Seve Ballesteros' condition worsens

MADRID -- Golf great Seve Ballesteros has suffered "severe deterioration" in his recovery from a cancerous brain tumor and is being cared for at home.

The 54-year-old Spanish star was resting at his home in the northern Spanish town of Pedrena, where he 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," a statement on the golfer's website said.

It said his "neurological condition has suffered a severe deterioration."

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 won 50 times 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.

"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."

Olazabal teamed with Ballesteros to form the most formidable partnership in Ryder Cup history. Jimenez served as Ballesteros' vice captain at the 1997 Ryder Cup in Valderrama.

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."

News of his deterioration also hit hard on the PGA Tour.

"Seve was my idol," fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia said. "He was golf, he meant so much to Spain, to the Ryder Cup, to golf everywhere. He was a fighter. It's just sad."

"He really blazed the trail for Europeans," said Paul Casey of England, 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."

Davis Love III was part of only two U.S. teams that won against Ballesteros and Olazabal in the Ryder Cup. He called the Spaniard one of golf's icons.

"Everybody wanted that style, to be aggressive and flamboyant and play like that," Love said. "He was definitely somebody I grew up idolizing."

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.

"From that day on, he couldn't have been nicer to me," Mickelson said. "He showed me a few things, showed me a few shots, and ever since then, we've had a good relationship. ... Because of the way he played the game, you were drawn to him."

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

One of his operations was a 6½-hour procedure to remove the tumor and reduce swelling around the brain. After leaving the hospital, he had 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.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig was used in this report.