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Ballesteros ends dazzling career

16 July 07 14:08 GMT

Legendary golfer Seve Ballesteros has announced his retirement.

The 50-year-old Spaniard, who won three Open and two Masters titles, said: "This has been the most difficult decision of my life."

Ballesteros played in four successful European Ryder Cup sides and captained the team to victory in 1997.

He has suffered with back and knee problems in recent years, and missed the cut at this year's Masters after finishing on 22 over par.

"I don't have the desire any longer," he said. "I have worked very hard from morning to night and put all my energy and effort into the game, focused 100% 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 said he had made the decision after spending some time pondering his future.

He made his debut on the US Seniors Tour in May, but finished joint last alongside Lee Trevino.

"For a few months there was something confused inside me, an internal fight," said Ballesteros, who was speaking at Carnoustie where he made his Open debut as an 18-year-old in 1975.

"My head said 'I think you should retire' but my heart was telling me 'you would be better to continue playing and competing.'

"It was difficult for quite a while but finally I decided this year to go and try the Champions Tour. I went there, and the weather was nice, but I only played one tournament and I came back.

"That really made me think very deeply and really question either you continue or you stop playing. I made probably the hardest decision of my career and I decided to retire.

"I have to say that golf has given me so much over the years that it's really hard to give back even 25% of how much I got. It gave me the pleasure of competing and feeling the glory of winning.

"It gave me the chance of travelling around the world and meeting people and the great feeling of people who showed me understanding and appreciation of what I have done in the game of golf.

"I feel a very, very lucky person and very grateful for those things that happened over 30 years."

Ballesteros turned professional in 1974 at the age of 16 and made a huge impact two years later by finishing second in the Open alongside Jack Nicklaus at Royal Birkdale, and winning the first of his six Order of Merit titles.

A first major title came at the 1979 Open, a tournament he would also win in 1984 and 1988, and he also took the Masters Green Jacket in 1980 and 1983.

Beyond the victories, Ballesteros was arguably the driving force behind the transformation of European golf into a serious rival for the game in the United States.

He played a leading role in Europe's breakthrough Ryder Cup victory in 1985 and the equally impressive retention of the trophy two years later on American soil.

And Ballesteros fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he captained the Europeans to victory over the US in Spain in 1997.

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