RIP Seve Ballesteros 1957-2011: Goodbye to a golfing genius

Talented people do things that others cannot do.

A genius, on the other hand, does things that others cannot even imagine.

Seve Ballesteros, who passed away early this morning, was a true genius, revelling in doing things that others believed couldn’t be done. Revelling. You couldn’t help but see just how much he enjoyed doing what he did; his enthusiasm and passion were of epidemic proportions, infecting all in any sort of proximity, even via television.

It wasn’t enough for him that he was the youngest to win the Open for over eight decades. It wasn’t enough for him to be the first (and second) European to win the Masters. It wasn’t enough for him to be part of the first European team to win the Ryder Cup on American soil.

Such records are there to be beaten. And they will be beaten. They’re not what defined Seve.

What defined Seve was his supreme talent and his effervescent personality, a combination that ensured he kept doing things others could not imagine, as in the examples below. Others drove cars in and out of car parks. Seve drove golf balls in and out of car parks. Others went down on their knees, enslaved by the game. He went down on his knees to show his mastery of the game. Others played for the tiger line. He moved the tiger line to places it had never been.


The car park golfer in action


On his knees, bringing the golfing world to its knees



Driving the 10th at the Belfry… because it was there to be done



I’m not much of a golfer. As they say, I stand too close to the ball. After I hit it.

Yet I love my golf, love playing it when I can, however badly. There’s something about the game that fascinates me, how each shot is as unique as a snow crystal; how each game is really three: you play the opponent, you play the course and conditions, and you play yourself.

Like most of you, I’ve watched Seve many times on TV and video; like some of you, I’ve had the privilege of watching him play “live” a few times. And I will never forget him.

Seve Ballesteros, you taught a world that it was possible to do things others could not imagine. As importantly, you taught a world how to do this while visibly enjoying yourself.

Your talent, your attitude, your enthusiasm, have been an inspiration to generations. We salute you.

Spiderman again

I’ve been following Camilo Villegas’ golf game for about a year now; he’s been the subject of no less than five posts since June 2008; during that time, he’s made two top 10 finishes in majors (including a top 4), won two tournaments in a row (including the TOUR championship last week) and just missed a $10m bonus for the Fedex Cup, losing to Vijay Singh by a whisker.
And, during that time, he’s moved over fifty places in the Official World Golf Ranking, from 58th to 7th. Delightful golf from a truly talented player. One to watch for next year’s Majors. You can’t say I didn’t tell you.
Here’s what was said in’s Live Notes about the Fedex Cup near-miss:
PLAYOFF POINTS (7 p.m. ET): A year ago, Tiger Woods won the FedExCup by 12,578 points. On Sunday, Vijay Singh won the FedExCup by 551 points over Camilo Villegas (click here for final FedExCup point standings).

Three things proved to be the difference in Singh’s win this year:

1) Regular-season positioning: Singh finished seventh in the regular season in FedExCup points; Villegas finished 42nd. That was a difference of 2,350 points when the points were reset entering the Playoffs.





2) Villegas failed to make the cut at The Barclays by one shot. Had he made the cut, he would have received at least 2,098 points (the total Paul Goydos received by finishing last at The Barclays after making the cut).

“The only thing I can tell you is I was battling hard to make that cut,” Villegas said Sunday when asked about The Barclays. “… That’s the way this game goes. If I knew that was the case, I don’t know what I would have done different. But you’ve just got to be in the present.”

3) Singh won The Barclays after extending the playoff by making a 26-foot birdie putt on top of Sergio Garcia‘s 27-foot birdie putt. The difference between first and a tie for second (Kevin Sutherland was also in the playoff) at The Barclays was 4,600 points.

Blemish free

Regular readers would know that I am a big fan of golfer Camilo Villegas; I’ve been following him for quite a while, as you can see here, here and, most recently, here.

Which is why I am pleased to see he’s just moved to the top of the leaderboard at the Deutsche Bank Championship at 16 under par, with a blemish-free 8-under-par round today. He may not win the tournament tomorrow; what he will gain, for sure, is the experience of leading a tournament into the last round. I believe he has already learnt something really important today, by playing a round under pressure without dropping a single shot.

I look forward to cheering him on in the Majors. [Update: If finishing 4th in the USPGA wasn’t enough, he’s going to graduate from a very good school tomorrow. He leads a pack containing winners of eight majors between them: Weir, Els, Singh and Furyk, along with the current holder of the “best golfer never to have won a major” tag, Sergio Garcia.]

Musing about Wounded Knee and Wikipedia and the US Open

As a child and as a boy, I’d heard about the Battle of Wounded Knee, about Sitting Bull and about Big Foot, but as seen through the eyes of cowboy comics illustrators. My real knowledge about the battle didn’t amount to much as a result.

Today, reading newspaper reports about Tiger Woods and the US Open, I decided I wanted to know more about it, and quite naturally I went to Wikipedia. I found it intriguing that I did not go first to Google, and thought about why. I decided that there was a class of information where I considered Wikipedia to be my first stop; that this class was characterised by something I could not find anywhere else.

What was this unique thing? A notice that said “The neutrality of this article is disputed“. Sure, I’ve known about Wikipedia’s NPOV principles, and about the use of such notices. What I hadn’t appreciated was how important that notice was. What I hadn’t appreciated was that, for some classes of information, I would go to Wikipedia in preference to other places because of the willingness of Wikipedia to point out its own provisionality.

Anyway. I found the article on Wounded Knee fascinating, and spent some time wandering around related articles.

Talking about wounded knees, apparently Tiger Woods has never failed to win a major after ending the third round with a share of the lead. He’s meant to be recovering from knee surgery; watching him play yesterday, one begins to wonder what it would really take to defeat him when he decides he wants to win. Amazing player.

Some weeks ago I let you know that I’m a big fan of Camilo Villegas. Good to see him performing well (he’s lying 6th), this is the best I’ve seen him do at a major, and I’m going to be rooting for him tonight. Defeating Tiger in this mood is going to take something special from someone, and Camilo has the capacity. Every time he stands at the tee he’s thinking birdie or eagle. All he has to do is improve his driving accuracy, and he could be a contender.