THE SEVE SPAT
Unstoppable force meets immovable object, this mid-’80s dispute between then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and the world’s best player, Seve Ballesteros, led to the Spaniard playing almost none of his golf inside the US during 1986. A year earlier, Ballesteros had played only nine events on the PGA Tour, six short of the required minimum in order to maintain membership. Fifteen, he argued, was impossible given his commitments to the European Tour and other events around the world. Beman disagreed, insisting that Seve follow the rules just like everyone else. “Seve wanted to suit himself and play the European Tour off against the US,” said Beman in 2008. “If you allow a player to be a member and treat him differently, then there’s no incentive for anybody to be a member.”
The resulting impasse meant Ballesteros teed up in the 1986 Masters – which he would have won but for a duffed approach into the pond short of the 15th green in the final round – having played only one prior PGA Tour event, in New Orleans as defending champion. Other than the three US-based majors, it was Seve’s only official PGA Tour appearance that year.
In the short-term then, there was only one winner: the PGA Tour. But in the longer term there’s no doubt Seve’s complaints were reasonable. Today, European players with PGA Tour membership can call the European circuit their ‘home’ and play there as often as they like. The minimum requirement – increased from seven to nine in 1985 – is now only four (in regular events as long as one is in a ‘home country’ event).