On This Day: April 21, 2002
In a new series, Independent.ie goes through the archives to bring you the hot topics of years gone by. Today we look back at this date in 2002 when the late, great Seve Ballesteros visited these shores for the biennial Seve Trophy which took place at Druids Glen, Co Wicklow.
Sadly Ballesteros - who won five majors during a stellar career - passed away in 2011 after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in 2008.
By Karl MacGinty
Seve Ballesteros is a modern Spanish artist. He plays golf in the way that Salvador Dali or Picasso used paint every round is brilliantly unorthodox, while so many of his strokes are breathtakingly surreal.
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Everything about Seve's singles match against Colin Montgomerie at Druids Glen yesterday seemed to defy logic. For example, he hit just one of 14 fairways, at the first, and lost that hole to a birdie.
Clearly, he's not used to playing off the short stuff! Ballesteros actually went around the gale-lashed Co Wicklow course in seven-over par 78, five strokes more than Monty, and still won this singles match between the Seve Trophy team captains by one stroke on the 18th.
The Spaniard also beat Monty in the inaugural Seve Trophy at Sunningdale a couple of years back to clinch a one point win for Europe but this time the British and Irish lads pocketed 150,000 each for finishing first by 14 points to 11.
And even though Ireland's three Ryder Cup aces played a major part in this success, Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley both won four out of five points and Darren Clarke took three out of five, it was Seve himself who dominated the weekend's proceedings.
First, he turned back the clock a decade or two in Saturday's fourballs, renewing his formidable Ryder Cup partnership with Jose Maria Olazabal to record a remarkable 2 and 1 win over Harrington and McGinley in truly sensational fashion.
The two Spaniards notched up six birdies in the final eight holes, needing only six putts from Olly's chip-in from the greenside rough at 10 to Seve's brilliant finish from sand at 17.
Yet that was only an aperitif. Yesterday, Ballesteros was at his wayward worst from the tee but escaped so many times from virtually impossible situations that even the great Harry Houdini would have been astonished.
Some of Seve tee shots would even have left a high-handicapper like myself blushing at the third, for example, his drive was headed for the press car park when it came back off a tree and landed less than a hundred yards from the tee. At the 14th, he drove right into a deep thicket and had to pitch out, playing his third from the ladies tee box.
A double bogey six here and at the testing 15th, where Ballesteros put his second into water, were well beaten by two birdies from Montgomerie, and we wondered if Seve's magic, if not his luck, was running out.
However, Monty was out of sorts with himself yesterday, evidenced by a few petulant brushes with camera men and even the scorecard carrier in the early stages and his putting was never hot enough to make his nine footer to halve the match on the last a foregone conclusion.
By comparison, Ballesteros had been majestic in that department, single-putting no fewer than nine times yesterday, a feature of his game every bit as effective and impressive as the miracle shots he produced after his ball had come to rest in bunker, under bushes, behind trees, plugged in the rough or, on one glorious occasion on the sixth, in the seat of a spectator's chair.
Some wag had suggested that the spectator had left the chair for the safety of the middle of the fairway and the sight of people scuttling for cover became commonplace as Seve's match approached.
Even Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, playing in the match behind, found the action entertaining. "We watched them all day," said the Dane. "Seve's performance is inspiring to everyone. It's what he has done in his whole career.
"His golf might not be the same as it used to be but I think every single young player in the world could learn just from his hatred of losing. He just wants to win so bad and tries his hardest.
"Monty had a hard time today. Every time we looked up, Monty was in the middle of the fairway and Seve was somewhere else. And then we would see him halving and winning all these holes.
"It must be horrifying to play against but that is Seve for you. That is why he is an inspiration to everybody and here in Ireland they love him. You can hear the crowds behind him more than Monty. It is what he has done all his career. It is fantastic."
Clarke's 4 and 3 win over Bjorn was one of the day's most significant victories. "We were chasing three and a half points to win and at one stage early on, we were behind in the first four matches," Monty explained. "Yet Darren turned his around and that point was vital."
The Ulsterman came within inches of a hole in one at the eighth but the birdie was good enough to bring him level with Bjorn and once he drew ahead of the Dane with another on nine, it was clear that Clarke had found a higher gear.
McGinley added further weight to his flourishing reputation over the weekend and confirmed visiting Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance's view of him not just as the ideal partner for Harrington at the Belfry but also as a powerful singles performer with a comprehensive 4 and 3 win over Mathias Gronberg.
Harrington, meanwhile, clinched the victory for the home team with his 3 and 2 victory over Olazabal, literally grinding down the formidable Spaniard with good, solid and resolute golf.
On a day when the wind howled and conditions were decidedly tricky, Harrington and McGinley matched par and Clarke, like the impressive Lee Westwood, managed to beat it by one.
And Thomas Levet certainly deserves credit as the only one of 20 players without a five on his card. The formidable young Frenchman was three-under for his round when he completed a 2 and 1 win over Steve Webster at 17.
Yet, as Levet himself said, nobody could match Seve for character and charisma. "In French we say be careful of the injured lion. Seve proved himself this week.
"He is the only guy with a 100 per cent record. He proved his is still there and can still win. I hope he will be back soon."