- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

MADRID (AP) - Golf great Seve Ballesteros says his main objective as he recovers from a cancerous brain tumor is to get back to normal. After that, his dream is to open a golf course near his home town in northern Spain.

“My first hope is to recuperate normality,” Ballesteros said in the second part of an interview published Wednesday in the Spanish sports daily Marca.

“After that, a course in Santander. That has been my dream for a long time.”

The interview is the first Ballesteros has given since he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in the right side of his brain nearly six months ago.

Thinking back on his career as a golfer, he said “I have always considered myself to be more of an artist than a player. I think I can say that I have done some very special things on the course, things that even today, I don’t think any player has done.”

In the first part published Tuesday, an emotional Ballesteros, looking frail in photos accompanying the piece, spoke of his battle against cancer.

“This is the most important shot of my life. I’m fighting to win my sixth major,” said the five-time major winner. “Life has given me a second chance.”

The newspaper said Ballesteros was frequently overcome by emotion as he talked about his recovery. He began his fourth round of chemotherapy on Saturday after undergoing four separate surgeries.

“I’m not called Seve Ballesteros, I’m called Seve Mulligan because I’ve had the luck to be given a mulligan, which in golf is a second chance,” he said. “I’ve been given the mulligan of my life. The proof is that I’m alive, that I can do things, that I speak, I’m perfectly able to reason.”

In the second part Wednesday, Ballesteros spoke more of his interest in other sports and athletes, including Lance Armstrong, who survived his own fight against testicular cancer before winning a record seven Tour de France titles.

“Lance Armstrong! Besides, he’s my cycling idol,” said Ballesteros. “Naturally, I’ve always liked Miguel Indurain, and Carlos Sastre. … I’m a fan of all the Spaniards, but Lance has a very special story.”

In soccer, his favorite is Barcelona and its young Argentine star Lionel Messi.

“Messi! That’s my idol and I also like Bojan (Krkic),” he said. “If I were to tell the truth, in Barca, I would highlight them all. Player after player, they’re so good.”

Fellow Spaniard and top-ranked tennis star Rafael Nadal also earned special praise from Ballesteros.

“He’s a phenomenon, he’s a fantastic reference point on and off the courts,” said Ballesteros. “He’s the best we have as an ambassador of sports for all kids.”

Ballesteros also joked about how Nadal still owes him a dinner from a bet over a game of golf between the two some months ago which Nadal lost.

Ballesteros won a record 50 times on the European tour. He also has three British Open trophies and two Masters titles, becoming the youngest winner at Augusta National in 1983 before Tiger Woods trumped his mark 14 years later.

He had a 20-12-5 record in eight appearances at the Ryder Cup and was European captain for the victory in 1997, 18 years after he forced the competition to expand to include continental Europe.

Now on a diet consisting of only fish and vegetables, Ballesteros told Marca he has lost 33 pounds since being admitted to the hospital. He now weighs 165 pounds _ the same as when he won his first Masters at age 23.

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