Mystery as Ballesteros pulls out of Open for second time

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The Independent Online

Seve Ballesteros will miss the Open Championship for the second year running after announcing his withdrawal yesterday. Whether he is unable to play or has begun to lose interest in playing was not clear as he gave no reason for pulling out.

Though the 46-year-old Ballesteros may have become disillusioned with the European Tour after his slow play row earlier in the season, playing in the Open is a different matter, which may suggest his long-standing back problems have worsened again.

"Seve notified us today and said he had been forced to withdraw from the championship," a spokesman for the organisers said. "He gave no reason for his withdrawal." Ballesteros first played at Royal St George's, scene of next week's Open, in 1975 at the PGA Championship when he stood outside the clubhouse and wondered where the course was. But when he found it among the dunes he fell in love with links golf.

After playing his first Open Championship the same year, Ballesteros went on to win the claret jug three times, at Lytham in 1979 and '88 and at St Andrews in 1984. Each of those was a joyous occasion such was the passion Seve brought to the game. But his decline as a golfer has been sad to witness. Last year after a disastrous round at the Irish Open, after which he was disqualified for signing for a wrong score after taking a 12 at the last hole, Ballesteros missed his first Open in 28 years.

At the Italian Open in May, Ballesteros was given a one-stroke penalty for slow play which he refused to accept, altering his scorecard and being disqualified. There followed a tirade against the European Tour and he was later fined and reprimanded by the Tournament Committee.

On being informed of the decision, Ballesteros developed "flu symptoms" and withdrew from the Volvo PGA Championship. He has not been seen since. As well as playing at St George's, Seve had other commitments next week. He was due to give a clinic for the equipment manufacturer Callaway at the Royal Cinque Ports club in Deal on Tuesday and attend a dinner at the Open that night. The BBC may also be left in the lurch after training him up as a commentator at the Masters.

Tiger Woods has skipped his usual Open warm-up in Ireland to rest his knee at home in Orlando. Woods, who won his fourth title of the season at the Western Open on Sunday, underwent surgery on his knee in December but some of his play at the Masters and the US Open suggested he was not fully over the injury.

Jim Furyk, the US Open champion who has been made an honorary member at Olympia Fields in Chicago, is in Ireland with his father, Mike, to tune up on links golf.

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