Seve:Face-to-face

Seve Ballesteros answers the questions we are all asking

Golfmagic correspondent
Mon, 30 Jul 2001

Seve:Face-to-face

Seve - what next?.
Whatever has happened to Seve Ballesteros? Once the greatest player the game has ever seen, he has battled away in what seems a vein attempt to recapture past glories.

He is now floundering in the lower reaches of the Volvo Order of Merit, having missed the cut in The 130th open championship at Royal Lytham where he won so majestically in 1988.

But still we hang on his every word and in this frank interview he reveals what motivates him, how he is nurturing his son Javier to follow in his footsteps and whom he thinks are the best young players to watch on the current circuit.

Who is the nearest to becoming the new Seve, the young player that excites you as much as you excited a generation of young golfers?

I guess Sergio Garcia is doing very well. It is a pity he is not playing more in Europe. Adam Scott is the other young player that I really like along with the other Australian, Aaron Baddeley, I played with him at the Irish Open, two rounds, and he has a lot of talent.

Do you think Sergio has the game to win major championships at this point?

Well, Sergio was close a couple of years ago at the US PGA and he was doing very well this year at the US Open. I think he has the potential to win. But it is one thing to have the potential to win and another thing is to win. There's a lot of good players out there. You know, it is really difficult to say one particular player will win, apart from Tiger Woods.

Which of your three Open victories do you consider to be your best?

All three were very good but if I have to pick up one, it probably was St Andrews '84.

Ballesteros - in the rough.

The last round at Royal Lytham when you won in '88, was that the best last round in a major championship you ever played?

It was a fantastic battle with Nick Price. Yes, that was probably my best round of my career considering the situation.

Was it even better because he played so well?

Yes, well, Nick Price played very well. Obviously he shot 69 and any time you are two shots ahead and you shoot 69, most likely you are supposed to win. But I was lucky enough to hole some good putts out there and I shot 65 and I won.

You think it’s a pity Sergio is not playing more in Europe. Has he gone to America too soon and not quite learned his craft over here?

No, I just say that because I think it would be good for all of us to have Sergio playing over here instead of in America, just thinking how good it would be for the European Tour, that’s all. Probably to become a better player and develop his game, maybe America is a better place.

You brought your son Baldomero Javier to the Open this year, how much of a thrill was that to come back to the course where you won in 1988?

Just going back and being able to remember some of the shots that I produced in the past, I told him where I was and how it is and how I played this shot and that shot. He also played 10 holes on Saturday; I caddied for him. It was a very special moment.

What are the things that you tell Javier about golf? What are the things that you think are important to learn?

Technique is one thing I never will recommend to him. No, I just think that - I just say: ‘The number one rule in golf is: play as the ball lies.’ Because he asked me how many rules in golf.’ I said: ’34.’ He said: ‘Which is number one?’ Then I say just practice and just play natural. Play by instinct. That is the best way. The only thing I tell him once in a while are some fundamentals - how to stand over the ball and the grip a little bit. He has the tendency to grip with the left-hand. He already has a great swing already. Only 14 handicap at 10 is not bad. He has a pretty good short game.

Ballesteros - time is running out.

What handicap were you when you were ten years old?

I did not have a handicap because I was not allowed to play on the golf course. My handicap was the beach.

Does he have a full set of clubs?

He has a full set of Callaway clubs and the ERC driver. At Lytham we were in front of the Clifton Arms Hotel, there is a little field there and I took him after dinner at about 9 o'clock, and he hit some balls with the driver. He asked me to pace how far was his longest driver and it was 175 metres. Not bad for 10 years old.

How much do you still manage to enjoy golf while you are struggling with your own game?

Well, I have not been able to enjoy it very much lately, obviously, because of the way I have been playing. But I feel I am a very lucky person for a very simple reason that I won a lot of tournaments. I enjoy the game a lot and obviously I am fighting back because I enjoy when I play good, you know. I play for pleasure and if you enjoy it, the rest happens. That is why I keep going, just to see if on one of those days it will switch to better form. I may not enjoy as much as before but a little bit. That would be great.

Does it disappoint that you say how proud you were of your son the other day but you can't show him golf, as it were, when you were in your prime?

