Born in Pedrena, Spain, in 1957, Ballesteros won a record 50 times on the European Tour, including three British Open Championships. The first European to win the Masters in 1980, he twice won the Green Jacket and was the youngest winner at Augusta until Tiger Woods's first victory in 1997.
Pending his health status, the eight-time European Ryder Cup veteran will be returning to Muirfield Village for the first time since the1987 Matches were staged here. In October, Ballesteros was diagnosed with cancer and has undergone four surgeries to remove and treat a brain tumor.
Ballesteros turned professional in March 1974 at the age of 16. In 1976, he burst onto the international scene with a second-place finish in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Ballesteros led by two shots after the third round, but a final round 74 left him tied for 2nd with Jack Nicklaus.
Ballesteros played on a rare combination of talent and heart. His intensity and style of play have constantly required high-risk recoveries and clutch putting that drew fans into his corner. His gifts of imagination, touch and determination on the course helped Ballesteros create one of the best records in golf and become one of Europe's all-time most successful and most popular players.
Ballesteros made emotion and a brilliant short game his best allies on the golf course. His magical touch derives from years of practice. As a boy, he developed his natural motion by hitting rocks on the beaches of Pedrena with a homemade 3-iron. In his prime, nobody was better at scrambling to manufacture low scores. Ballesteros won the Harry Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average on the European PGA Tour six times, powered by his brilliant short game. In 1979, Ballesteros became the first European to win the Open Championship since Frenchman Arnaud Massy took the title at Royal Liverpool in 1907. It would be the beginning of a resurgence of European players.
Ballesteros was at his erratic best in the final round of the 1988 British Open, shooting a 65 that included an 11-hole stretch in which he made two pars, two bogeys, six birdies and an eagle. He worked magic out of the deep rough and performed wizardry around the greens. Ultimately, he closed out Nick Price with a brilliant chip from behind the 18th green that finished inches from the cup. In perhaps the finest putting performance of his career, Ballesteros remarked, "I knew at the time I won the Open in 1988 that I had reached some sort of peak, that it was a round of golf that I would think fondly about for the rest of my life."
While his individual record is exemplary, Ballesteros' legacy in the game will also be noted for his effort pushing golf onto a world stage by moving it onto the European continent and by making the Ryder Cup competitive. Jack Nicklaus is credited with stimulating the change in the Ryder Cup to include Europeans, and bolstered by his own 21-12-5 record, Ballesteros is credited with leading the resurgence of the Europeans in the Matches. He was the heart and soul of the European team as an eight-time member and one-time captain of the victorious 1997 team. In 1987, the Ryder Cup gained prominence when the Europeans came to America and, for the first time, won on American soil at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Ballesteros's tenacity, fearlessness and fanatical desire to succeed helped make him one of the greatest match players of all time in numerous events under that format. When Valderrama Golf Club on Spain's Costa del Sol was selected to host the 1997 Ryder Cup Matches-the first time for a mainland European venue-Ballesteros was the prime force. He was also selected Captain for the victorious European team. In 1999, Ballesteros was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. He retired at a tearful news conference at Carnoustie before the 2007 British Open.
Other Significant Victories:
PGA TOUR: 4
PGA European Tour: 45
Other Wins: 16
Played on eight Ryder Cup teams, winning 22 and a half points from his 37 matches. Was the winning captain of the 1997 Ryder Cup team. First player to reach Â£1 million, Â£2 million and Â£3 million in earnings on the European Tour. Won the European Tour Order of Merit in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1986, 1988 and 1991.