Ballesteros was an inspiration to a generation of European pros who rule the world rankings today.

“America had Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer; Seve was our Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus rolled into one,” said Bernard Gallacher, who captained Ballesteros in three Ryder Cups. “You can’t speak too highly of him. Seve was Europe’s best-ever player.”

In his life, and in his death, Ballesteros was also an inspiration to golf writers.

“He went after a golf course the way a lion goes after a zebra,” the great Jim Murray once wrote.

In stories documenting his death, Ballesteros was remembered by writers around the world. Here’s a collection of tributes from other websites, newspapers and magazines:

Doug Ferguson, Associated Press

Seve Ballesteros was a genius with a golf club in his hands, an inspiration to everyone who saw him create shots that didn't seem possible. The Spaniard's passion and pride revived European golf and made the Ryder Cup one of the game's most compelling events.

His career was defined not only by what he won, but how he won.

“He was the greatest show on earth,” Nick Faldo said.

Ballesteros, a five-time major champion whose incomparable imagination and fiery passion made him one of the most significant figures in modern golf.

Jaime Diaz, Golf Digest

Ballesteros had a different allure from other champions. He was talented in the extreme, but it was the way his glory years in the late '70s and early '80s personified the purity of instinct that made him such a vicarious pleasure. That he would fall prey to paralysis by analysis in the full swing is one of the game's most cruel ironies.

For all his transcendent skill around the green - which he never really lost - what set Ballesteros apart was passion. Whenever he competed, he was all in. The crazy intensity of purpose is what made Ballesteros and Faldo blood brothers in the game, and it's why the Englishman was overcome recalling how a tearful Ballesteros embraced him in victory at the 1995 Ryder Cup and told him, 'You are a great champion.'

Rick Reilly,

As it turns out, there was one jam that Seve Ballesteros couldn't escape.

Ballesteros died early Saturday at 54, from complications of a cancerous brain tumor, but I'll never believe it. In 20 years covering him, I never saw a mess Seve couldn't get out of. He made birdies from parking lots, concession stands, bushes, trees, ditches, weeds you could lose an eighth-grader in, ponds, creeks, flower gardens and even women's purses. I saw him hit shots on his knees, on his tiptoes, stooped over, one-legged and one-armed . . .

He made bogeys that were more thrilling than some guys' eagles. But it wasn't so much what he did with the shot but what he did afterward - leaping, charging, punching unseen enemies in the sky.

Seve was Arnie with an accent. A conquistador in green pants. He was tan and handsome and raw. Emotion poured from his fingernails. He had so many urgent facial expressions, you'd have thought he was on trial.

Joe Posnanski, Sports Illustrated

They called him El Matador. His handsome face and flamboyant game demanded the nickname of an action hero. Ballesteros would drive balls into trees, into roughs, into galleries, under cars, into villains' lairs. Then he would summon impossible shots that leaped over tall buildings, bounced over traps, rolled up to greens. He would follow with chip shots softer than the housing market, and if the ball dared not drop, he would stare angrily, as if personally betrayed. Birdies, he felt, were his birthright.

Michael Bamberger, Sports Illustrated

He was at home in one place in the United States: Augusta National. He liked the cozy second-floor dining room, where he would have long lunches with family members. He won at Augusta in 1980 and '83, and he was in the Sunday mix another six times, seven if you count '78, when he finished 18th.

Ballesteros became the first European to win the Masters. Seve won by four, with a smart, pedestrian closing round of 72. When he got into the cabin for the traditional winner's interview, the new Augusta chairman, Hord Hardin, asked the new champ, 'Seve, how tall are you?' It was a perfect question for the golfing artiste. He could have answered in Spanish or English, in meters or feet. He could have said, 'As tall as I feel.' He felt the game and he felt life. We could all see that. He made his 54 years count.

Steve Elling,

For the American audience that never saw him play, Ballesteros' style was a cross between Arnold Palmer's magnetism and Phil Mickelson’s improvisational hero shots. The five-time major winner and Hall of Famer was more miraculous with a short stick than Merlin with his magic wand.

John Huggan, Golf World

Genius, it is often said, is an overused word, especially in sport. But Ballesteros qualified, with something to spare. Ever since he learned his golf whacking balls around with an old 3-iron on the beach at Pedrena, the tiny fishing village on Spain's windswept northern coast where he lived all of his too-short life, Seve was the creator of special shots. As far back as the late 1970s - using a persimmon-headed driver and a ball far removed from the turbo-charged missiles of today - he drove the 10th green at the Belfry. His opponent that day, Faldo, could only shake his head in wonder.

Bill Fields, Golf World

His name could be hard for certain tongues to get just right on the first try, but when it came to his golf, Severiano Ballesteros was a universal language, no translation required. Other players had more perfect swings and more even-keel mindsets, but has anybody ever seemed more meant for the game than Ballesteros? In his abbreviated prime - before back problems and swing gremlins took their toll - one only had to watch him for a hole or two to sense his charisma, his command, his creativity. Fairway-wood from 240 yards out of a bunker? Check. Punched 4-iron out a forest, curving toward the target like it was directed by remote control? Got it. Tricky pitch shot with everything on line? No problem. It was singular, inspiring golf that came out of Seve's heart, not from a book.

Chuck Culpepper, Los Angeles Times

At age 8, Ballesteros received a 3-iron that nearly became an appendage. In his youth he would learn every shot using that club alone, and by the time he turned professional at 17 in 1974, his unusual arsenal overrode the leanness of his amateur experience, which included only five annual local caddies' tournaments.

In a whoosh of precocity at 19, he won the Order of Merit as the European tour's top golfer in 1976 and said hello to the planet during a single weekend in July. That's when he turned up at the British Open at Royal Birkdale speaking no English, staying at a bed-and-breakfast, finding a police officer for a caddie and starting off 69-69 to play the weekend paired with eventual champion Johnny Miller and finishing second alongside Jack Nicklaus.

Bob Harig,

Many have likened Ballesteros to Arnold Palmer, who helped bring golf to the masses in the United States and became as beloved a figure in the game as there has ever been. Like Palmer, Ballesteros played with flash and flair. He was popular beyond his golf, connecting with the people, who were mesmerized by him.

As Palmer helped grow the game in the United States, Ballesteros did likewise in Europe. And where Palmer made the British Open popular again for American players, it was Ballesteros who helped energize a continent over the Ryder Cup, making it relevant again.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.