Seve Ballesteros was considered a genius for inventing shots, usually after he found himself in trouble off the fairway. On the eve of the great Spaniard’s funeral, he was remembered by a player who could at times relate.
“You’ve never seen a person compete from the places he played from,” Tiger Woods said Tuesday.
In his groundbreaking career, Seve Ballesteros won a record 50 European Tour titles, amassed five majors and was a key figure in Ryder Cup history.
Ballesteros, who died Saturday of a cancerous brain tumor, is to be buried Wednesday in his hometown of Pedrena, Spain.
Woods, who was born seven months before Ballesteros was the 54-hole leader at the 1976 British Open as a 19-year-old, never competed against the Spaniard during his prime.
“He would have been so much fun to watch and compete against that,” Woods said.
He did recall a few practice rounds, none more memorable than one year at the Masters with Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.
“Just to hear him explain how to hit shots around the Augusta … it was just artful,” Woods said. “Just the spin, and how much spin you need to put it here and where you need to land it, where it needs to kick, and the way he explained it, and what he needs to do with the body to do that with the hands.
“He looked like he didn’t try and do anything mechanical, but he had a few thoughts about what he needed to do. He just understood it.”
Phil Mickelson, who also has a remarkable ability to escape from anywhere, recalled the time he played a practice round with Ballesteros at Torrey Pines when Lefty was still an amateur.
“I enjoyed that time with him because I saw his artistry,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson specifically remembers the way Ballesteros played the par-3 11th on the South Course at Torrey Pines, when the pin was cut back and to the right. That’s typically a 5-iron or a 6-iron.
“He would take a 3-iron … a big 30- to 50-yard rounded slice that would land in the middle of the green and then side spin over to the hole,” Mickelson said. “It just opened my eyes how many different ways you can get to the some of these pins. And I loved watching that because it showed me that it’s possible, that it doesn’t have to be this robotic way of fairways, middle of the green and so forth.”