Ballesteros banking on Open boost

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Severiano Ballesteros is determined to be back to his best by July in order to make a determined effort to win the Open at Royal Lytham St Anne's for the third successive time.

Ballesteros, who begins his challenge for the Turespana Masters in Valencia today, is struggling to regain form and fitness following a six-month break and the Spanish tournament is only his sixth event of the year.

"I'm getting better day by day," the 39-year-old Ballesteros said. "My back has not been troubling me. But I have a problem with my left wrist after swinging too much with a heavy club for the past few days.

"The wrist will not be too bad and I hope to have all my old rhythm and confidence back by the time of the Open championship.

"I won the Open in 1979 and 1988, the last two times the championship was held at Lytham, and I like the course very much. It also gives you confidence when you play a course where you have done well in the past.

"Maybe I am not playing so well at the moment but I hope to reach Lytham in good shape because it would be nice to win three in a row there.

"I have a few months left so there is plenty of time to pick up my form. I have many happy memories of Lytham and can still remember all my shots in the last rounds both times."

Ballesteros has also been given added confidence by Nick Faldo's win in the US Masters. "Nick is only a few months younger than me and it gives us added hope when a player of 38 wins a major. If he can do it, why not me?"

This week is the first time that Ballesteros has played in his native Spain for almost a year and his biggest regret is that his compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal is unable to play the Valencia tournament.

Olazabal, suffering from arthritis in both feet, was hoping to make a comeback this week but pulled out of the event on Tuesday.

"It is very sad he is not here," said Ballesteros. "We are missing him on tour. Hopefully he will be back for the Open."

Ballesteros is one of seven of Europe's last Ryder Cup team to be in the Valencia field. Sam Torrance, Howard Clark. Philip Walton, David Gilford, Costantino Rocca and Per-Ulrik Johansson will all be among his rivals for the first prize of pounds 83,330.

South African Wayne Westner, Australian Wayne Riley, Scotland's Paul Lawrie and Sweden's Peter Hedblom and Jarmo Sandelin, all of whom have won European Tour events this year, are also in the field.