The slump of Ballesteros in 1993, during which he failed to win a tournament for the first time in 17 years, was the most disturbing feature and when he retreated from the World Match Play at Wentworth in October he looked and sounded like a broken man.
He has had problems with his back ever since he can remember and while the discomfort is unlikely to ease, the warmth and colour of Augusta in April, where twice before he has worn the Green Jacket, should invigorate him. During the Masters, the first major of the year, Ballesteros celebrates his 37th birthday. At least he will if he makes the half-way cut. His birthday falls on the third round.
Colin Montgomerie will also be in Georgia, this time as Europe's No 1. Big Monty achieved the biggest victory of a career that has shown annual growth when he won the Volvo Masters at Valderrama in November. The course is fearful, his scoring fearless and his substantial prize elevated him to the top of the European Tour Order of Merit.
Montgomerie now regards himself, as perhaps he is entitled to, as one of Europe's big six and his goal this year, as it has to be for Jose Maria Olazabal, is to win one of the four majors.
With the added responsibility of being a standard-bearer, there is something else Big Monty has to do and that is not to rattle his cage before feeding time. In his Christmas stocking a subscription to charm school would not have gone amiss.
Which brings us to John 'Wild Thing' Daly. This boy's a player on and off the course. Although he says he is on the wagon - he stopped drinking after a calamitous party last Christmas - there are still signs of the wheels falling off.
The US Tour, which recently suspended him for walking out of a tournament, may not like him but he's a crowd-puller. Daly proved there is more to his game than firing missiles off the tee when he finished joint third in the Masters and he says he fancies his chances at Augusta.
Bernhard Langer is the defending Masters champion while for the 123rd Open championship Greg Norman, following his triumph at Royal St George's, takes the silver claret jug to Turnberry, the Ayrshire links on which he won the Open in 1986.
As for the US PGA Championship, everybody will be hoping that Paul Azinger, who is having treatment for a lymphoma in his right shoulder, will be fit to defend a title he tenaciously won in Toledo from Norman and the world No 1, Nick Faldo, last August.Reuse content