No More Tricks Up Seve’s Sleeve

Posted by Robert on May 13

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Nobody expected that the master magician, Seve Ballesteros, wouldn’t be able to pull off another one of his trademark up-and-downs from deep in the woods, even if it was brain cancer. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and one of golf’s most colorful characters passed away Saturday at 54.

My first childhood memory of Seve was listening to my father shouting at him through our ugly wooden console television. Nothing could get my dad hotter than watching Seve pull off one of his “circus acts” like getting up and down from underneath a parked Triumph to win the 1979 Open Championship, besting Nicklaus, Irwin and Crenshaw – a few of pop’s favorites.

Seve sprayed drives like Albert Pujols fouling off Halladay fastballs. He hit golf balls in places that his opponents never expected him to even find the ball let alone get up and down. Further spirit crushing was his fiery leaping and thrashing about when he would pour in a 20 footer that left you face down on the canvas.

He was a five time major winner, who destroyed the field in the 1980 Masters when he became the youngest player to ever win at the time, until Tiger.

But clearly his greatest contribution to golf was The Ryder Cup. In ’79 the year he won the British Open, they opened up the field to allow continental Europe to join Great Britain and Ireland in hopes of giving the dominant Americans a run for their money. Seve would prove to be the spark that not only would eventually swing the tide in favor of the Europeans but his bloodthirsty demeanor and gamesmanship antics would make The Ryder Cup the spectacle that it is today.

In 1991 while playing his good friend Nick Price, Seve was snacking on some fruitcake that became lodged in his throat forcing him to make choking noises in the middle of Price’s swing. Seve had so many coughing attacks during match play over the years that some of his American opponents brought cough drops to offer him.

In 1995 while playing Tom Lehman – and getting beat rather badly despite a display of miraculous short game going out by Seve that Lehman would call “the greatest nine holes of golf I’ve ever seen” – Tom lagged a putt to within inches of the cup and tapped in, something that tour pros do regularly. Only Seve took exception and called a rule’s official over. Lehman had played out of turn (when he tapped in) – and thus was forced to forfeit the hole. (Tom would go onto win the match, but Europe would rally and pull off one of the most exciting comebacks in Ryder Cup history.)

Say what you want about his antics, but the man that Americans would love to hate was one of the most successful Ryder Cup players in history. Paired with Jose Maria Olazabal, he had 11 wins and 2 halves out of 15 pairs matches.

And who could honestly hate the guy whose erratic drives would often remind us of our own, always looking up after a ferocious pass at the ball having no clue in which direction it was going to go?

“I'd like to see the fairways more narrow,” Seve said in 1979, “then everybody would have to play from the rough, not just me.”

Goodbye Seve.

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