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Ballesteros retires after failed try on Champions Tour

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Seve Ballesteros, a five-time major championship winner, announced his retirement from golf on
Monday.


"This has been the most difficult decision of my life," Ballesteros, who won the British Open three times and the Masters twice, said at a news conference at the British Open.

The Spaniard, who turned 50 in April, has not been a force in
golf for the last 10 years as he has coped with back injuries.

Ballesteros was the youngest Masters champion (23) until Tiger Woods came along, and he returned to Augusta National this year to
give his career one last chance. He had rounds of 86-80 to finish
in last place, then tried one Champions Tour event after turning 50
in April, but again came in last.

He said he would keep playing golf with his children, and his
focus would be spent on his family and his business, which includes
golf course design.

"For several months there was something confusing inside. It
was an internal fight -- my head said I should retire. I kept
saying that over and over," he said.

"My heart kept telling me it would be better to keep playing
and compete. So it was difficult for quite a while.

"Finally, I decided to go to try on the Champions Tour. So I went there and played one tournament and then I came
back. That really made me think ... I should retire."


He continued: "I don't have the desire any longer. I have
worked very hard from morning to night and put all my energy and
effort into the game, focused 100 percent and I felt that was
enough.

"I have a number of good years left and I'd rather spend
time now with my three children and my companies and friends."

Ballesteros did for Europe what Arnold Palmer did for American
golf a generation earlier. He was a swashbuckler on the course, a
combination of power and amazing imagination. He won one of his
three British Open titles by playing a shot from the car park (a temporary parking lot), and
perhaps his greatest shot was a 3-wood from a bunker on the final
hole of the Ryder Cup in 1983, the first time Europe had a chance to beat the U.S. team.

Inspired by his fierce style, Europe closed the gap on the
United States in the matches until winning for the first time in
1985, and dominating ever since. One of those wins came in 1997
at Valderrama, with Ballesteros as the captain.

Asked to choose some of his favorite memories, the list was too
long.

"I hit so many good shots and so many good things happened,
it's hard to describe how good it feels," Ballesteros said. "It
was great."

Five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson called Ballesteros
one of the two greatest natural players, the other being Sam Snead.

"He was the most gifted young golfer that I'd ever come
across," Thomson said. "His exploits bore that out. When he did
mature, he was pretty good -- as good as anyone of his time."

He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999.

Earlier, Ballesteros denied reports of an attempted suicide that had been in the European media.

"I know that a lot of rumors have been out all over the world, all as a consequence of one of the TV channels in Spain," Ballesteros said, according to a story in Monday's Belfast Telegraph. "They said things that were not even close to reality and that's why I have to make a statement later in the day to deny the things.

"... There was confusion. I have no idea how it arose. I was at a hospital for several hours. I didn't feel good in my chest and thought my heart was not doing very good.

"I was there in observation and then I left because everything was OK. I don't know why those rumors happened. You can't control those things sometimes. The only important thing is that I am OK. I am very happy and everything is OK."

Ballesteros said he chose Carnoustie to make the announcement because he made his British Open debut there 32
years ago.

Information from The Associated Press, Reuters and ESPN.com correspondent Bob Harig is included in this report