Seve – Part 4: The Green Jackets


Seve. [Photo:]


If you ask any golfer what they believe the pinnacle of golf is, most common answers would involve Augusta National. Whether it is getting to walk the fairways on one of the best courses in the world or dreaming of slipping on the green jacket, the history of the course and the US Masters tournament makes Augusta one of the most famous destinations in the golfing world.


Only the best golfers find the right formula to tame Augusta, with only 17 players winning the Masters multiple times across its 84-year history. Of those 84 wins, only 22 have resided in a country other than the United States, making the event even tougher for international players.


Of course, history and rules never applied to Seve Ballesteros.


Across his professional career, Seve played the US Masters 28 times from 1977 to his final start in 2007. Of these 28 starts, he recorded seven top-five finishes with all of these coming during the 1980s, the peak of Seve’s career.


Seve’s Augusta National resume opens in the 1977 season, just under a year on from his breakout performance at The Open Championship. He recorded a T33 performance in his first appearance, a solid start on this tough course.


Seve backed up this performance with a T18 in 1978 and a T12 in 1979. Although he was never really in contention either of these years, the experience he gained around such a tough course was invaluable. 


Augusta’s famed slick greens have always suited the best short game players, and it was only a matter of time before Seve found himself in the thick of the action.


Following his 1979 Open Championship victory, Seve was looking for his second major championship title at the 1980 US Masters.


Augusta National produces the best fields of any golf tournament each year and the 1980 edition proved no different. To qualify for the Masters a player needs to have either won a significant tournament such as another Major or the Players Championship. They can have won a full-point allocated tournament from the previous year or been ranked in the top-50 players in the world.


In 1980 this meant Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson were just the tip of the iceberg in a star-studded field.


Seve shot out of the blocks in the opening round, posting a 66 that included seven birdies to take a share of the lead. One thing that was clearly evident was Seve’s smarter and safer tactics to deal with Augusta. This included laying up on the par fives that included a dangerous hazard – in particular the 13th and 15th. Both classic risk and reward holes, guarded by water in front of the green. This allowed him to utilise his short game, consistently getting up-and-down from around the greens and only recording one bogey in the opening round.


After the opening day of play, Seve was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Australian David Graham and relatively unknown American, Jeff Mitchell. Out of all America’s big names however, none really fired a shot with Fuzzy Zoeller’s 72, the best out of the top group of players. Watson, Nicklaus, Trevino and Crenshaw all fired rounds over par and had plenty of ground to make up on Seve.


Day 2 proved tougher for Seve, but he racked up four late birdies over the closing six holes to post a 69 and take the solo lead heading into the weekend.


The highlight of his round came on the 17th hole. After a huge hooked drive cleared a row of Georgia Pines, Seve’s ball came to rest on the 7th Green and well off the right fairway. Seve rifled a 7-iron back over the same trees without really knowing the correct line to the green, miraculously getting the ball onto the green within 20-feet of the hole.


Of course, with Seve being Seve, he made the putt for an incredible birdie.


“Players who keep hitting fairways are boring,” said Seve about his erratic driving and scramble style of play.


Leading by four shots starting his Saturday round, Seve started slowly again and his lead was cut to two after the seventh hole. American Ed Fiori along with Andy North, Jack Newton (from Australia) and Jesse Snead were the closest contenders to Seve, buoyed by his wobbly start. From there though, Seve put the foot down, recording an eagle and four birdies on the way to a third round 68 which handed him a seven-shot lead heading into the final round.


Seve was stunning the world and looked on track to become the first European to ever win the US Masters. Big names such as Watson, Trevino and Player were too far back to be in contention and Seve was just 18 solid holes away from donning the green jacket.



With three birdies in the first five holes and no bogies on the front nine, Seve found himself ten shots clear at the turn and the golfing world was stunned. He stumbled slightly over the back-nine but closed out the impressive victory, recording an amazing 23 birdies and an eagle to become the first European to ever win the green jacket.


At 23 years old, Seve was also the youngest US Masters champion in the 20th Century.


After a missed cut the following year and a bounce-back T3 in 1982, Seve came back on a quest for a second green jacket in 1983.


After an opening day 68, Seve found himself once again in the mix just one shot behind the leaders. The second day was completely washed out by rain which pushed the Masters back a whole day, making the course very soft and harder to play in comparison to Seve’s winning year in 1980.


Seve posted a 70 in round two and entered the third round just a shot behind the leader Gil Morgan, sitting in solo second position. Nick Faldo, Fred Couples, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer all trailed Seve but were in the Top-10 and within striking distance.


A third round 73 did not look overly appealing on paper but due to the tough conditions, the lead sat at six-under for the tournament and again Seve found himself just one shot out of the lead.



On the final day, Seve raced out of the blocks with two birdies and an eagle in his first four holes, giving him a three-shot lead after the perfect start. This lead was never relinquished and no player got within two-shots of Seve.


Tom Kite marvelled at the young man. “It was like he was driving a Ferrari,” he said, “and everybody else was in Chevrolets.”


Two green jackets had taken Seve to the pinnacle of the golfing world.





To read more about Seve by Connor Schmidtke click HERE 


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  1. Recently watched 1983 on YouTube. Grumpy old Ken Venturi commentating that Seve should play safe to protect his lead on the back 9. He never does. Big hook off 13 tee left of Raes Creek. Amazing he could even find it. No problem. Punch it out sideways. Next shot go for the green (against Ken’s advice again). Par. Seve never had “routine pars”.
    Strong memories of watching 1986 live (the greatest Masters) and thinking Seve a shoe-in after his brilliant approach on 13 had him 2 ahead. Then the disaster of 15. Triumph and disaster always walked hand in hand with Seve.
    Great stuff.

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