Usually, the most vivid memories of Augusta have their origins on the course. Mine, on the other hand, came about in the clubhouse carpark on the Monday of 2007 Masters week.
I thought that the golfer who had just stepped from a perfectly ordinary US rental car that morning looked a bit like Seve Ballesteros, only then I decided that my guess was probably a little far-fetched. After all, the Spaniard had not appeared at Augusta since 2003.
An elderly Augusta member stepped forward to embrace whoever it was, and it was only once the two had disentangled themselves that I could decide one way or the other. It was Seve, only a younger-looking version of this charismatic champion, leaner and seemingly happier than had been seen in years.
The member disappeared, leaving Seve to me. A rare situation indeed. Wary though he had been of the press for several years, he greeted me with the widest of smiles. “I’m here to celebrate turning 50,” he said. “My back’s much better, I’m ready to play and I’m ready to remember the good things.”
Away from the golf, he was looking forward to the Champions Dinner. He had hosted two of those himself – in 1981, after returning as the youngest winner of the Masters, at least until Tiger Woods came along, and again in 1984.
And after the Masters, Ballesteros said he had it in mind to play a few events on what then was called the Champions Tour. “I’m not worried about making money – I’ve never played for the money – but I’m out to have fun and keep myself in good golfing shape,” he said.
He spoke of exercises and diets and how he had lost at least a stone since Tiger Woods’ 2006 Open win at Royal Liverpool. Then he volunteered, out of nowhere, that he had not uncovered any of the game’s secrets: “I don’t think there are any secrets to golf or life. It’s more a matter of being constant in what you’re doing and working hard.”
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