Golf: Head over heels for Ballesteros: Spaniard's renaissance

Click to follow
SEVE BALLESTEROS, who has been putting his best foot forward this season, got his laces caught in a twist as he prepared for his 19th consecutive appearance in the World Match Play Championship, which starts here tomorrow.

Ballesteros, who 12 months ago at Wentworth sounded like a lost soul, has enjoyed a renaissance and a daily programme of exercises to strengthened his troublesome back. However, while cycling near his home in Pedrana, the laces of his trainers got caught in a wheel, throwing a Spaniard in the works.

Ballesteros left the bike and was fortunate to escape with a grazed chin and bruised shoulder after crashing into a wall. Although the accident cut short his practice, Ballesteros, who has won the title five times, played over the Burma Road yesterday. 'I'm here because I believe I really have a chance,' he said. He is here because John Daly withdrew, although Ballesteros's form of late has provided the championship with a sharper edge.

The draw for the 31st World Match Play - Toyota have renewed their sponsorship until 1997 - was made yesterday and provided such an enthralling spectacle that Mark McCormack skipped lunch and went straight to bed. He had flown in from America and for the first time in the history of the competition - McCormack's competition - nobody had a single question to ask.

As announcements go, the draw is as full of suspense as a shipping forecast. They use a top hat to extract only four names out of the field of 12. A thimble would have sufficed. It would perhaps be simpler if they dispensed with the pretext of a draw altogether.

As it is, the top four seeds - Corey Pavin, defending champion, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Ernie Els and Nick Faldo - have a bye in tomorrow's first round. The point of seeding another four players is that the first round can be 'manipulated'. Thus Ballesteros, beaten 7 and 6 by David Frost in the first round last year, plays the South African again and Colin Montgomerie has a rematch with Japan's Yoshinori Mizumaki.

'It would have been much better not to have played until Friday, but I'm happy to be here,' Ballesteros said. If he defeats Frost, he will meet Els in the second round. Should Montgomerie, who defeated Mizumaki at the 37th hole last year, get through, he will play Faldo. 'I don't want to talk about that at the moment,' Montgomerie said.

TOYOTA WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth, tomorrow) First round: V Singh (Fiji) v J Parnevik (Swe) winner to play C Pavin (US); C Montgomerie (Sco) v Y Mizumaki (Jap) winner to play N Faldo (Eng); D Frost (SA) v S Ballesteros (Sp) winner to play E Els (SA); I Woosnam (Wal) v B Faxon (US) winner to play J-M Olazabal (Sp).