Fallen idol Seve stands alone in the shadows

So far no one is quite sure whether the tormented Seve Ballesteros will arrive here before the start of the tournament on Thursday - and perhaps least of all him.

So far no one is quite sure whether the tormented Seve Ballesteros will arrive here before the start of the tournament on Thursday - and perhaps least of all him.

He has known some of the worst of his times at the Masters in the 25 years since he won the Green Jacket with a performance so bewitching, so overwhelming, it is perhaps still rivalled only by Tiger Woods' annexation of the title eight years ago.

Maybe Seve, who against the advice of some close friends is about to return to a game that, for him, has become a one-man maelstrom in the Spanish Open next week, may just want to touch again the red earth he once bestrode so magnificently.

If he does come, Ballesteros will no doubt tend to keep in the shadows - a by-product of one appalling scene a few years ago when some extremely emotionally relaxed members of the gallery scoffed at his efforts to keep the ball on the fairway while, a few yards away, his former wife Carmen wept for the public humiliation of a man who was once acknowledged as a sporting god.

An echo of such regard came this week when Mark Calcavecchia, who won the Open and knows about hot play (he has the Augusta back nine record of 29) considered the long, hard decline of a man who was once his idol. Said Calcavecchia, "Seve was on a different level, especially because he did his most unbelievable stuff with a 55-degree sand wedge before everyone started using the 60. He made unbelievable chips along the ground. I remember once at Augusta he duck-hooked an iron off the tee at the sixth hole. He's way over there at the edge of the bushes, and he chips this four-iron up the hill, over all these mounds, and it went in like a six-inch putt. You looked at that and it was like, 'are you kidding me?'"

Calcavecchia didn't put a date on that feat and it's not the kind of thing you would want to ask of Ballesteros at the moment. He would probably say it was a thousand years ago - at least.

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