Yes, that is one of the things he keeps telling me. He says ‘I want to see you win because I have not seen you win.’

Obviously I try my best and it is a pity but that is the way it goes, you know. Perhaps if that doesn't happen, I will show him some videos from my victories and maybe he will believe me. But, yeah, that is the way it is.

Is that part of your motivation for keeping going?

The motivations are many. Motivation is because I love this game so much and that's why I keep trying and seeing if I can regain some of the past form and enjoy it. The motivation is my family, my friends, all my fans, you know. There's a lot of reasons. All I can say is I just try my best and, you know, but I have had so many good years that I can't complain. I feel very lucky.

You still have that great relationship with the fans as well even when you are not playing so well when you go out to practice there are a lots of people who go out and watch.

They still support me. This is one thing I am very grateful for. That is why when I go out there I try to be as nice as I can possibly be and try to show them once in a while I can hit some good shots and do my best. That is all I can do.

Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel? Is your game moving in the direction - any sort of direction - that is satisfying?

Seve keeps smiling.

It has been difficult off the tee. I mean, you know, it is hard to score well when you hit 8 greens in regulation and you hit only two or three fairways per round. It is very hard. It is a tremendous battle out there. Maybe one day things will change, but if it doesn't happen, it is not going to be the end of the world. But saying that, I am very grateful to the game and to all those people who really have always supported me throughout those years. I mean, not much I can say.

You speak of scrambling, but in your prime you were one of the great players at that. Has that changed with you? Did you do it better then than now?

Can you explain the question?

When you won at Lytham in 1979, you hit it all over the place but you still managed to score. Is that something that you can't find nowadays or what has happened?

All over the place? Sometimes that sounds a little strong. I was a little bit erratic on certain holes but not all over the place. I know what you mean. What happened? I don't know. Maybe you can tell me. Otherwise I don’t know.

Seve, have you given yourself a timescale for things to turn round, to start winning the game?

Do I have a deadline? No. I don't have to.

You said that you might show your children the videos. Do you watch them yourself? Like would you have watched the videos from '79 and '88 just to get that feeling again?

For nostalgia, yes. When you watch videos it always give you an inspiration. You know, that is one thing that helps a little bit; but that is not everything.

Have you been close recently to being so depressed about your game that you could envisage just quitting on the spot, walking off the course and not coming back?

The only thing I have been telling myself is I better just keep practising and working harder and just trying to regain the game. Just to continue the way I have been playing this year is really tough. You don't know how tough it is to come out and just keep missing the cut. Missing the cut is not a big factor for me, it is just the way I have been playing. It is difficult.

What is the lowest you have been?

I don't think it can be any lower than now. That is the lowest point of my career, there is no question.

And what is the best moment you have had on the golf course this year?

I played well in Malaga. I was doing very well. I was top ten, nine holes to play. I made six on the little par-3; it put me off. I finished 25th.

Can you still maintain the concentration and the focus now? Ten, twenty years ago, you never gave up whatever you were scoring. Is that increasingly difficult to do?

That is one of the things that I find very difficult, is to keep myself motivated when things are going badly. You know, my confidence goes down and then it becomes very difficult to focus and concentrate. It also it becomes very difficult to speak every day about the same issue.

Practice - watched by brother Vicente.

Do you still think you can win?

Good question. Very difficult because I don't really have the confidence. Maybe things can change in two days. It does not cost very much to have, how do you say, faith. It is free, you know. You don't get any charge for that. So ... But again, I have so many good memories…moments. There is nothing to regret or nothing to complain about .

It can change quickly, as well?

I remember when I won at Lytham in '88 I was playing really bad; I played only six holes on Wednesday and came off the golf course. And then I made three birdies, the first three holes on Thursday and I felt I was another player. That is the interesting thing about this game. Sometimes you - throughout the round, sometimes you feel like you nearly believe you are God out there, then all of a sudden you feel that you are useless. That is the way it is. So this is the game of humbled people. And if you are not humble the game will show you how to be humble sooner or later.

Most of us are humbled all the time.

I know that. I am just trying to remind you of that.

Thank you, Seve.