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Seve Ballesteros makes return at Madrid Open

Seve Ballesteros makes his return to golf after a two-year absence at the Madrid Open this week, still dreaming that he can add to his 87 career titles.

The 48-year-old Spaniard last played a strokeplay event in this tournament in 2003, missing the cut with rounds of 76 and 74 at the Club de Campo course.

His last official tournament was the 2003 Seve Trophy and the five-times major champion and six-times European number one's last victory came in the 1995 Spanish Open at Club de Campo.

Ballesteros's career has nose-dived since and he does not now have a world ranking, largely due to injury but also because of swing problems.

"The first two rounds will have to be tactical," Ballesteros said on Wednesday. "I will try to use my strength, which is my short-game. I'm looking at top-10, but why not a win?

"It's free to dream. The world is full of surprises and golf is a surprising game."

Ballesteros was reported to be bed-ridden last year and, suffering with severe arthritis in his back, apparently fearful of ever playing again.

He said, however, that his injury had never been that serious, adding that he was ready to capture the headlines again for the right reasons.

"The injury was never that bad, there was some lack of mobility and pain but I was walking and doing normal things," he said. "I only ever had one month without hitting balls.

"I never worried whether I would play again, not from inside anyway, only from the mouth. But I am happy just to be here."

Ballesteros's main concern is whether he can concentrate for long enough to survive.

"Golf has always been my passion and competing has always been great," he added. "It's one thing I always like and enjoy - I like to feel the pressure. To play is what I love to do most. And to play for as long as I can? Of course."

"The only thing that really worries me is, when you don't play for nearly two years, it is hard to focus and difficult to have the competitive instinct," he said.

"Just to be here is great," he said. Let's go step-by-step. But whatever happens this week I will play next year on tour."

Ballesteros intends to play at least 15 events next season and several before the U.S. Masters in April, and European order of merit leader Colin Montgomerie said he hoped his former Ryder Cup team mate would complete four rounds in Madrid.

Montgomerie, now $150,000 ahead of Michael Campbell on top of the order of merit, is looking to increase his lead and give the U.S. Open champion from New Zealand a tough task in the final showdown at the Volvo Masters later this month.

October 13, 2005

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