Ballesteros named golf’s all-time short game king, according to player survey

Seve Ballesteros
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Seve Ballesteros' wizardry around the greens was "just pure natural instinct," said 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
PA Sport

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Sunday, April 29, 2012 | 6:03 p.m.

LONDON -- Gone, but certainly not forgotten, Seve Ballesteros is the greatest of all-time when it comes to short-game skills and bunker play.

That was the result of a survey carried out among PGA Tour players by Golf Digest, with Graeme McDowell among those asked their opinion.

"From what I can tell, it was just pure natural instinct," Northern Ireland's 2010 US Open champion said. "My coach Pete Cowen talks a lot about Seve's feel. He spent a lot of time with Seve working on short game, in the bunkers, and his basics were instinctive.

"He just knew how to play every shot," McDowell explained. "He might not have known the technique, but he learned it in his head and he was just a pure natural."

Ballesteros died on May 7, 2011, after battling a brain tumor for more than 2 1/2 years. He was 54.

The players polled were asked to name the best now and the best ever in six departments of golf: Driving, putting, short game, bunker play, iron play and mental game.

Greg Norman was voted the sport's greatest driver with Dustin Johnson the best at the moment. In putting it was Steve Stricker now and Tiger Woods the all-time great.

"Tiger Woods is the best clutch putter I've ever seen," said former British Open champion Stewart Cink.

In short game Phil Mickelson came out top among the current stars, while Luke Donald was rated the best out of the sand at present. No surprise there -- he has led the statistics two of the last three seasons.

Ben Hogan was rated the best iron player of all time, but Rory McIlroy is tops now.

"He's a great iron player because he's got that flight -- it's long and they have a soft landing," McDowell said of McIlroy. "He hits 4-irons like I can only dream about."

In mental game, Woods, even with only one PGA Tour victory in recent years, was still named No. 1 now and tied for the best ever with Jack Nicklaus.