Who Now Carries the Spirit of Seve?

By Alton, Roger | The Spectator, May 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

Who Now Carries the Spirit of Seve?


Alton, Roger, The Spectator


Anyone concerned that their tear ducts might not be in working order should take a look at the 2009 Sports Personality of the Year show, when Severiano Ballesteros was given a lifetime achievement award. The gong is presented to Seve at his home in Spain by his friend (and the other half of surely the greatest ever Ryder Cup pairing) Jose Maria Olazabal. After a while, Olazabal cracks up in tears and can't go on. So Seve - poor, dying, cancerridden Seve - consoles him, squeezing his knee and with a smile, saying, 'You're doing OK. You're still swinging the club well too. . .' What a man.

If you're old enough to remember when Slazenger was cool, chances are you have a favourite Seve memory. For some it's the punch of the air so famous he had it tattooed on his arm. For others it's his body stretched like a bow as he whacked the ball into the wide blue yonder. A one-off? For sure. But looking around at the world of sport, glimmers survive. I reckon about two parts Sir Alex Ferguson to one part Rafa Nadal and a dash of Neil Warnock produces the cocktail that comes closest to the Matador of Padrena.

Fergie has that will to power. Selfconfidence? Seve was off the scale every time he chose a club. Like asking for a three-wood when he was in a bunker at the 1983 Ryder Cup, then hitting the green 245 yards away (Jack Nicklaus says it was the best shot he'd ever seen). It was the same spirit that made Fergie declare, all those years ago, that he'd knock Liverpool off their perch. Not a bad target for a man who joined Manchester United when Liverpool had nine more titles.

Of course both could be nightmares on their day. I liked the anecdote about Seve bawling out a caddie because he had given him an apple that was 'too soft'. Heaven knows what would happen if you gave Fergie some Orbit Sugarfree rather than his two-amatch Wrigley's Doublemint. …

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