St Andrews readies itself for emotional comeback of Ballesteros
Published 11/01/2010 | 05:00
When Tom Watson smiled wistfully after letting slip his moment of British Open fantasy, it was felt that only one scenario could eclipse such a moment.
All eyes turned to St Andrews for the next instalment, and to a prospect of a comeback from Seve Ballesteros. Against all odds, it has emerged that the Spaniard's return to the scene of his greatest triumphs could yet come to pass.
If Watson's exploits at Turnberry produced a lump in the throat, then expect Ballesteros' walk to the first tee of the Old Course to prompt a collective crumpling.
After 15 months of battling a brain tumour, the 52-year-old has been cleared to start a fitness regime that could culminate in a profoundly emotional appearance in Scotland this summer.
Ballesteros has scarcely been seen in between draining sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in Madrid. On his rare public appearances, he bore the scars of his ordeal, appearing frail and drawn.
However, he has been told he needs no more treatment. He has already gleefully told Jack Nicklaus about his first visit to the golf course since the therapy, and how he hit his first shot straight and true.
While Ballesteros is unlikely ever to regain the strength to play professionally again, he is targeting an entry into the four-hole 'past champions' event at St Andrews, held on the final practice day before the British Open.
The 'home of golf' is renowned for the stylish honouring of its champions: when Nicklaus, the only other man besides Ballesteros to have lifted the Claret Jug twice at St Andrews, played his final British Open there in 2005, tens of thousands of spectators lined the fairways to mark their appreciation.
Ballesteros appears to be bursting with optimism. There are even rumours that he is thinking seriously of trying to take back the Ryder Cup captaincy for Chicago in 2012.
"There is no need to schedule any further treatment at the moment," he told the Europe and Asia teams at the Royal Trophy, a Ryder Cup-style match that he founded four years ago. Despite admitting that his last bout of radiotherapy had sapped him, he added: "Everyone is pleased with the way it has gone -- especially me. I am hopeful I will see all of you personally next year."
Should that reunion come at St Andrews, the symbolism, the sheer improbability of seeing the great man take on the Road Hole one last time could prove too much for some to bear. (© Daily Telegraph, London)