Golf: Ballesteros blown off course by Moroccan desert storm

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The Independent Online
SEVE BALLESTEROS, battling against a freak gale which forced play to be suspended for 90 minutes, admitted he had no chance of victory after playing just eight holes in the first round of the Moroccan Open in Agadir yesterday.

The Irishman Des Smyth had already equalled the course record of 64, eight under par, in dead calm conditions to lead the field by three shots before Ballesteros had even begun his round.

The weather was still ideal as the 40-year-old Spanish veteran began with a birdie four at the 10th hole and he hit his drive down the 11th with no knowledge of what was to come.

But then the wind got up alarmingly and Ballesteros, from one under par after one hole, went to nine over just seven holes later, playing his first eight holes in 41 shots.

After play had been suspended because balls on the greens were moving as players prepared to putt, Ballesteros said: "It was fine playing the 10th hole but on the 11th all of a sudden it was a hurricane.

"It was hard to see. The sand was blowing into my face and at times I could see nothing. I was nine over for eight holes and I'm very disappointed because I have been playing very well. But now the tournament is over for me."

Ballesteros, after a bogey at the 11th, managed to par the short 12th to be level par for three holes but then went 7, 5, 7, 4, 6, dropping nine shots in just five holes.

"It would not have been so bad if we had started in a gale," said Ballesteros, "because then you would have been mentally prepared. But to go out in ideal conditions and then this, well it's impossible."

Many players thought that the tournament director, David Garland, should have suspended play at least half an hour earlier but Ballesteros refused to comment.