Right Field

Seve Ballesteros’s Legacy

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised by Europe’s incredible comeback yesterday from a 10–6 deficit to retain the Ryder Cup with a 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 win at Medinah Country Club. The Europeans drew their inspiration from the guy who made this event what it is, even though he wasn’t there to witness it.

Seve Ballesteros, who died in 2011 and whose image the Euros carried on their golf bags, was more than a great player. He was Europe’s version of Arnold Palmer, putting a sport on his back and selling it to an entire continent. Almost single-handedly, Seve made the Ryder Cup an event, transforming a low-key, American-dominated series of exhibitions into one of the greatest spectacles in sports.

As the 1990s wore on, Ballesteros lost the ability to overcome his wildness with his magic around the green. His deft putter left him. But his charisma didn’t. Seve’s finest hour may have come not with a golf club in hand but a walkie-talkie. Because of his legacy and influence, the Ryder Cup was held for the first time on mainland Europe in 1997, at Spain’s Valderrama Golf Club. As non-playing captain, Seve was the fire that ignited the European team against a heavily favored American team. Ballesteros, one of the greatest match-play golfers in history, willed his team to a historic win without firing a shot — much as he did yesterday. For a full Ryder Cup recap, click here.

— Rob Doster is senior editor for Athlon Sports.

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