Commemorating Ballesteros and Sanders – two favorites with a sense of occasion

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Ballesteros won his first Masters on April 13, 1980

We should have analyzed the drama of the 2020 Masters, but that will have to wait until November because this year's tournament has been postponed until later in the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, it gives me the chance to remember two great characters; Severiano Ballesteros, the winner 40 years ago, and the flamboyant Doug Sanders, whose death was announced Monday. He was 86.

One was a multiple great champion, while the other failed to achieve one of the four major titles defining professional careers. However, both men will always be remembered by anyone who loves golf.

& # 39; I felt comfortable – then I was in trouble & # 39;

Ballesteros' Augusta victory on April 13, 1980 proved to be a turning point for Europe. Until then, only the South African Gary Player – on three occasions – had broken the American stranglehold on the Masters.

But here came a dashing Seve, the reigning Open champion, to become a flamboyant Spanish matador amid the golf character of the era.

"As soon as I got there and had a look at the golf course, I felt I would win the Masters," Ballesteros later recalled. "I said to myself, & # 39; Hey, this is your tournament. & # 39;"

His confidence was founded. Ballesteros completed a thread at the age of 23 to achieve victory. It should have been one of the most straightforward wins ever at Augusta National.

But this was Seve, and straightforward serenity was never his style. He opened with a brilliant 66 and shared a two-stroke lead with David Graham from Australia and rookie Jeff Mitchell from the United States.

By the end of the second round, where Ballesteros scored a three-under-par 69, he was alone – five strokes free from Graham and Rex Caldwell. A day later, the lead was seven after a 68 brought him to 13 under par.

Augusta was made for the great hitter of Spain. There was room for occasional wide hitting, and the smooth wavy greens gave way to his extraordinary wedge wizardry to separate himself from the rest of the field.

The course is also the most dramatic stage of golf, suitable for a tee Ballesteros' sense of opportunity and unquenchable desire for glory.

Seve romped to the Masters title. There was a $ 50,000 bonus from a golf magazine for anyone who could beat the then-record low of 17 then and with nine holes to play, the 1980 leader was close.

Ballesteros was 16-under on the 10th tee and 10 strokes clear of the field. "I played the last round without thinking that I was [starting] seven shots ahead," he explained.

"I focused on my own score. I was not worried about anyone else because the whole tournament would depend on me."

And we know that Masters are not completed until the last nine were negotiated on Sunday. & # 39; I felt comfortable – ten shots is a lot & # 39; said Ballesteros. "Then I was uncomfortable, I was in trouble."

Problems started short on the 12th when he found water off the tee. Then the par-five came 13th and another drowned in Rae & # 39; s Creek. An hour after advancing 10 strokes, Seve's advantage had been reduced to 3.

"It occurred to me that there was a great chance of losing the Masters," admitted Ballesteros. "So I said, & # 39; Seve you need to wake up and be hard from now on. & # 39;"

The following par-five was crucial. That 15th hole, with the carry over the water, must have been so intimidating, given previous setbacks over what was now the most winding backsight.

"If I hit the second shot in the water, I will lose the tournament," said Ballesteros. "I hit it on the green 15 feet away and two putts – and thanks to that I won."

Ballesteros won by four shots – becoming the youngest Masters champion at the time and took a record set 17 years earlier by Jack Nicklaus, which would be taken over from the Spaniard 17 years later by Tiger Woods.

Europe had reached the Masters, Ballesteros won again in 1983, Bernhard Langer from Germany won the first of his two titles in 1985, Sandy Lyle was the first British winner in 1988 and was followed by three-time champion Sir Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam.

Ballesteros' countryman and Ryder Cup partner Jose Maria Olazabal won the first of his two Masters titles in 1994, but only after reading a note in his locker prior to the last round.

& # 39; Be patient today & # 39 ;, Ballesteros had written. "Remember, you are the best player. Wait for the others to make mistakes and you will win."

These were prophetic words of a figure whose mind has gone through the European wave since he landed the continent's first green coat.

Doug Sanders was known for his colorful wave robe

& # 39; I never got as many letters as after The Open & # 39;

We knew Ballesteros was going to be a big star from the time he so imaginatively hacked into the bunkers to finish second to Johnny Miller at The Open in Royal Birkdale in 1976.

That was one of those occasions where you don't just remember the winner. And the same was true in 1970 when Doug Sanders was the last to have a small well to grab the winner's Claret Jug in St Andrews.

He missed. A day later, he lost an 18-hole playoff to Nicklaus. But this larger-than-life character, from Cedartown, Georgia, was never forgotten.

Known as the & # 39; Peacock of the Fairways & # 39; Because of his lively dress sense, Sanders was like Ballesteros in the way he enchanted himself to fans wherever he played.

"I never got as many letters and threads as after the Open," he later recalled. "They came from people who said they felt so bad that I miss the win. Many of them weren't even signed, but just ended with 'A Fan'."

Sanders won 20 PGA Tour titles and was a four-time runner-up in majors, no more agonizing than when he went green three times in the Home of Golf 50 years ago.

Golf fans lost Ballesteros far too early when he died of a brain tumor aged 54 in 2011. Now they are mourning Sanders, another great personality that has significantly boosted the popularity of the sport.

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