Shot #1 – “The greatest shot I ever saw”
The Venue: PGA National, Ryder Cup, 1983
The Hole: 18th, 578 yards, Par 5
The Club: 3-wood
The Context: Matched up against two-time major champion Fuzzy Zoeller in the singles, Seve has his work cut out to gain a crucial point for the Europeans. Having charged into a three-hole lead by the turn, the Spaniard looks to be cruising to victory, but this is the Ryder Cup. Zoeller claws the match back to all square, heading down the last. When the shot happens.
The Moment: Finding deep rough with a duck hook off the tee, Seve manages to navigate his way out of the long stuff, only to find himself in a fairway bunker and seemingly further trouble. He approaches the sand to find a dire sight. Facing a six-feet-high lip, with the ball sitting halfway up the face of the bunker, hopes are fading of rescuing a half, let alone a win, and salvaging something, anything, from the match. Not to mention the sizeable lake that lay between the bunker and the green. While most golfers would have adjudged a lofted wedge sideways as the only sane course of action, Seve was not most golfers. After sizing up the shot and circumstances, he utters to his caddie “tres de madera” (three wood). While privately thinking this to be an absurd idea, Nick DePaul acknowledges his employer’s higher authority and reaches for the persimmon-headed club. Seve composes himself and swings – those snake hips swivelling almost 180 degrees, the downswing connecting with the cleanest of contacts. This was it. Make or break. The ball miraculously manages to ascend above the bunker lip into the sky, carrying Seve’s slim hopes of salvation along with it.
The Outcome: The ball flies 245 yards through the air, over the lake, landing safely by the fringe of the green, arriving to stunned silence. In true Seve fashion, the Europeans’ talisman proceeds to get up and down for a stunning par, halving the hole and with it, the match. The Americans would go on to edge the contest 14½ to 13½ but it was a watershed moment. It was the Europeans’ strongest performance on American soil to date – a precursor to their dominance in the event over the next decade, with Seve leading the charge.
What was said: “It was the greatest shot I ever saw” – high praise from arguably the game’s greatest player, Jack Nicklaus.
Can we see it? Famously, no footage of the shot exists to this day, mysteriously lost in the mists of time. With many eye-witnesses accounting for the shot however, the legend will go on.
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Shot #2 – The Spanish Wedge
The Venue: Wentworth, World Matchplay Championship, 1983
The Hole: 18th, Par 5
The Club: 8-iron
The Context: It’s the first round of the World Matchplay Championship. Seve is up against it as he heads down 18, a hole down to America’s favourite son, Arnold Palmer. With Arnie safely on the green in three and putting for birdie, Seve’s second shot has nestled up to a greenside bunker, 50 yards from the hole. A half on this hole is no good. He needs to win the hole to extend the match and have any chance of progressing further in the Championship. He needs to do something special.
The Moment: With his ball resting in the semi-rough and looming sand narrowing the angle of his chip onto the sloping green, Seve opts to pull out his 8-iron to tackle this seemingly precarious situation. Many in the watching galleries would have deemed it an unconventional club selection, given the shot that was required. A lesson learnt – never underestimate the wizardry of Severiano Ballesteros. He grips down the shaft and bunts a low chip towards the green.
The Outcome: Landing on the front edge of the green, the ball hops, skips and jumps before beginning its menacing advance towards the pin. Navigating the right-to-left contours of the green, it dials in on its target at pace, cuffing the pin and dropping into the hole. An eagle three. A sudden death playoff it would be. Seve triumphs on the third extra hole to knock out The King.
What was said: “I should be mad,” said Palmer. “But I have done that to so many other people in the past I suppose I can’t complain.”
Watch it here: https://cp.golf/3uJZl8Z
Shot #3 – Seve, a swimming pool, and a sand wedge
The Venue: Crans-sur-Sierre, European Masters, 1993
The Hole: The 18th, par 4
The Club: Sand wedge
The Context: What is it with Seve and final hole drama? Heading to the 18th tee, he is sat at 16 under par, just one shot off the lead. Having put a run of birdies together, the momentum is with the Spaniard, needing one more to have any hopes of catching Barry Lane atop the leaderboard.
The Moment: Things don’t quite go to plan. First, a wild swing with the driver sends the ball miles right into what looks like a forest, the ball settling just shy of an eight-foot-high wall guarding a neighbouring swimming pool. Finally locating it and surveying the scene, his caddie Billy Foster prepares for his boss to chip out sideways. Seve crouches down on the pine straw and points towards a small gap in the overhanging branches. He has other ideas. Against the advice of his caddie, he reaches for his sand wedge and aligns himself as though he is somehow going to attempt to go over the wall. With bowed knees and steely determination, an almost crouching Seve manages to take a swing.
The Outcome: Miraculously, the ball is lofted almost vertically above the tip of the wall, but still low enough to slot through the narrowest of gaps in the branches, careening over the far side of the swimming pool to rest up just short of the green. The galleries go wild and the roars ring out around the course. Foster stoops down on to his knees, mock-bowing in acknowledgment of the greatness he has just witnessed. Seve proceeds to chip his next shot in for a birdie three. Of course he does. On this occasion however, his heroics are not quite enough, with Lane making a brilliant finish of his own, but Seve’s fighting spirit and sheer ingenuity would last long in the memory of all those present that day.
What he said: Quizzed later why he took on such a risky shot, Seve replied: “I just like to keep going forward…”
See it here: The TV cameras never picked up the shot, however renowned photographer and close friend of Seve, David Cannon, captured two images of the moment. Check them out here: https://bit.ly/3ocOp1e
A luxurious hardback title, Seve – His Life Through the Lens, charting the life and career of Spanish golfing legend Severiano Ballesteros has been released today. The new 176-page book has been produced by award-winning photographer David Cannon, who has lovingly put together the most iconic pictures from Seve’s life and career, many of them seen for the first time by the general public.
The CPG is delighted to offer its members and supporters a 10% discount to celebrate the book’s release. Please click the link below and enter code at checkout and the discount will be applied.
CODE: CPG Discount