GOLF: Fans across globe remember Seve
MADRID (AP) – Tributes poured in from across the globe Saturday after five-time major winner Seve Ballesteros died of brain cancer, with players moved to tears by the passing of the dashing Spaniard who transformed European golf and the Ryder Cup.
Ballesteros died one day after his family said he had severely deteriorated in his recovery from multiple surgeries to remove a malignant brain tumor in 2008. He was 54.
“His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed,” Tiger Woods wrote on Twitter. “His death came much too soon.”
George O’Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour, called it “a very sad day for all who love golf” and said Ballesteros was the inspiration behind the tour.
The Spanish Open – site of Ballesteros’ record 50th and last European Tour win in 1995 – planned to honor Ballesteros with a minute of silence during Saturday’s third round, where former Ryder Cup partner Jose Maria Olazabal broke into tears before his tee time.
“I’m going to play because that’s the greatest honor I could give Seve,” said Olazabal, who teamed with Ballesteros to form one of the Ryder Cup’s greatest partnerships.
Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, recalled Ballesteros’ “strength, his fighting spirit and passion for everything he did.” He said he last met Ballesteros on April 16.
“He wasn’t well but he was lucid,” Olazabal said. “We spoke about a lot of things and memories of the Ryder Cup. The best homage we can pay him is to continue playing, but I don’t think any of the homages we make will ever be sufficient enough.”
Also moved to tears on Saturday was Rafael Nadal, the top-ranked tennis star who called his win over Roger Federer in the semifinals of the Madrid Open inconsequential.
“This morning the first thing I did was to turn on TV, and the first thing I saw was that he had died,” said Nadal, who recalled the time he played 18 holes with Ballesteros.
“It’s a day of sadness when you wake up with news like that. You face your day differently. It is a loss that we’ll never get back due to all the values that Seve had,” Nadal said.
Ballesteros’ funeral will be Wednesday in Pedrena, his native home in northern Spain, with family and close friends attending the subsequent wake. Three days of official mourning will be held in Cantabria, according to regional government head Miguel Angel Revilla.
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 championship.
“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, 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.”