Trying to understand the perplexities of golf is far more confusing to Seve Ballesteros than simply playing the game.

A year ago, his confidence strong and his game in high gear, Ballesteros lost playoffs in both the Masters and the Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic in Harrison, N.Y.

His mental outlook wasn't helped by his start in 1988, when he missed the cut in two of four U.S. tournaments, and also missed a cut in Europe for the first time in six years.

On Sunday, though, faced with a similar situation that caused him so much damage in 1987, Ballesteros gave his sagging confidence just the lift it needed heading into the U.S. Open.

For the second year in a row Ballesteros found himself in a playoff at the Westchester Country Club, and this time he won a four-man shootout for his first victory on the U.S. Tour in three years.

"This game is very unpredictable," the 31-year-old Spaniard said after his 5-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole lifted him to victory over Greg Norman, Ken Green and David Frost. "You never know what's going to happen. You just have to keep trying as hard as you can.

"Last year I was playing better than this year and I lost. This year I won. Last year I hooked my tee shot (n the playoff hole) and this year it was straight. That's the way it goes."

All four playoff participants birdied the 18th hole _ Ballesteros sinking a putt of 10 feet _ to force the first four-way playoff on the PGA Tour since the 1986 Western Open. Frost also was involved in that playoff, won by Tom Kite.

Norman, with five birdies on the front nine, registered the best score of the tournament with a 7-under-par 64. He completed his round more than an hour before the final group, posting a total of 8-under 276 as the target for the others to shoot at.

At Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Billy Casper became the seventh player to earn $1 million on the Senior PGA Tour and posted a bogey-free 67 on Sunday to win the Senior Tournament Players Championship by two strokes over Al Geiberger.

The victory was the second of the season for Casper, 57, who collected $60,000 that nearly doubled his 1988 earnings to $132,117. He has won $1,026,434 since joining the Senior Tour in 1981 and joined Don January, Miller Barber, Gene Littler, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Bruce Crampton as the players who have won more than $1 million on both the regular and senior tours.

Casper birdied five holes, including Nos. 13 and No. 14 on the 6,646-yard Valley Course at Sawgrass Country Club, to open a two-shot advantage with four holes to go. He finished the $400,000 tournament with a four-day total of 278, 10 under par.

Geiberger shot 70 and was second alone at 280 after defending champion Gary Player bogeyed the last hole.

At Pittsford, N.Y., each hole of the LPGA's Rochester International seemed to be pointed toward disaster until Mei-Chi Cheng rolled in a birdie putt on the second playoff hole.

With the 7-foot putt on Sunday, Cheng, a tour rookie from Taiwan, won her first tournament and ended what proved to be one of the toughest ordeals in a while on the LPGA Tour.

The winning score, 1-under-par 287, was the highest on tour since Jane Geddes won the women's 1986 U.S. Open in a playoff with Sally Little after posting the same score.

Only playoff competitors Cheng, Nancy Lopez and Patty Sheehan had sub-par totals after 72 holes in the $300,000 tournament as swirling winds and hard greens turned the 6,182-yard, par-72 Locust Hill Country Club course into a monster.

Balls bounced over greens, drifted out of bounds and skipped into bunkers and under-par rounds were extremely rare, especially on Sunday.