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Ballesteros makes return at Madrid Open
Focus on Ballesteros comeback in Madrid

Seve Ballesteros shoots 77 on return

Seve Ballesteros battled to a six-over-par 77 in his first tournament appearance for two years at the Madrid Open on Thursday.

The five-times major winner, who has regained fitness after a long struggle with back and knee problems, mixed two double-bogeys with five dropped shots and three birdies at a wet and overcast Club de Campo.

However, the Spaniard described his opening effort as the "beginning of a new era" and did enough to please a small crowd, including one moment of masterful magic when he hit a five-wood while on his knees in a spinney at the first, his 10th hole.

"The problem was the start," said the 48-year-old, who last played in a strokeplay event at this tournament in 2003.

"I was a bit tense and it made the rest of the day difficult to stabilise my momentum.

"It was not easy to come back. Everything was fine until I walked on to the first tee and then I started to feel a bit tight.

"But I started to play well on the back nine, more like I felt before the start of my round."

Ballesteros made a stumbling start, driving into trees at the 10th to bogey and double-bogeying the short 11th where he missed the green, clipped tree branches and three-putted as his renowned short-game let him down.

His tension showed when he added another double-bogey at the par-four 15th on his way to an ugly outward nine of six-over 41.

However, the Spaniard upped his game after the turn.

He offset a bogey at the second with a birdie at the fourth, produced a couple of par-saving putts from 10 feet and picked up his third shot of the day at the par-five seventh.

Although he missed a four-footer for par at the eighth, he completed the nine in level-par 36.

"I didn't have many good breaks today," said Ballesteros. "Whenever I make a mistake, the ball was always in a bad lie and on the first, when I hit to the left under a tree, the branches were quite low and I had to bend on to my knees.

"I hit a five-wood just the way I wanted but it just hit the branches of a tree and didn't make the green. But I still made a good putt."

The three-times British Open champion, who came into this week with high hopes and thoughts of a possible 51st European Tour victory, will struggle to make the cut after finishing third from bottom of the field.

"I hit some good shots, though," he added. "That's the beginning, the beginning of a new era for me.

"It will be much easier tomorrow and, if we have good weather, I am sure I am going to score well."

His last official tournament was the 2003 Seve Trophy and his last victory came in the 1995 Spanish Open at Club de Campo.

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

October 14, 2005

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