Golf: Ballesteros takes back seat

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The Independent Online
THESE days Seve Ballesteros's seasonal debuts are low-key affairs. No place for him in the Dubai Classic's pre-tournament junket, while it is Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie who have been given the plum assignments of designing the two courses at the new pounds 160m Emirates Hills complex nearby.

It will not be Ballesteros's problem how to create an elevation worthy of the name hill out of the flat desert, and nor is the Spaniard that bothered. Take the loss of his club contract. "It gives me more freedom, more spare time," he said.

Ballesteros also has a new caddie, is searching for a new manager but has not employed a new coach - instructor Dennis Sheehy is just a good friend helping out. The victorious Ryder Cup captain has just one aim for the season, staying on the fairway, both on and off the course.

Last season the 40-year-old was never far from trouble, either while playing the game - he finished 136th in Europe - or in his other duties. "I knew the captaincy was going to be difficult, but it was worth it," Ballesteros said. "I didn't regret being captain. It was a great honour and a great thing to happen to me because it was in Spain and we won."

For those expecting a "but", it duly came. "I don't think I will ever be captain again. The more I think about it, the less possibilities I give myself."

And as for his successor, Ballesteros was not going to be trapped into saying anything. "It is up to the committee and they know very well what to do. I have to be very polite this year. I promise you I will not be in the middle of any trouble. That is my goal for 1998. Great, whatever they decide is fantastic."

In order to look on the bright side of life, Ballesteros, who underwent a minor eye operation last month, is having to dig deep, as when his suitcase was broken into en route from Spain. "They took 12 shirts, five trousers and six sets of underwear, but they left me some things so they must be a good person, no?

"I'm sure he is happy now wherever he is, and it is always nice to make people happy. I have always tried to look on the positive side. I have always been positive and a winner. I'm not a loser. There are winning people and losing people, I'm on the winning side and I'll always be there. Never forget that."