MADRID (AP) - An emotional Seve Ballesteros has spoken publicly for the first time about his fight against a cancerous brain tumor.
The 51-year-old Ballesteros looked frail and thin in photos published by Spanish sports daily Marca on Tuesday along with the golf great's first interview since he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in the right side of his brain nearly six months ago.
"This is the most important shot of my life. I'm fighting to win my sixth major," Marca quoted the five-time major winner as saying. "Life has given me a second chance."
The newspaper said Ballesteros was frequently overcome by emotion as he talked about his fight toward recovery. He began his fourth round of chemotherapy on Saturday after undergoing four separate surgeries.
"I'm not called Seve Ballesteros, I'm called Seve Mulligan because I've had the luck to be given a mulligan, which in golf is a second chance," he said. "I've been given the mulligan of my life. The proof is that I'm alive, that I can do things, that I speak, I'm perfectly able to reason.
"I've had a lot of luck, which is the truth."
Ballesteros fainted on an escalator at Madrid's International airport on Oct. 5 and rebuffed airport staff wishes for him to seek medical attention before meeting his nephew Ivan, who took him to Madrid's La Paz hospital after he collapsed again.
Ballesteros said he would never forget the moment doctors confirmed what the scans had discovered.
"They were clear with me, they told me: 'It's a tumor, the luck is that it's on the right side so we'll do a biopsy to see what it is,'" he said. "In that moment it hit me, the shock of it. You're well and suddenly they tell you this, can you imagine? I was going to eat (lunch) with my son."
Ballesteros, who was checked into the hospital under the alias Antonio Dominguez Sota, said he remained upbeat most days, cracking jokes with staff and other patients and trying to keep his spirits up amid the surgeries, which all occurred within 15 days.
"The operation was perfect. The worst was the post-operations, which were difficult, very difficult! There were many inconveniences, and it's not that I had any pain. The pain ... was interior," Ballesteros said.
Ballesteros said he was deeply touched by the get-well cards and wishes he received from all over the world, which he numbered at 300,000.
"During all of these years I was always very centered on my work. I knew they admired me, what I didn't know is that the people loved me so much," Ballesteros said before breaking down into tears, the newspaper reported. "It's like you're living in a bad dream. But I know it's only a question of time."
Ballesteros' competitive spirit also seemed intact. He said his brother Baldomero told him that after waking up from one of his operations his first words were: "British Open. Must win it Saturday."
Ballesteros won a record 50 times on the European tour. He also has three British Open trophies and two Masters titles, becoming the youngest winner at Augusta National before Tiger Woods trumped his record.
Ballesteros had a 20-12-5 record in eight appearances at the Ryder Cup. He was European captain for the victory in 1997, 18 years after he forced the competition to expand to include continental Europe.
Along the way, Ballesteros earned many admirers for his brash swagger and imaginative play, especially in Britain and the United States.
"The (British public) always made me feel very loved, very loved," Ballesteros said before breaking into tears again. "It's the corner of the world where the sport is best understood, and in a way that's where it all started for me, the first big step of my career and also the last of my sporting time. Everyone knows the British Open is my favorite tournament.
"What I'm most proud about, if you ask me what my greatest victory was, is to have made golf a popular sport, as it is today, but in those moments it was badly looked upon and rejected by a large part of society."
Ballesteros, who retired in a tearful press conference at Carnoustie before the 2007 British Open, said his daily workout routine included light sessions on the rowing machine, exercise bicycle and in the pool, with a traditional siesta usually preceding an afternoon walk.
"Sometimes I have rebelled, when I had two lower back pains that kept me in bed," Ballesteros said. "That was a relapse."
Ballesteros is on a diet consisting of only fish and vegetables and said he has dropped 33 pounds since being admitted. He now weighs 165 pounds - the same as when he won his first Masters at age 23.
A withered Ballesteros was not concerned about the public's reaction to his physical image.
"Nothing worries me," he said. "That the least! These wounds, they are wounds of war."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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