8 May 2011

Tributes pour in for Ballesteros

3:20 pm on 8 May 2011

Tributes have flowed for golfer Seve Ballesteros who has died at the age of 54.

Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have remembered his talent and influence, while International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge called him a "once in a generation" athlete.

Seve Ballesteros had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008 after collapsing at Madrid airport. Since then he had undergone a series of operations and a course of chemotherapy.

His family said he died peacefully surrounded by family members at his home in Pedrena on Saturday. The final cause of death was respiratory problems, the family's statement added.

A winner of three British Opens and two Masters titles, Ballesteros also helped revive Europe's fortunes in the biennial Ryder Cup team competition.

Record 18-times major winner Jack Nicklaus said golf had lost a great champion and a great friend.

"It was his creativity, his imagination and his desire to compete that made him so popular not only in Europe but throughout American galleries too," he said.

"He was a great entertainer. No matter the golf that particular day, you always knew you were going to be entertained."

Tiger Woods described Ballesteros as one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game.

The world's top ranked tennis player, Spain's Rafael Nadal, described his compatriot as a pioneer and one of the best athletes the country had produced.

Nadal offered his tribute after the Madrid Masters semifinals in which he defeated long-time rival Roger Federer.

A minute's silence was held before the match and Nadal, wearing a black ribbon on his bright yellow shirt, seemed visibly moved as pictures of Ballesteros came up on the giant television screen at the arena.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge paid tribute to Ballesteros' skill, charisma and courage as a sportsman and the dignified way he fought against his disease.