Notes: A watchful eye on young Ballesteros

Javier Ballesteros (left) with Luke Donald (file photo)

Javier Ballesteros (left) with Luke Donald (file photo)

Only time well tell if Javier Ballesteros has the magic or charisma to make it like his late father Seve, but he’s certainly sending out the right signals.

The 21-year-old is still an amateur but is playing in his first professional tournament this week on the Alps Tour. Seve would have been proud of the way Javier went around San Cugat Golf Club in 5-under 65 in the opening round of the Peugeot Alps de Barcelona.

It’s probably fair to say Seve never played a round like Javier did in Barcelona. “It has been a good round,” Javier said. “I did not get into trouble except for three putts on the 16th. I played very solid from tee to green. I hit 18 greens.”

It’s debatable if Seve ever hit 18 greens in any round in his life. Indeed, Javier played the course eight shots better than his late father. Seve, who died last year, returned a 73 on the same course in 1974 at the start of his pro career.

Sons of famous golfers have not always fared well in this game. Gary and Jack Nicklaus Jr. tried to make their way in the pro game and failed. Gary Player’s son Wayne suffered the same fate. As did Andy Miller, son of Johnny. Ditto for Raymond Floyd Jr. And on it goes.

So here’s hoping Javier Ballesteros can reverse a trend. Winning in Barcelona would be a start. He trails fellow Spaniard Ivo Giner by three shots with 36 holes to play.

• • •

Lethal Lytham: Having played Royal Lytham on Monday, I can vouch that it will be a stronger test for this year’s Open Championship than 11 years ago. The course has been lengthened by 181 yards, to 7,086, and is now a par 70. In 2001, when David Duval won, it played to a par 71.

Significant yardage has been added to the second, third, seventh, 10th and 11th holes. The par-5 11th hole is notably better. A new, higher tee gives players a better view of the hole, while reconstruction of the left-hand fairway bunkers drastically improves the hole.

Lytham is not the most aesthetic of Open courses, but it is a great test. Staying out of the bunkers is crucial. There are 206 total, and they are subtly different from many other links. They are a different challenge because they are flatter than normal concave links bunkers. It means balls don’t gather down into the middle of the bunker as one might expect, but often come to rest against the riveted, sod walls.

Staying out of links bunkers is normally key to a good score, but it’s imperative at Royal Lytham.

• • •

The long and the short of it: I have a feeling that if R&A chief executive Peter Dawson could outlaw long putters tomorrow, he would do it in a flash. Dawson conceded at Royal Lytham that discussions with the USGA over long or belly putters are ongoing. No decision can be put in place until 2016 when the new rule book comes out, but it seems obvious to me Dawson will be pushing hard to take action on them.

Dawson has been good for the R&A but he’s still a traditionalist at heart.

The problem for the governing bodies is in drafting a rule that forbids anchoring the club to the body. It’s been that way since Sam Torrance started using the long putter back in the early 1990s. Torrance hangs the long putter under his chin, and I once asked Torrance what would happen if there were a limit set on putter length. He said he would take a normal putter, bend over from the waist, hang it from his chin and continue as he had been doing with the long putter.

So it will be interesting to see if the ruling bodies can come up with the correct form of words in time for the 2016 rule book. I’m guessing Dawson will be hoping they do.

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