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Watch Out, Seve Speaks Out : Ballesteros Talks About Beman and the Tour Feud

Times Staff Writer

Don’t invite Severiano Ballesteros, the golfer, and Deane Beman, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, to the same party.

After refusing to talk about Beman Tuesday, Ballesteros talked . . . and talked . . . and talked about him Wednesday on the eve of the 50th Masters tournament. Between shots at the commissioner, the Spaniard, on his 29th birthday, insisted that he had come here to win the tournament, not to say what’s right or wrong about the U.S. tour.

But at a press conference, reporters refused to let Ballesteros off the hook. Asked to make some comments, he first responded with his customary amused grin and replied, “On what?”

Then he made the following comments about Beman, who suspended him this year for not playing in enough U.S. tournaments in 1985:

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--"He has too many rules. There are new rules every week. It’s easier to win Masters than to follow all the PGA rules.”

--"Maybe if he does something against me, it will make him happy.”

--"Beman is a little man who wants to be big. Let’s forget about him.”

--"Deane Beman only cares about the U.S. tour. A man who loves this game should care about an international tour. There will never be an international tour as long as Beman keeps his position.”

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Ballesteros was suspended from the PGA Tour by Beman for playing in only nine tournaments last year. According to the rules, he was supposed to play in at least 15.

The rule he broke, Ballesteros said, “is a lie, a joke. I really don’t understand why I should be suspended. Isao Aoki played only seven tournaments, and Beman says he can’t make a rule for one person.”

Why didn’t he play more U.S. tournaments, knowing he would be suspended, he was asked.

“Fifteen tournaments in the U. S. would be too much,” he replied. “I play 15 in Europe and five more in other places. That makes 35, and that’s too much for a man who travels all over the world. No top player in the U.S. plays more than 25 tournaments.”

He has nothing against the United States, he said. “I never say I don’t like the U.S. I say I don’t want to play 15 tournaments in the U.S.”

He thinks the PGA practices a double standard. “U.S. players play one, two or three tournaments, any number they want, in Europe,” he said. “Why should it be different in the U.S.? I think a player should be able to play as many tournaments as he wishes. There should be no limit.”

The PGA Tour has a different view of the feud between Ballesteros and its commissioner. It said that Ballesteros had agreed that a minimum of 15 appearances a year on the U.S. tour was a fair trade-off if he would not be required to obtain a release to participate in any PGA European tour event.

“Armed with a regulations change with which he agreed and, in fact, which he had helped to create, Seve Ballesteros officially joined the PGA Tour on September 30, 1983,” the PGA said.

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Ballesteros played in 15 tournaments in 1984, fulfilling his obligation, but after being warned twice in 1985 that he faced a penalty for not playing in enough tournaments, the two-time Masters champion told reporters in England in September that he would not play in 15 tournaments in the United States in 1985.

“It is better for both sides if I play when I want to play instead of sticking to their silly rules,” he said then.

Aoki’s case is different, the PGA said. “Isao Aoki did not take advantage of the home circuit exception to the conflicting-event rule. The 15-event requirement has never applied to foreign players who play without releases only in their home countries.”

Bernhard Langer of West Germany, the defending Masters champion, faces the same problem as Ballesteros. He will not play in 15 U.S. tournaments this year, either, he said Wednesday. Even after playing in 11 tournaments in 12 weeks--"I really had to play too many"--he probably will get in only 14.

Langer, however, expects the PGA Tour to accommodate the European players. “I feel they will lower the number of tournaments to 12,” he said. “Fifteen is a high number for Europeans who wish to support the European tour. It’s far too much.”

Both Ballesteros and Langer believe they have a good shot at winning the 1986 Masters tournament, starting today on the 6,900-yard Augusta National course, which Ballesteros called the best in the world. “I know this course as well as I know my house,” he said.

Good weather is predicted for the rest of the week. It was cool, sunny and windy Wednesday as most of the 88 players shot practice rounds.

“I am comfortable with the way I’ve been playing,” Langer said. “I’ve been playing pretty good golf.”

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Ballesteros said: “I feel very good. My confidence is quite high. I’m ready to win,” He also said it didn’t matter that he hasn’t played in many tournaments lately, adding: “I’ve been hitting balls and practicing; that’s OK.”

Of his tournament schedule, he said: “I play two and a half. I play one in Spain, one in Florida and two rounds in New Orleans. I missed the cut. That’s it.”

His Florida competition was in a satellite tournament at Lake City sponsored by the Tournament Players Assn. He won $90 in a practice match here Sunday and said, “It was my biggest paycheck this year. And I win $50 today.”


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