Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 15:43 UK

Ballesteros talks of cancer fight

Seve Ballesteros
Ballesteros started his fourth round of chemotherapy on Saturday

Champion golfer Seve Ballesteros says life has given him "a second chance", in his first interview since undergoing emergency brain surgery last year.

Speaking to Spanish sports paper Marca, he offered an emotional thank you to thousands of well-wishers in Britain.

The five-times major champion says he has made good progress in his recovery, but still has a long way to go.

"The way I look at it, this is the biggest battle of my life," he said. "This is the sixth major."

Ballesteros spoke about the "tremendous shock" of being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in October last year after collapsing twice during a trip to Madrid.

Photographs taken at his home in northern Spain show a scar on his right temple - evidence of the four life-saving operations he underwent.

'Very loved'

Ballesteros, who has won 87 career titles - including three British Opens and two US Masters - appeared notably thinner, and his hair was short from ongoing chemotherapy.

eve Ballesteros, left, gets the Masters green jacket from last year"s winner, Fuzzy Zoeller, after winning the 1980 Masters in Augusta, Ga., in this April 13, 1980 file photo
He now weighs 75kg (165lb), same as when he won his first Masters aged 23

But he came across as typically determined, recalling that his first words after the initial operation were: "I always win".

Describing a regimented daily routine of exercise and cognitive therapy, he said: "If I think about it objectively, I have been lucky... The proof is that I am alive and that I can do many things, that I can talk, that I can think perfectly."

He said he had found the post-operative treatment "incredibly hard" at times and had had some low moments.

Having received over 300,000 messages of support, the 51-year-old singled out British fans for special thanks.

"The UK is my second home," he said, "and the people have always made me feel very loved."

Ballesteros said he recently picked up a golf club for the first time in five months: "I wasn't too bad," he joked.

He described his road to recovery in golfing parlance.

"It is the longest par-72 in the world, this is the truth," he said. "This has to be admitted and faced."

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Wishing Seve well
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