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Health of Golfing Legend Seve Ballesteros Deteriorates

MADRID -- Golfing great Seve Ballesteros has suffered "a severe deterioration" in his condition, more than two years after he had multiple surgeries to remove a cancerous brain tumor.

Ballesteros' family said Friday that he is being cared for at home in the northern Spanish town of Pedrena, where he has been recovering since having four operations in late 2008.

"The Ballesteros family informs that Seve's neurological condition has suffered a severe deterioration," a statement on the golfer's website said. "The family will inform accordingly about any change in his health condition and takes this opportunity of thanking everyone for the support that both Seve and his own family have been receiving during all this time."

The 54-year-old Ballesteros won three British Opens and two Masters with a game marked by spectacular improvisational play. One of the best-known personalities in Spain and the golfing world, he also recorded 50 victories on the European Tour and is widely credited with transforming European golf.

Spanish golfers Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez were visibly upset after finishing their second rounds at the Spanish Open in Terrassa and declined to speak to reporters. Olzabal teamed with Ballesteros to form the most formidable partnership in Ryder Cup history, while Jimenez served as Ballesteros' vice-captain at the 1997 Ryder Cup in Valderrama.

Tennis star Rafael Nadal, one of Spain's greatest modern-day sportsmen, expressed his thoughts for Ballesteros.

"He's one of the greats of this country without a doubt, a reference point for all Spanish athletes," Nadal said at the Madrid Masters tournament. "Life can be cruel a lot of the time but we've seen him use his internal will power to get out of situations before.

"What he did in sport is unbelievable. These are tough moments."

Ballesteros fainted at Madrid's international airport before boarding a flight to Germany on Oct. 6, 2008, and was subsequently diagnosed with the brain tumor.

He underwent four separate operations, including one 6 1/2-hour procedure to remove the tumor and reduce swelling around the brain. After leaving the hospital, his treatment continued with chemotherapy.

Ballesteros looked thin and pale while making several public appearances in 2009 after being given what he referred to as the "mulligan of my life." He rarely has been seen in public since March 2010, when he fell off a golf cart and hit his head on the ground.

His few appearances or public statements were usually in connection through work with his Seve Ballesteros Foundation to fight cancer.

After lobbying to have the Ryder Cup expanded to include continental Europe in 1979, Ballesteros helped beat the United States in 1985 to begin two decades of dominance. He also captained Europe to victory in 1997 at Valderrama, Spain.

Ballesteros retired in 2007 because of a long history of back pain, turning his focus to golf course design.