Ballesteros charges back to front

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The Independent Online
Seve Ballesteros, whose name is missing from the invitation list for the US Open later this month, returned to form at the Deutsche Bank Open in Hamburg yesterday and then said he was happy to miss the year's second major championship. The 39-year-old Spaniard, who has not won a tournament for 13 months, shot 66, the best score of the day, which gave him a 10-under-par, three-round aggregate of 206.

Ballesteros is only two strokes behind the joint leaders - Ireland's Darren Clarke and another Spaniard, Miguel Martin. Colin Montgomerie, Europe's No 1 for the last three years, and his fellow Scot Gary Orr each shot 69 and are on 205 alongside South Africa's Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby of Australia.

Ballesteros, whose form has been poor since ending the five-month break he took from golf after last September's Ryder Cup, said: "I have had two chances of winning the US Open in the past but I have never enjoyed the tournament. I won't miss not going there this year. Sure, it's a major, but it's not a good tournament because 80 per cent of the game in the US Open is about hitting the fairways. It takes away the skill factor. Everyone wants to compete in the US Open but then when they get there they all hope the week would finish quickly. What will I do that week? I think I will enjoy the European soccer."

When asked whether he might get a late invitation, Ballesteros, who will captain Europe in next year's Ryder Cup match at Valderrama in southern Spain, replied: "No chance, the Americans only invite Americans. Everyone knows that."

Ballesteros, who had six birdies yesterday, added: "I can win with another 66. I have stopped listening to people who know far less about golf than I do. Now I only listen to myself."

A tip from Ballesteros helped Martin to shoot a third 68 in a row. "Seve gave me a great tip. It is a big secret. I will just say it works," he said. Clarke, who will be going to the US Open, shot a second successive 67 while Montgomerie, who finished with two birdies to move within a shot of the lead, said: "I hit every fairway and every green but just couldn't get a putt in until the last two holes. I'm playing well enough to win the tournament." Orr, who played with Montgomerie, also had three birdies, but admitted having a far "scrappier" round than his partner.

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