Seve says so long to his caddie

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The Independent Online
There is hardly a dull day in the life of Seve Ballesteros, although that is nothing new. First the good news: despite a one-over-par 73, Ballesteros made his first cut of the season, at the seventh attempt, in the Peugeot Spanish Open. The bad news: he and his caddie, Martin Gray, agreed on a mutual separation.

A split has been brewing for a while, but it came to a head at the sixth hole, Ballesteros's 15th of the day, when he found the water on the left of the par-five for the second day running. In a discussion on why the ball finished in the water, the word "stupid" may have been used more than once. "We both think, that it is better if we have a break from each other," Ballesteros said.

Gray, from Worksop, became the latest in a long list of Seve's lieutenants 13 months ago, but has hardly been raking in the commissions. Ballesteros had just two top-10 finishes in what was his worst year ever, prior to this year. Five, or 10, per cent of nothing is still nothing, although Ballesteros will now earn his first cheque of the '97 European Tour tomorrow evening.

"It seems to me that Martin has been disappointed with the way I have played," Ballesteros said. "He didn't have much energy on the golf course. Today we had a disagreement on the sixth hole and we both thought it was time to part."

Gray is not the first who has found it difficult to keep away an air of disenchantment in his relationship with the five-times major champion. His humour may have been tested, but at least he still has it. In Dubai, after Ballesteros had complained that an apple his caddie had handed him was too hard, Gray quipped: "What does he want? A caddie or a greengrocer?"

Apart from various of Seve's brothers, Nick de Paul, Dave Musgrove, Pete Coleman, Ian Wright and Billy Foster have borne the brunt of the Spaniard's temperamental genius over the years. Foster finally pleaded poverty in 1995 and Ballesteros had a short spell with the Liverpudlian Joey Jones.

The run included a victory, his last, in that year's Spanish Open, but Jones was sacked after the US Open. Jones then sued for pounds 14,000, claiming loss of earnings from the Caddyshack catering business he had been involved with and that he had a verbal agreement to work to the end of the season. The case was dismissed when it came to court, but Jones is still pursuing the matter. Ballesteros's nephew, Raul, who played in the Golf Foundation championships when he was at school in Britain, will take over for the weekend.

At one under par, Ballesteros beat the cut line for the first time since he played in the Oki Pro-am on the same La Moraleja II course last October by one shot. Eight strokes better off was the leader Mark James, two ahead of two young tigers, Lee Westwood, who turned 24 on Thursday, and Thomas Bjorn, 26, and Roger Chapman at seven under. The 43-year-old James also had his worst-ever year in '96 but has found his confidence flooding back after rounds of 67 and 68.

Greg Norman finished at five under, one ahead of Jose Maria Olazabal. The Spaniard upstaged the Shark by holing in one with a seven-iron at the 177-yard 17th. But Olazabal missed out on the Peugeot 106, as his countryman, Jose Antonio Rozadilla, from Pedrena, had already snapped it up earlier in the day. Olazabal did not mind too much, but his playing partner was impressed. "He deserves the car," Norman said. "It was a beautiful shot."

n Tiger Woods has accepted Fuzzy Zoeller's apology for racially insensitive remarks he made after Woods' Masters win a fortnight ago. "Having played golf with Fuzzy, I know he is a jokester, and I have concluded that no personal animosity toward me was intended. I accept Fuzzy's apology and hope everyone can now put this behind us."

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