Golf

Golf great Seve Ballesteros dies at home

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MADRID (AP)

Tributes for golf great Seve Ballesteros started pouring in from across the globe after the five-time major winner died on Saturday at age 54.

Ballesteros died one day after suffering severe deterioration in his recovery from multiple surgeries to remove a malignant brain tumor.

Headlines such as ''The Inventor of Spanish golf'' and ''Life of a Legend'' were splashed across Spanish media websites as fellow golfers, athletes and figures from around the world paid tribute to the native from the northern coastal town of Pedrena.

George O'Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour, said Ballesteros was the inspiration behind the tour.

''This is such a very sad day for all who love golf,'' O'Grady said on the tour website.

''Seve's unique legacy must be the inspiration he has given to so many to watch, support, and play golf, and finally to fight a cruel illness with equal flair, passion, and fierce determination. We have all been so blessed to live in his era. He was the inspiration behind the European Tour.''

Spanish golf federation president Gonzaga Escauriaza said Ballesteros, an ''icon'' of Spanish golf, transformed the sport.

''Severiano Ballesteros was a unique, unrepeatable person,'' Escauriaza said. ''We have to recognize we are where we are now, that golf is a popular sport ... in large part to Severiano Ballesteros. We all owe him a lot.''

No. 1-ranked Lee Westwood wrote on Twitter: ''It's a sad day. Lost an inspiration, genius, roll model, hero and friend. Seve made European golf what it is today. RIP Seve.''

Three-time major winner Nick Price said Ballesteros was ''light years ahead'' after seeing him for the first time when they were both 21, calling it a ''mesmerizing'' moment.

The pair dueled at the 1988 British Open, with Ballesteros rallying from a two-stroke deficit to beat Price by two shots with a final round 65 for his last major win.

''He did for European golf what Tiger Woods did for worldwide golf. The European Tour would not be where it is today if not for Seve Ballesteros,'' Price, whose brother died from the same problem last year, said from a Champions Tour event in Alabama. ''His allegiance to the European Tour was admirable. The guy, he was an icon, just an incredible golfer.''

Tom Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion, appreciated Ballesteros' kindess.

''He always treated me really well. He was always kind to me,'' Lehman said. ''Such a competitive guy, so I always appreciated that he took the time to say something nice. As a competitor, he didn't have to do that, but he did.''

He also marvelled at the Spaniard's attitude.

''I think his body language was the strongest of anybody, maybe save Tiger in recent years,'' Lehman added. ''I've always said that his body language said, 'Hey, I may have hit a really crappy shot right there, but if you miss this next one, you'll miss the greatest shot ever hit.' That's just the way he walked, the way he acted, the way he carried himself. He never seemed to ever doubt his ability. That's what makes a champion.''

Mark Calcavecchia, winner of the British Open in 1989, was awed by some of the shots Ballesteros produced.

''The best imagination. The best short game. You never really knew where he was going to hit it,'' he said.

''I think I played him twice in the Ryder Cup. I'm pretty sure I never beat him in a match. He was certainly awesome, and really very charismatic.''

On Friday at the Spanish Open, Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez - good friends of Ballesteros' - were in tears as they came off the El Prat golf course upon learning of Ballesteros' deteriorating state. Olazabal and Ballesteros combined to form one of the greatest Ryder Cup pairs in history.

''What he did in sport is unbelievable,'' top-ranked tennis player Rafael Nadal said on Friday. ''These are tough moments.''

---

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

Paul Logothetis can be followed at http://twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

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