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The 76th

Masters 5-8 April, 2012 Augusta National Golf Club

HK Golfer's

Miller Brown

preview of the first major of the year ... 30

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Swashbuckling Spaniard: Seve, aged 50, at the 2007 Masters Tournament


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The Last Hurrah Lewine Mair recalls her time spent with Seve Ballesteros at the 2007 Masters, the final occasion the two-time champion played at Augusta

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“I’m here to celebrate turning 50,” he began (his birthday was on 9 April). “My back’s feeling a whole lot better, I’m ready to play and I’m ready to remember the good things.” With particular reference, you would have to imagine, to his two victories, the first of which was in 1980 when he was the youngest-ever winner at 21. In finishing four ahead of Gibby Gilbert and Jack Newton, he had a grand total of 23 birdies – a record at that time – and led or shared the lead every day. The win, incidentally, was one to open the floodgates for the rest of the Europeans who proceeded to win nine of the next 16 instalments. He donned the second of his green jackets in 1983 in a week when he had bedded down on the Saturday night a shot behind Ray Floyd and Craig Stadler. Come the Sunday and he started birdie, eagle, par, birdie and never looked back. “It was like he was driving a Ferrari and everybody else a Chevrolet,” said Tom Kite of that electrifying start. Ballesteros, who also lost out to Larry Mize in a play-off for the 1987 Masters, told me he was looking forward to the C ha mpion s Di n ner on ly le s s t ha n he was itching to play again – not just at Augusta but in a selection of events among the US seniors. HK Golfer・APR 2012

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he sun had just come up on the Monday of the Masters. A few cars were starting to turn into the parking lot in front of the professional’s shop, the one reserved strictly for men such as Hootie Johnson, the chairman emeritus of Augusta National, and legends like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The media always keep half an eye on the area and, that morning, I found myself doing a double-take as a man as dashing as the Seve Ballesteros of 20 years before stepped from his car. It was not impossible that it was him but it was unlikely. After all, he had not been back at Augusta since 2003, the year when he had an 86which told the golfing world the extent to which things had gone downhill from the good old days. The chance to have a second look at the new arrival was denied, or rather interrupted, as he was swept into the arms of an elderly Augusta member. Only when the two disentangled themselves did it become clear. It was indeed Seve, a leaner, fitter and more smiling version than we had seen in years. The opportunity could not be missed. Ballesteros had become a bit suspicious of the press but now he was happy to talk.

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He spoke, enthusiastically, of what he had done to prepare the way for this fresh start. Since the 2006 Open at Hoylake where he had scored better than was anticipated with a 74 and a 77, he had exercised and dieted and lost at least a stone. He made it clear that he was not expecting to make his fortune on America’s Champions Tour – “I’ve never played golf for the money” – and that the exercise was all about having a bit of fun and keeping himself in good golfing shape.

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In good company (clockwise from top): Ballesteros receives the green jacket from Craig Stadler for a second time in 1983; regardless of his form in later life, his swing was still a joy to watch; playing a practice round at Augusta with fellow Spaniards José María Olazábal and Miguel Angel Jimémez

I asked if he had rediscovered some old golfing secret but the answer was in the negative. Indeed, he said he had recently come to the conclusion that there were no secrets to golf or life. “It’s more a matter of being constant in what you are doing and working hard,” he advised. It was at this point that we were joined by Charles Coody, who had won the Masters in 1971. “Are the rumours true, Seve,” Coody asked. “Are you really going play with the old boys? “If you are,” he continued, “you’ll find it more relaxed than the main tour but not as relaxed as it was.” Ballesteros nodded and said that he had guessed as much from watching on television. As Coody went on his way, I asked Ballesteros about the European Senior circuit. Surely he would want to spend at least some of his time competing among old friends closer to home. At that, he muttered something about the better weather in the States before admitting that he had absolutely no intention of playing in Europe. “Why?” I asked. “I’ll leave that to your imagination,” he said, his wry smile shot with hurt.

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Seve: Memorable at the Masters

1980 Playing superbly, Ballesteros enters the final round with a massive seven-stroke lead, only to see that advantage reduced to just two shots after the unheralded Gibby Gilbert reeled off four back-nine birdies in a row. Ballesteros, who started the closing stretch bogey, par, double bogey, bogey, with a tee shot in the water on the 12th and a second shot in the water on the 13th, recovers his composure with a birdie at the par-five 15th. With a 39 on the back nine, he ended up winning by four for his maiden Masters title.

1982 While Ballesteros was being interviewed after the third round, the leader board in the interview room was updated to reflect Craig Stadler making a third straight birdie to finish the round and open a three-stroke lead. Asked to comment on Stadler’s finish, Seve said, in his Spanish accent that everyone loved, “Birdie, birdie, birdie. He’s very consistent!” The next day Ballesteros would finish one stroke out of a play-off won by Stadler over Dan Pohl.

1983 One behind Ray Floyd and Stadler through 54 holes, Ballesteros roared out of the gate with a birdie-eagle-par-birdie start on the way to a five-under 31 on the front nine. He once again stumbled on the back nine but finished with a 69 to win by four, with a chip-in for a par on the last hole. Said Tom Kite of Seve’s start, “It was like he was in a Ferrari and everyone else in a Chevrolet.”

1985 Come the Sunday [in 1983] and he started birdie, eagle, par, birdie and never looked back. “It was like he was driving a Ferrari and everybody else a Chevrolet,” said Tom Kite of that electrifying start.

Ballesteros finished second, two strokes behind Bernhard Langer, who clinched his first Masters. Although it looked close on paper, the destiny of the tournament was really between Langer and Curtis Strange, who blew the lead on the back nine.

