Golf: Ballesteros back in the swing with new model victory: Popular Spaniard experiences ecstasy after a series of agonies as he rediscovers his former golden touch to whip the Cornish cream

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The Independent Online
IT WAS worth the wait. Seve Ballesteros, the most charismatic golfer in Europe, won the Benson and Hedges International Open yesterday, his first victory since winning in Majorca on 8 March 1992. Twixt then and now he has gone through what he described as agony. The agony of failure, the agony of a dodgy back, the agony of leaving the world stage to others and the agony of having to ask the USGA for an invitation to its Open.

'It was just like the old days,' Ballesteros said after moving from 164th in the Order of Merit to numero uno with a cheque for pounds 108,330. Ballesteros shot 70 in the final round at St Mellion, as did Nick Faldo, and the Spaniard finished three strokes in front of the Englishman and four in front of Gary Orr and Jonathan Lomas.

Over the Jack Nicklaus-designed course, one of the most demanding on the European Tour, Ballesteros compiled rounds of 69, 70, 72 and 70 for an aggregate of 281, seven under par. 'It was worth all the work I've put in,' he said. 'I was always in control. I didn't play very special but I was never in danger of a bogey at any hole. Consistency made me win. That is the way this golf course needs to be played.'

Ballesteros, who for so long has been playing second fiddle to Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam, may have been struggling on the golf course but politically he is as cute as ever. 'I may play in America next year,' he said by way of an intriguing postscript. Olazabal has said the same thing and if they were to do so it would obviously be a significant blow to the European Tour. Ballesteros, though, had his rosette on. Asked to elaborate about his threat to join the US Tour he said: 'It's a message.'

Ballesteros had an up-and-down day in his 72 in the third round which left him one stroke behind Orr. Afterwards he complained about getting half of Cornwall on his ball. 'I had a lot of mud and it was out of control,' he said. 'I had six shots with big pieces of mud on the ball and I lost my confidence as a result.' He suggested on Saturday evening that the players should have the luxury of preferred lies and surprise, surprise, they were introduced yesterday morning. There was another concession. The tees on the 17th and the 18th were brought forward.

In the final round Ballesteros was almost Faldo-like in his pursuit of pars, reeling off 15 before getting his first birdie at the par-five 16th and that after driving into the countryside on the right. Faldo watched, on television in the recorder's hut, Ballesteros make that putt and was resigned to defeat. Faldo had four birdies and it could have been six had he made putts from around 10 feet at the 17th and 18th. 'I was trying to shoot 65,' Faldo said, 'but here you're in the lap of the greens.'

Ballesteros was back in the lap of the gods. Mac O'Grady, his new coach, has restored not only his confidence but his swing and the Masters victory of Olazabal at Augusta National has provided another spur. Orr, Ballesteros's playing partner, drifted from the lead with a 75 that contained seven bogeys and four birdies. In its eccentricity it was reminiscent of the bad old Ballesteros.

However, the new model Spaniard, aware of the threat posed by Faldo, who got to four under for the tournament with birdies at the 15th and 16th, moved to six under at the 16th with a putt from 12 feet and tied a yellow ribbon around the championship with another birdie at the 17th where he hit a six-iron approach to three feet. Once again he paid tribute to the support from the crowd and they were almost as emotional as he was when he sealed his victory at the 18th green.

The Benson and Hedges International Open is the first European Tour event on the calendar in Britain and although there are complaints that it is too early for the greens to gain maturity, the cream are drawn to Cornwall by the money, which comes under the categories of prize and appearance. Jim Elkins, tournament director, admitted yesterday that it was touch and go whether the tournament would take place next year.

It will - at the same venue and perhaps at a different date - but the vote to continue was a tight one. The company, which is in a minority in preferring the coverage of the BBC to Sky, said it had been through a difficult year. 'We live in a harsh world,' Elkins said. 'The tobacco industry has been as hard hit as anybody. We are owned by Americans and they always look at the bottom line. I think we've got to act like a big boy if we want to be a big boy.' The decision to sponsor the tournament is taken annually. The BBC, not to mention most of the players, would like a later date if only to avoid clashing with another big televised event, in this case the Pilkington Cup final.

FINAL SCORES FROM ST MELLION

(GB or Irl unless stated): 281 S Ballesteros (Sp) 69 70 72 70. 284 N Faldo 75 69 70 70. 285 J Lomas 74 70 69 72; G Orr 70 70 70 75. 287 R Karlsson (Swe) 73 72 70 72; P Curry 76 69 70 72; W Westner (SA) 70 74 69 74; P Price 69 73 71 74; S Torrance 75 68 69 75. 288 J Rivero (Sp) 70 73 75 70; H Clark 70 72 75 71; M Roe 73 72 71 72; A Cejka (Ger) 76 72 67 73. 289 C Montgomerie 73 70 77 69; G Brand Jnr 76 71 72 70; M Mackenzie 73 72 73 71; B Langer (Ger) 70 77 70 72. 290 S Tinning (Den) 75 74 70 71; E Romero (Arg) 75 73 70 72; S Struver (Ger) 72 73 72 73; B Lane 77 72 68 73; P McGinley 72 69 75 74; A Sherborne 74 70 72 74; R Davis (Aus) 78 71 67 74; D Clarke 73 73 67 77. 291 S Ames (Tri) 70 72 79 70; M James 72 73 75 71; J Van de Velde (Fr) 71 74 75 71; R Goosen (SA) 71 76 73 71; F Lindgren (Swe) 73 74 70 74; P-U Johansson (Swe) 75 70 71 75; M Clayton (Aus) 74 72 70 75; P Fowler (Aus) 71 74 70 76. 292 M Davis 72 75 76 69; P Mayo 72 74 75 71; F Nobilo (NZ) 75 71 73 73; J-M Olazabal (Sp) 76 72 71 73; A Murray 74 69 75 74. 293 P Affleck 74 75 73 71; S Lyle 75 72 74 72; D Ray 73 74 72 74; T Price (Aus) 76 73 70 74; L Westwood 72 72 74 75; D Hospital (Sp) 77 70 71 75. 294 P Eales 73 72 78 71; G Levenson (SA) 74 74 75 71; A Oldcorn 76 73 72 73; J Payne 74 74 72 74; M Pinero (Sp) 75 72 72 75; I Spencer 75 72 71 76. 295 B Gallacher 72 74 76 73; J Spence 75 69 77 74; J Bland (SA) 72 75 74 74; G Evans 77 72 71 75; D Curry 73 75 71 76; P Walton 72 75 71 77; M McLean 72 74 71 78. 296 G J Brand 73 75 78 70; M A Jimenez (Sp) 77 71 76 72; R Boxall 75 72 76 73; A Bossert (Switz) 74 74 74 74; G Hjertstedt (Swe) 76 70 75 75; M Gronberg (Swe) 77 70 74 75; * D Howell 75 72 73 76. 297 P Teravainen (US) 79 70 74 74; P Fulke (Swe) 74 71 77 75; R Allenby (Aus) 74 72 73 78. 298 C Mason 75 74 77 72; R Chapman 71 74 75 78. 299 J McHenry 74 75 75 75; D W Basson (SA) 73 75 72 79. 300 P Hedblom (Swe) 73 74 74 79. 302 D Smyth 72 76 83 71; J Hawkes (SA) 76 73 80 73; J Hobday (SA) 73 72 82 75; M Besanceney (Fr) 78 69 80 75. * denotes amateur.

(Photograph omitted)

Daly in control, page 33

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