Ballesteros retires after failed try on Champions Tour

Updated: July 16, 2007, 6:14 PM ET news services

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

Harig: Sapped To The Core

Seve Ballesteros was every bit the Arnold Palmer of European golf -- a go-for-broke player who elevated the game to a new level in his part of the world. But Ballesteros bowed out unceremoniously Monday, saying his desire to play is gone. Story

"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."

The Ballesteros legacy

Seve Ballesteros is one of only 18 golfers to win at least five major titles as a professional and is tied for fourth on the list of majors won by players not born in the United States.

Name Majors
Gary Player 9
Harry Vardon 7
Nick Faldo 6
Seve Ballesteros 5
James Braid 5
John H. Taylor 5
Peter Thomson 5
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 correspondent Bob Harig is included in this report