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Ballesteros summoned to explain outburst

Seve Ballesteros is to be asked to attend a meeting of the European Tour’s tournament committee at Wentworth next week to explain his behaviour towards officials and other related incidents at the recent Madeira Island Open and Italian Open tournaments.

Mark James, the chairman of the committee, said after a three-hour meeting at an hotel here last night that Ballesteros appeared to have committed a serious breach of the Tour’s code of behaviour. As a result, James said, “we have asked him to come and talk to us. There will be no Tour staff present, no lawyers. It will be just Seve and us.” The result was relayed to Ballesteros by telephone by Miguel Angel Jiménez, a fellow Spaniard who sits on the 15-man committee.

Ballesteros was involved in an unseemly row with Tour officials in Madeira in March, when he was warned for slow play. In Italy two weeks ago he was penalised one stroke for the same offence in his third round, after which he altered his scorecard before signing it for a lower score than he had taken.

After he was disqualified, he launched a scathing attack on Ken Schofield, the executive director of the Tour, and his colleagues, whom he referred to as “the mafia”. He also accused them of not wanting to stage the Seve Trophy, the team match between British and Irish professionals, captained by Colin Montgomerie, and those from the Continent of Europe, led by Ballesteros.

In Hamburg yesterday, the talk among the professionals who had gathered for the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open that starts here tomorrow was less about the condition of the greens at the Gut Kaden course, which turned out to be better than expected, than about what, if anything, the tournament committee would do to Ballesteros.

“If it were me, do you think there would be any doubt it would be a heavy fine?” one player asked. “I mean, rules are rules, even for Seve. Arguing with a referee, refusing to accept the verdict of the most important man at that tournament, wow.”

Yet for the committee to stay its hand and give Ballesteros a chance to explain his grievances seems an admirable act, fair to Ballesteros and at the same time acknowledging that, although there appears to have been a breach of the Tour’s regulations, the precise details cannot be fully known until the central character is given a chance to explain himself.

“We could have imposed a fine,” James said, “but we decided we wanted to talk to him to see what problems he has with the Tour and what his perceived difficulties are.” It is hoped the meeting will take place next Wednesday.

So, for the moment at least, it seems as though the doves on the committee have held sway. “In view of what the fellow has done for golf in Europe the past 20 years, can’t he be cut some extra slack?” one member of the committee had asked yesterday afternoon.

However, the difference in opinions on this issue was emphasised when someone else in a position of some importance said minutes later that he thought it was essential to fine Ballesteros. He cited the case of Ronan Rafferty, who withdrew from the 1991 US Open in mid-round without informing his playing partners. “That was rude and so was this (Ballesteros’s behaviour),” he said.

“We can be above taking notice of his remarks about the Tour because we think they say more about him than they do about us. But Ronan was fined £5,000. That has to be a yardstick.”

Ballesteros is due to compete in next week’s Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth. It remains to be seen whether he will accept this invitation to state his case, but it would surely be a mistake for him not to do so.


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