1. Seve Ballesteros
The swashbuckling Spaniard was rightly renowned for his ability to get up and down from just about anywhere, due to a boundless imagination and a magnificent short game.
However, he was also notoriously described as the “King of Gamesmanship”, particularly during the Ryder Cup. On the tee, there are countless tales of Seve coughing, shuffling around, jingling change in his pockets and generally crowding his opponents. On the green, he was regularly seen standing beyond the flag as his opponents tried to line up putts.
But in two of the most infamous incidents involving the five-time major winner, both against future US Ryder Cup captains, he was found to be in the right. In 1991, when partnered with Jose-Maria Olazabal, he correctly accused Paul Azinger and Chip Beck of changing to different compression balls on certain holes. The Americans claimed that each player was simply teeing off with his own ball in the alternate shot format and were furious the issue had been raised at all. To Seve’s obvious delight, Azinger kept up a running argument about the issue until the Spaniards fought back and closed the US out 2 and 1. Mission accomplished!
Four years later, Seve called for the referee again when Tom Lehman tapped in his ball instead of marking it in their singles match. The crowd started booing but there was no question that Lehman, a Ryder rookie, was in the wrong and had played out of turn.
It goes without saying that a true gamesman would never resort to the Seve tactics on the tee as they are just desperately unsubtle. The phrase that springs to mind is, “There's a fine line between getting the upper hand and getting a fist to the face!”
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