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Seve: Golf's Flawed Genius by Robert Green

Release date: 29th September, 2006
Publisher: Robson Books

List Price: £16.99
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Seve: Golf's Flawed Genius
By Robert Green
Robson Books price: £11.21, saving £5.78 on rrp

As the European side bask in the glory of their comprehensive Ryder Cup victory last week, it is perhaps fitting that Robert Green should offer up such an engaging biography of the man who, for many, was responsible for its resurrection as a true competition two decades ago.

By the time he was 13, Seve Ballesteros, then a lowly caddie at the Real Club de Golf de Pedrena, had managed to beat his elder brother Manuel over 18 holes, a significant victory, not just in terms of sibling rivalry, but also because Manuel was 21 and by then a decent tour professional. It was a result that had enormous repercussions. Having previously rebuffed young Ballesteros, the golf club threw open its doors to him and for most of the next four years, he fine-tuned his God-given ability, practising virtually every day.

It was a lonely, but fulfilling, pursuit for the youngster, one which provided an early indication of his determination and single-mindedness that was to stand him in good stead as he went on to win two Masters (1980 & 1983) and three Open Championships (1979, 1984 & 1988).

But aside from a natural golfing ability, focus and concentration are prerequisites for success at the highest level, attributes that Ballesteros clearly had in abundance. As he says: "I look into their eyes, shake their hand, pat their back and wish them luck, but I am thinking, 'I am going to bury you.'"

Nowhere was this attitude more evident than when Seve was playing in Ryder Cup matches. He simply was not prepared to accept that American golfers were better, although before he arrived on the scene, the record books show otherwise.

Following another USA victory (their fourth consecutive) at Royal Lytham in 1977, Jack Nicklaus met Lord Derby, President of the British PGA and suggested that the matches were becoming less competitive. By the time of the next competition at Greenbrier, West Virginia, a European team had been formed to take on the might of the USA, although it was to be another six years before they recorded their first win.

The Belfry in 1985 marked a turning point in the Ryder Cup, for apart from their first win, the Europeans would pair Seve and a youthful Jose Maria Olazabal together. Over the next eight years, the twosome compiled the Ryder Cup's greatest team record, winning eleven and halving two of their fifteen matches. Not as though they were all plain sailing; indeed, in many cases, the naturally aggressive side of Seve's personality ensured he and Olazabal established a psychological advantage over their opponents at the earliest possible opportunity.

On the first green in their fourball match against Curtis Strange and Tom Kite in 1987, for example, Seve had an altercation with Strange which set the tone for the rest of the match and two years later, he became angry with Paul Azinger on the second green after the American refused to let him change his ball. Such minor feuds complimented a natural fighting spirit.

More than one observer has suggested that he welcomed confrontation as it spurred him on to victory. But that is what winners do: think of athletes, boxers, footballers, rugby stars who make it to the top of their sport - few do so by being Mr Nice Guy. Seve Ballesteros could never be called that, but a winner - most definitely.

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