Golf: Seve in the old routine: Volvo PGA Championship: Battling Ballesteros bounces back into contention with a striking 66 at Wentworth: Peter Corrigan watches a Spanish master end a troubled week on a high note

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The Independent Online
SEVE BALLESTEROS was back in the business he knows best yesterday - not trying to influence the flow of Ryder Cup history or crossing swords with millionaires even more multi than he is or even flaying the European golfing establishment with sweeping innuendoes. He was back trying to dig himself out of trouble on a golf course.

He did it so well and so willingly that he warmed a bulging Wentworth gallery who had resigned themselves to a cold, grey day watching the mighty struggle. In the process he put himself into contention in a tournament that is crucial to the continuation of his comeback this summer.

Seve's stirring 66 on the second day of the Volvo PGA still leaves him with much to do today and tomorrow but no one who saw him piece together his restorative round will doubt his ability to be involved in the tournament's climax. The display was even more praiseworthy because it came at the end of a week packed with emotional complications that must have been a drain on his golfing concentration.

On Wednesday, his long and bitter battle to earn the nomination of his Novo Sancti Petri course as the venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup failed spectacularly in favour of Valderrama, the choice he vehemently opposed. On Thursday, he delivered a painfully wholehearted acceptance of the decision. On Friday he threw himself into this tournament, and hardly made a dent. Indeed, his 73 for the first round made him likely fodder for another missed cut.

That is why yesterday was important and he had no sooner finished luxuriating in it during his after-round interview in the Press tent when he suddenly found himself attending to the week's last loose end. In his path stood the small figure of Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the Bolivian owner of Valderrama. It was a confrontation that was bound to happen sooner or later and without hesitation Ballesteros gathered his former adversary in an embrace that rattled his gold teeth.

It was a neat and tidy end to a day that had not started very well for the Spaniard. This tournament is important to him not so much for the winning of it but to earn him enough prize money to retain his place in the top two of the European money list and enable him to qualify for the US Open in June. He had little confidence of that as he left the practice range yesterday morning.

'I was not striking the ball well and I did not feel as if it was going to be a good day,' he said. Then he hit a two-iron to eight feet for a birdie on the first, followed by an eight-iron to eight feet for a birdie on the second. Then he felt it might be a lovely day after all.

The round was an amalgam of the new and the old Seve. His start was a model of the straightness and accuracy that his re-organised swing has brought him. But by the sixth he was having to call on the old Ballesteros breakdown service, rescuing himself from wayward steering. He felt the pin positioning on the fourth, fifth and sixth holes was the strangest he had ever known. 'They must have been done in the dark,' he said.

At the sixth, the flag was just a few feet from the bunker into which he dropped his nine- iron approach. He put the ball dead with a miraculous shot from the sand. He was then helped out of trouble with two chip-ins that brought unexpected birdies - he holed out from 50 feet with a sand wedge on the eighth and clipped in a nine-iron after going over the back on the tenth. His one-putt par at the 13th meant he had taken only 17 putts thus far and thereupon he three-putted the 14th. By the time he had birdied the last two, his putt-count was only 24.

'It was a solid round,' he said. 'Nothing spectacular.'

'But you had eight birdies,' someone protested.

'Yeah, but I wasn't striking the ball well,' he said, before conceding: 'Maybe scoring is more important than striking the ball well.'

The he went hunting for his coach Mac O'Grady to spend the rest of the day on the driving range. If he starts striking the ball today, he'll really be in business.

(Photograph omitted)

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