Ballesteros claims ref ‘persecution’

SEVE BALLESTEROS has inflamed the row with the PGA European Tour by saying his disqualification from the Italian Open was persecution.

The five-times Major winner faces a disciplinary hearing before next week’s Volvo PGA championship when he will be asked to explain his behaviour at Gardagolf where he refused to accept a slow-play penalty.

After changing his scorecard and being disqualified he then launched into a tirade, accusing the tour of victimising him and three other players because they had asked for an independent audit of the organisation’s accounts 18 months ago.

But Ballesteros insisted he would not back down.

“It was persecution, it was very clear to me that the referee was going to penalise me,” the 46-year-old Spaniard said.

“I have been thinking about it for many hours and the more I think about the situation, the more I realise that he was going to penalise me one way or another,” he said.

“I said I would not accept the penalty shot because I felt I was being abused by the authority of the referee (John Paramor). It was obvious,” he said.

“I have dignity and I felt he was after me all the way.

“I could have taken the penalty shot, kept quiet, smiled, but I don’t think that is the way someone with dignity is supposed to be. It’s not my character, it’s not my way.”

Ballesteros, who rarely makes cuts these days as he struggles to rediscover his game, said Paramor followed him and playing partner Gregory Havret round the course from the second hole, where Havret hit his ball into the water.

However, he says the following group were held up only once, when he spent four minutes looking for his ball on the 10th hole.

Ballesteros said he was warned about slow play on the 12th where he missed the green, and again on the 16th after noticing that his ball was damaged on the tee.

“I said ‘John, this is like a war. You want me to run’. So I started running in the middle of the fairway.

“When we finished the last hole, the group behind were still putting on the 17th, so how can you say I was playing slow?

“It was totally out of order and totally unfair.”

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