Seve: a shot of genius

The many obituaries devoted to golfing legend Seve Ballesteros are rightfully glowing.

No golfer was more cavalier than Seve.

And no golfer was more fearless than Seve.

Very few if any golfers possess the mental and physical capabilities to win Open Championships from car parks. Check out the link below.

Physically, Seve’s skill largely emanated from his hands. His touch rivalled Christiaan Barnard. But to be able to send the golf ball off the club in all manner of different ball flights, those hands also had to be incredibly strong.

And they had to be in synch with his mind.

His short game was sublime. Given his waywardness off the tee, it bloody well had to be.

How many times in a golf telecast would the television camera pan to Seve in strife?

Time and time again, golf fans around the globe would ask how he is going to extricate himself from this seemingly impossible position.

Prior to playing such recovery shots, he’d usually be stalking around, often muttering something profane in his native Spanish or wheeling and dealing with a rules official about endless possibilities to gain relief.

All the while, the ears of Seve’s caddie would likely still be stinging after receiving a sustained spray that started back at the tee. In fact, caddying for Seve was once described as being as difficult a task as negotiating peace in the Middle East.

All through this tumult however, Seve would be clinically and accurately programming his unique golfing computer in preparation to play the miracle shot.

Overwhelmingly, his programming was spot on.

Seve was golf’s greatest problem solver, the Georg Polya of golf.


I reckon he had the ability to process and to take into account more variables that could either adversely or positively affect a particular golf shot than any other golfer in history. As well as problem solver, he was a fine modeller.

Playing shots off his knees or out of trees proved no trouble for Seve. Check out the link below.

Seve was a magician with the wedge and the putter. It is said, and it’s probably correct, that this astonishing capacity to play miracle chips can be attributed to playing rounds of golf in his youth with access to only one or two clubs. Often these clubs were long irons.

If Seve didn’t become a champion golfer, he surely would have, sans compass, become a great orienteer. The way he sometimes tacked down fairways, sailing could also have been his calling.

He had panache. He was a gambler.

He had a presence. He possessed oodles of dynamism and magnetism.

He single-handedly rejuvenated the biennial Ryder Cup contest against the USA.

Seve often psyched out his American opposition. And he could cough on cue in tight and tense match play situations. Ask Paul Azinger about the repetitive timing of Seve’s dry cough at the 1991 “War by the Shore” at Kiawah. Seve’s retort to Azinger’s accusations of unsporting conduct was that he is an allergy sufferer.

By the time, I got the opportunity to share the fairways of Royal Troon and Royal Birkdale with Seve, his game, and in particular, his driving was a mere shadow of its former self. His back was playing up and he seemed a little miserable.

Despite this, Seve never stopped tinkering.

He never stopped trying to locate that cure that would propel him back to the pomp of his youth. Sadly, even golf’s greatest problem solver, in the end couldn’t solve this intractable problem.

Seve twice won the US Masters. He could play out of the Augusta azaleas and not damage one petal.

Check out the link below from the first round of the 1984 US Masters.

At the 2007 US Masters, A.K. Way and myself are following the Spanish four-ball of Seve, Jimenez, Olazabal and Garcia during a practice round. At the par-three 16th hole, the patrons demand that each player, upon leaving the tee, attempts to play a low-trajectory shot that ‘skips’ the ball across the pond and stops on the putting surface.

For a moment, a ‘seemingly dispirited’ Seve looks as though he is going to disappoint the patrons and not give the ‘mandatory’ trick shot a go.

He plays us for fools. Seve has no desire to conform to the patron’s wishes to bounce the ball across the drink.

Seve asks his caddie for a ball.

He cocks his left leg in the air and hits the ball off a one-legged stance. Unbelievably, the ball’s initial journey is between his legs.

His outrageous shot lands on the green on the fly and stays on the putting surface. The patrons go completely bonkers.


Seve unknowingly had a malignant brain tumour when he walked the Augusta fairways in 2007.

It was to be the last Major Championship that Seve competed in.

So sad.

I’m glad however that I got to see Seve hit one of his last ever shots of genius.

Vale Genio and Gran Hombre.


  1. John Butler says

    Seve had charisma. Golf could sorely use him now.

    Thanks Flynny.

  2. Great compilation Flynny.
    It is said that Seve’s dislike of Americans goes back to an early visit when an interviewer insisted on labelling him “Steve”.

  3. One of my favourite golfers. He was the sort of golfer who was never out of the contest. For all his flamboyance though he had to work extremely hard to get his game to where he got it. I remember reading somewhere how much practice he used to do – phenomenal.

  4. Beautifully written, Mighty One.

    Do you think they’ll write obits like that when Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey shuffles off? I suspect not, but you never know.

  5. Peter Flynn says

    Thank you lads.

    I never thought in my wildest dreams that T “TG” Gainey would get a mention on a footy website. MOC, you’re a classic.

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Seve’s fist pumping celebration after winning the Open (not sure which year) was one of the greatest ever in any sport.

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