Tears flowed and flags flew at half-mast as the Spanish Open remembered national golf icon Severiano “Seve” Ballesteros, who lost his long battle against cancer on Saturday.
Jose Maria Olazabal, a close friend of the 54-year-old Ballesteros and a teammate in a series of epic Ryder Cup tussles against the US, was overcome by the news.
“I just played the most difficult round of my life. It was very tough to make it to the first tee and hit the first drive,” said Olazabal, who will be Europe’s next Ryder Cup skipper. “I don’t think there will ever be another player like him. There can be others that are very good, but none will have his charisma.”
Olazabal and Miguel Angel -Jimenez — vice captain to Ballesteros at Valderrama in 1997 when the Ryder Cup was won on Spanish turf — embraced at the start of the day and again after a minute’s silence was observed at the El Prat course.
As well as a minute’s silence, flags were at half-mast, players wore black ribbons and there was even a round of applause late in the day in honor of five-time Major winner Ballesteros.
Home player Pablo Larrazabal, who was second overnight, dressed all in black as he continued his bid to put his name on a trophy that Ballesteros last lifted in 1995 — one that made him the only player in European Tour history to record 50 victories.
Larrazabal goes into the final round two shots behind leader Thomas Aiken of South Africa.
“Since I heard the news this morning, I couldn’t get it out of my head,” Larrazabal said. “It has been a tough day. I was on the eighth during the minute of silence, it was the saddest minute of my career.”
“I only want to win the tournament for him; if I hit the ball well and putt correctly, I have a chance to win it and dedicate it to him and to his family,” he said.
Aiken, 27, who has never won on the European Tour, said Ballesteros had been an inspiration to all players.
“Seve’s charisma is an -inspiration for all of us,” the South African said. “He played with passion and determination. We must put things in perspective in order to value everything he did for golf. Seve will somehow never die.”