1986 The one that got away. Jack Nicklaus, aged 46, was making a charge, but the Masters was still in Ballesteros’ hands as he stood in the 15th fairway with a one-stroke lead and about to hit a four-iron to the green for his second shot to the par-five. Then disaster: he hit it in the water and made bogey. Nicklaus birdied the 17th, and it would be a sixth green jacket for the Golden Bear instead of a third for the Spaniard.

1987 Clearly, he was not seeing the Senior Tour as far enough removed from the regular European circuit where he had had more than his share of spats with officialdom since turning 40. At the 2003 Italian Open, for example, he had refused to accept a one-stroke penalty for slow play and made a big thing of changing the penalty-inflated five on his card to a four by way of demonstrating his disapproval. That same day, he had referred to European Tour officials as “nearly like Mafia”. HKGOLFER.COM

Another chance gone when Ballesteros three-putted for a bogey on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with Greg Norman and eventual champion Larry Mize. Declining a cart ride, Seve slowly walked back up the hill of the 10th fairway to the clubhouse.

1989 This was the last time Ballesteros was a real force at the Masters – he finished fifth, two shots out of the Nick Faldo-Scott Hoch play-off. Seve really excelled in his youth. Although he would triumph at regular tour stops well into the 1990s, his last major victory arrived at the 1988 Open, when he was only 31-years-old.

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He had recently come to the conclusion that there were no secrets to golf or life. “It’s more a matter of being constant in what you are doing and working hard,” he advised.

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Never boring: Ballesteros often saw parts of the golf course that few other players did, but it was his powers of recovery that made him so special to watch 36

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The following year, Seve launched a physical attack on European Tour referee José María Zamora at the Spanish Open, which was played at him home course at Pedreña. It happened in front of representatives from the Spanish Federation and club members. Those who were there were inclined to link it to the goings-on in Italy the previous year but there was another school of thought, namely that it had more to do with the frustration born of his disintegrating marriage – he and Carmen were divorced in 2004 – and his fading game. At one point in that dark period, he had admitted that the biggest mistake he had ever made was to start playing golf in earnest at 16. “I lost all my growing up years,” he reflected. There were those who felt that the European Tour should have given him some kind of ambassadorial role, one which would have taken the place of the golf which had been his life. The impression garnered from our Monday morning conversation – that Ballesteros had

found himself and was set to make the best of life’s inward half – remained gloriously intact until the Masters got under way. Then, he handed in an 86 via rough and trees which left him last but one. On the Friday, he improved to an 80 but that only served to leave him absolutely at the bottom of the heap. “In my first round, everything went wrong 100 times over. Today was not quite so bad. I was quite pleased with the way I controlled my nerves,” he said, in a bid to find a positive. When he left, he was altogether less certain about playing on the Champions Tour, with the same applying to whether or not he would return to Augusta. He did play one event on the senior circuit before realising that he was way out of his depth, but he never did return to Augusta. Where, in 2007, he had stood proudly in a group of 28 past Champions for the traditional photo call ahead of the Champions Dinner, there was no sign of him in the picture of 2008, the year when his brain tumour was diagnosed in the autumn. It was prior to last year’s Champions Dinner that Ballesteros charged his old Ryder Cup comrade-in-arms, José María Olazábal, to send his good wishes to everyone at the table. Olazábal did as much amid an atmosphere in which everyone knew the end was nigh. It came just one month later. HKGOLFER.COM


masters divots

NUMBERS GAME

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The number of strokes that Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters by – which is a record. Woods’ victory that year was his first major triumph, and came after a shaky start. Reaching the turn in 40 strokes (four-over-par) of his first round, Woods fired a six-under 30 on the back nine for a 70. He followed that up with rounds of 66, 65 and 69.

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Is the number of times the Masters title has been decided in a play-off. The last play-off was in 2009 when Argentina’s Angel Cabrera beat Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell. Nick Faldo is the only player to have won more than one Masters after extra holes. The Englishman defeated Scott Hoch in 1989 and followed that up with another play-off win one year later against Ray Floyd.

1961

Was the first year that the Masters was won by a non-American. That title goes to Gary Player, who holds the record for the most number of starts made in the tournament. He made his debut in 1957 and played 52 straight years until 2009. Player won a total of three green jackets.

Schwartzel Wants Barbeque of Champions Reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel wants to bring a unique South African flavour to the annual Champions Dinner this year – by doing the cooking himself. Schwartzel has asked Augusta National Golf Club officials for permission to have a braai, hoping to handle the grilling of steaks, lamb and boerewors himself. “We’re going to try and do a barbecue - in South Africa we call it a ‘braai’,” said Schwartzel. “I don’t like formal dinners. I thought of keeping it very relaxed, sort of standing around a fire and cooking the meat. That’s what I do when I’m at home on my off time.” Augusta National officials have yet to agree to the idea, with concern that the sheer numbers for the select annual gathering could make the braai format impossible. “The only thing that could stop me probably is if there’s too many people - then it is very difficult to do the meat yourself,” Schwartzel continued. “But we’re still waiting for confirmation if it will be allowed [and to] see how it works. “Their initial response was obviously, ‘We’ll come back to you on that.’ I think it took them quite by surprise, maybe [they were] expecting something a little different or more the way they always do it.” A basic standard menu is typically offered, in addition to the selections of the reigning champion, for those past winners who are less adventurous with their culinary choices.

“If I knew what was going through Jack Nicklaus’s head, I would have won the Masters.”

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- Tom Weiskopf (pictured), when asked what he thought Jack Nicklaus was thinking on his way to winning the 1986 Masters

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