There are certain people who are just made for the camera. “As a photographer, could you ever snap anybody better than Seve Ballesteros?,” reflected David Cannon of the swashbuckling, smouldering Seve who could send shutter speeds racing with that magical, twinkle in those Spanish eyes. “Even Tiger Woods doesn’t come close. And Tiger is incredible”.

But what about oor ain Colin Montgomerie? “Oh yes, I’ve had the death stare from Monty,” Cannon chuckled of those famous, fearsome glowers that have just about melted the viewfinders of golfing snappers the world over.

In a sporting life behind the lens, stretching back 40 years, Cannon has captured some of golf’s most iconic, enduring images. Every picture tells a story. The late, great Seve made sure of that. “Every single day you went on the course with him you knew you had the chance of getting a bloody brilliant picture,” added Cannon of Ballesteros’ majestic wonder and his captivating penchant for quixotic golfing escapades.

Cannon’s photo of Seve winning the 1984 Open at St Andrews, and captured in the throes of a jubilant, vigorous punching of the air which just about left dents in that very air, became known in Ballesteros’ circles as ‘El Momento’. It was for Cannon too. “My heart was a going a million miles an hour after I’d taken that because I knew I had something so special,” he said. “God, what a moment.”

Seve would provide plenty more. “The best day of my career was going to his home in Pedrena to do a magazine shoot,” added Cannon. “After the shoot, I said ‘I’d love to see you hit balls on the beach where you learned the game’. Seve came out of the kitchen with a soup can and a napkin and said ‘let’s go’. He tied the napkin to a stick, dug a hole in the sand with the can and said ‘this is my hole, this is where I learned to putt for Augusta’. It was a moment that was unplanned, natural and simply brilliant.”

Capturing brilliance has been par for the course for Cannon. As a canny, competitive player in his youth, he played amateur golf against Sandy Lyle. A few years later he would snap the Scot winning The Open in 1985 as well as photographing him – sweaty oxters and all – lifting his arms up in triumph on the last green at Augusta as he landed The Masters in 1988. 

Cannon’s shot of Jack Nicklaus raising aloft his putter en route to Masters glory in 1986, meanwhile, will forever resonate. “I was following Seve, who I still thought would win, but chose to move to Jack’s match,” he recalled of a ding-dong final day. “It was instinct. And a lot of luck.”

As always in this game, there are the ones that got away. “When Nick Faldo won the Masters in 1989 it was nearly dark and I took a gamble,” he said. “I tried to shoot slide film but it should have been black and white in such bad light. I got camera shake and that was a big miss. Once the moment is gone, you can’t get it back. That one still hurts.”

There are plenty of what-might-have-beens that still linger too. “When Tom Watson stood over that final putt to win The Open in 2009 at Turnberry, I was shaking like a leaf,” he said of Watson’s age-defying heroics which ultimately ended in crushing deflation. “Imagine if Tom had won and what the photos would’ve been like? That was my biggest disappointment covering golf.”

It is only sport, though. And Cannon knows that. His days documenting football involved the harrowing, tragic ineptitude of the Hillsborough disaster. “I was at the Leppings Lane end of the ground and about four-feet from that fence,” he said. “I’m never proud of the pictures I took that day. I want nothing to do with them. I didn’t cover domestic football after that.”

Cannon has birled around the world “over 100 times” chronicling countless golf showpieces, Olympic Games and World Cups. Coronavirus has put the kibosh on his globetrotting, though. “This last year is the most time I’ve spent in my own bed since I went to boarding school,” he sighed. “Watching these events taking place in the US is driving me insane. Not being at The Masters again will kill me. I was at 37 in a row and now I’m going to miss two in a row.”

Even the best photographers miss something now and again.