The 48-year-old scored a six-over-par 77 in the first round of the Madrid Open. It left him close to last place and 14 shots adrift of the pacesetters Mark Roe and Robert Karlsson. "The problem was the first three holes. I didn't feel comfortable and was a bit tense," said Ballesteros, returning on the same Club de Campo course where he had his last win 10 years ago. "Everything was fine until I walked on to the first tee and started to get a bit tight."
Many had thought that the former world No 1, who made only one halfway cut in 2002 and one in 2003, would not put himself through any more of the agonies brought on by an arthritic back and the chronic loss of form which accompanied it. But he is determined to continue his comeback. "This is the beginning - the beginning of a new era for me," he added.
Darren Clarke had a best-of--year 64 to be only one behind Roe and Karlsson, but Colin Montgomerie, closing in on an eighth Order of Merit title, managed only a 72.
Roe celebrated his 500th tour event last week by lifting himself out of the "relegation zone" with a fourth place finish in Tenerife. Now, up from 117th to 107th on the money list, he equalled the lowest round of his 24-year career. "I am very proud I have not lost my card in 20 years," Roe said. "There are not many of us in our forties with a card or have the 500 milestone.
Madrid Open (Club de Campo) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 63 R Karlsson (Swe), M Roe. 64 D Clarke, R Jacquelin (Fr). 66 G Storm, B Rumford (Aus), A Forsyth, C Cevaer (Fr), J-F Lima (Por). 67 J M Lara (Sp), F Delamontagne (Fr), R-J Derksen (Neth), M Erlandsson (Swe), J M Olazabal (Sp), A Hansen (Den), M Lafeber (Neth), G Fernandez-Castano (Sp), H Nystrom (Swe), G Emerson. 68 A Wall, P Hedblom (Swe), D Park, D McGrane, Paul Lawrie, Stuart Little, S Khan, B Kennedy (Aus), G Houston, S Manley.
* denotes amateurReuse content