Sport on TV: It's Alliss in wonderland with the king of clubs – and hearts

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The Independent Online

If you don't particularly like golf, there are few players you would be prepared to watch a TV programme about. Perhaps only one: Severiano Ballesteros. OK, so he had some dodgy pairs of flares in his time but it was his flair on the course that transcended his staid pastime; he had a sunny disposition mixed with Mediterranean emotion; and, for those who only really get interested in the game when the Ryder Cup is on, "he was without a doubt the reason why Europe started winning", according to Jack Nicklaus on Inside Sport Special (BBC1, Wednesday). If you were to watch a programme about Nick Faldo or Bernhard Langer, you would be likely to reflect upon a good three-quarters of an hour spoiled.

Of course it was not only that Seve is "one of the most charismatic, not only golfers, but sportsmen ever seen", as Peter Alliss intoned, that the BBC sent him to meet the Spaniard. Seve has undergone four life-saving operations after collapsing from a brain tumour this time last year. He is still having radiotherapy and he is frail. But that smile still plays across his lips and the old magic still twinkles in his eyes as he dreams of making a comeback at St Andrews for next year's Open.

It is uplifting to see him playing cards with his friends in the house he has lived in for 15 years, overlooking the 18th green in his home town of Pedrena. He may be a genius but he seems so normal as he gives Alliss a guided tour of his relatively modest villa. In fact, so disarming is Seve, and so self-important is Alliss, that it would be difficult for the uninitiated to tell who was the superstar and who the TV presenter. As they wander through the trophy room, Alliss points at one bauble and gasps "Ooh, I've got two of those". Seve had six of them.

It's that trophy room which sets him apart from the common man. When he gets a really good hand, he can say to his fellow card sharps: "I see your three beans and I raise you a 1988 Claret Jug." Then there are the Masters jackets, two of them. Augusta champions are supposed to leave the green blazers in the clubhouse but he took them with him. They wrote to him asking if he had them. "I said yes, come and get them."

For all the trophies, what he lacks is a trophy wife. "I have so many girls throughout the years, when I come home I feel a little bit sad." Perhaps here's a new series in the making: 'Sporting Legend Wants a Wife.' And he's got a Lamborghini in the garage that he wants to sell because he can't drive it any more. He tries to get Alliss to buy it but his sales pitch is not as good as his pitch and putt.

"I feel I live two or three lives more than other people," he says, and a used-car salesman is not likely to be his next incarnation. But with that smile and those twinkles, you probably would buy a second-hand car from this man.

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