Olazabal in Open as Ballesteros pulls out - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Olazabal in Open as Ballesteros pulls out

Not that there was even a hint from the three-times champion that he was forsaking his berth as a past winner to allow in his old Ryder Cup partner Jose Maria Olazabal, but it was impossible not to know the man and, more importantly, the effort he had put in to make it to Fife this year to speculate that this was his intention.

As Olazabal's agent, Sergio Gomez, said, doing everything but winking yesterday: "It is amazing. If Seve had pulled out next Monday, it might not have been Jose Maria who got the place."

Could Ballesteros have possible known that by officially withdrawing this week he would be opening the way for Olazabal as the highest-ranked player not already qualified? Miss Marple need not be consulted in answer to that. But Seve played along with the official line anyway.

"Unfortunately, I am not yet at the competitive level I would expect," he said, still suffering with the back injury that has kept him out since November, 2003. "I wish to stress that I have no plans to retire."

However, that was the pervading feeling on the Palmer Course at the K Club here as the European Open got under way with two South Africans at the head of the field. Trevor Immelman's 66 owed everything to an undoubted talent raising its 25-year-old head after bewilderingly being kept hidden for the past few months, while Retief Goosen's 67 was in debt to a psyche that has refused to be crushed by one of golf's cruellest blows.

Two weeks ago the 36-year-old looked the certain winner of his second US Open in succession when going into the final day with a lead of three. "Tournament over," said the experts, knowingly. There followed an 81. "Career over," said the experts, knowingly.

Er, not quite, as yesterday's three birdies and an eagle proved on his cathartic return to the fairways. "I'm fine about it," Goosen said, when asked about his Pinehurst nightmare. "Everybody else seems to be more worried about it than I am. Nothing like that is going to bother me."

In fact, it was a day for humbling perspective all round as three back from Immelman – after a 69 that was remarkable given that he has barely lifted a club for the past month – was Darren Clarke. The Ulsterman pulled out of the US Open after his wife's continuing fight with cancer took a turn for the worse.

"Heather wanted me to come back playing again,so I'm here trying to do as well as I can," said Clarke, who would have been only two off the lead but for going in water at his penultimate hole. Once a disaster, now a meaningless distraction .

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory