- Associated Press - Friday, May 6, 2011

MADRID (AP) - Golf great Seve Ballesteros suffered “severe deterioration” in his recovery from a cancerous brain tumor, a development that brought some players to tears as they considered his massive effect on golf in Europe and around the world.

The 54-year-old Ballesteros was resting at home in the northern Spanish town of Pedrena, where has mostly been since undergoing four operations in late 2008, his family said Friday.

“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,” said a statement on his website.

It said his “neurological condition has suffered a severe deterioration.”

Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez were visibly upset after the second round of the Spanish Open. Olazabal formed the indomitable “Spanish Armada” with Ballesteros in the Ryder Cup, where they lost only two matches. Jimenez was a vice captain under Ballesteros on Europe’s winning team in the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama.

“We tried to talk to them after their rounds but they couldn’t even speak because they were crying. They couldn’t even talk,” Spanish Open spokeswoman Maria Acacia Lopez-Bachiller told The Associated Press by telephone. “This had to be the saddest competition in terms of ambiance today. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The thought of Ballesteros in such grave condition was felt around the world, from the PGA Tour event in North Carolina, and especially at a Champions Tour event in Alabama, which featured players who competed against Ballesteros in his prime.

They witnessed his genius with a club in hand, which led Ballesteros to five majors, 50 wins on the European Tour and a spirit so fierce that many consider him the most important figure in European golf history.

“He did for European golf what Tiger Woods did for worldwide golf,” three-time major champion Nick Price said. “The European Tour would not be where it is today if not for Seve Ballesteros. The guy, he was an icon, just an incredible golfer. I always said most of us could shoot 65 about 30 to 40 different ways. He had about 10,000 ways of shooting 65.”

Paul Casey, who as a kid used to watch Ballesteros work his magic at Wentworth, choked back tears after his round at the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour.

“He really blazed the trail for Europeans,” said Casey, who was clearly upset after his round at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C. “Not only in the Ryder Cup, but also on the PGA Tour in how he played at Augusta and his victories over here. We owe a huge amount to him.”

Fanny Sunesson, the former caddie for Nick Faldo during some of those Ryder Cups, was asked her recollections and began to cry. “The tears say it all,” she said.

One of the biggest stars in Spain, even though golf was never a popular sport, news of his downturn transcended to other sports. Tennis star Rafael Nadal called Ballesteros “one of the greats of this country without a doubt, a reference point for all Spanish athletes.”

“Life can be cruel a lot of the time,” Nadal said at the Madrid Masters. “But we’ve seen him use his internal willpower to get out of situations before. What he did in sport is unbelievable. These are tough moments.”

Phil Mickelson honored Ballesteros by serving a Spanish dish at the Champions Dinner at the Masters this year. Mickelson recalled his first PGA Tour event as a teenager and the thrill of playing a practice round with Ballesteros.

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