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Seve Ballesteros hoping to prove fitness

Five-time major winner Severiano Ballesteros has given himself a two-week deadline to prove he is fit to play in next month's Open at St Andrews.

Ballesteros, 48, was crippled and bedridden with back problems early last year but a fitness programme left him optimistic of making a comeback this year after not playing since the April 2003 Seve Trophy.

That comeback was then put on hold after he injured a knee practising this April.

Now Ballesteros is fighting a desperate battle to appear at St Andrews, scene of his 1984 British Open triumph, putting in at least 20 hours a week of practice.

He will also soon make a decision whether he plays as well as captains the latest European Seve Trophy team in England in September against Colin Montgomerie's Britain and Ireland side.

Ballesteros is still bedevilled by long-term back problems, he said on Wednesday, that could end his hopes of playing his first British Open for four years.

Speaking from his home at Pedrena, Ballesteros said: "As everyone can imagine, I do want, badly, to play the Open.

"But it is too important a tournament for me to decide to play when I am not in good shape. I will make a decision in a couple of weeks but I cant make it yet.

"The back is always my main worry, it is what's been bothering me for a long time.

"My back and knee are progressing but not as fast as I would like. I'm practising, mainly in Pedrena, no less than 20 hours a week.

"I'm practising, carefully, but practising every day and, with rehabilitation exercises, I hope to get into shape soon, but I'm not going to force it too much and get worse.

"Unfortunately, I don't seem to be in command. My body tells me what I can and can't do.

Ballesteros is determined to try to play a leading role in winning back the Seve Trophy, in which Montgomerie's team prevailed in 2003 and the Scot beat him for the first time in three matches.

Ballesteros dispelled rumours of Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez or Sergio Garcia already taking over as playing captain but warned he might not be able to carry out the job.

"I'll play only if that is good for the team but my priority is the team and I will not do anything if that could hurt the team," he added.

"I would love to play, I would love to be the captain and I would love to win again, but those decisions have not yet been made."


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