MADRID, Spain (AP) Seve Ballesteros thanked doctors and staff for giving him the chance to play the "mulligan of my life" on Tuesday when he was released from the hospital more than two months after brain surgery to remove a malignant tumor.
The 51-year-old Spanish golfing great will continue to be treated as an outpatient, Madrid's La Paz hospital said in a statement. Ballesteros thanked not only the neurosurgeons who performed the operations, but also the staff and well-wishers who showed support since he was hospitalized 66 days ago.
``Thanks to them I will be able to play the mulligan of my life, which I expect to enjoy at my best,'' Ballesteros said in a statement posted on his Web site. ``There is a long recovery time ahead and I shall keep fighting with patience and determination against the brain tumor that was detected at the beginning of October.''
Ballesteros, one of Spain's best known sports personalities, was admitted Oct. 6 after fainting at Madrid's international airport before boarding a flight to Germany. Since then, he has undergone four separate operations, including a 6 1/2-hour procedure Oct. 24 to remove the brain tumor and reduce swelling around the brain. That was his third operation in eight days.
Ballesteros was released from intensive care last Wednesday - the first time he had been out of danger since his initial operation Oct. 15.
``Occasionally I was a rebel patient and therefore I ask them to forgive me and thank everyone for all the cares received,'' Ballesteros said.
A five-time major champion, Ballesteros is known for spectacular shots and fearless play, but still called his current ordeal the ``hardest challenge of my life.''
``When you fight with faith and persistency you can overcome whichever drawback you come across. Our mind is stronger than we imagine,'' Ballesteros said. ``Just as I always did in my professional life, visualizing success helps achieve ones targets however impossible they seem.''
Ballesteros did not say whether he would continue his recuperation at a residence in Madrid, but said he was confident he could recover - both mentally and physically.
``I am a believer and will continue thinking positively to defeat the illness I suffer and encourage those who are going through something similar to do it with the same determination as myself,'' Ballesteros said.
Ballesteros won three British Opens and two Masters titles. He also recorded 50 career victories on the European Tour and is widely recognized as having transformed European golf.
Perhaps his most memorable shot came from a parking lot next to the 16th fairway at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in the 1979 British Open. Leading by two shots in the final round, he drove into the car park, had a car removed to get his free drop, then fired his second shot into 15 feet and made birdie on his way to his first major.
After lobbying to have the Ryder Cup expanded to include continental Europe in 1979, Ballesteros helped beat the United States in 1985 to begin two decades of dominance. He also captained Europe to victory in 1997 at Valderrama, Spain.
Ballesteros retired in 2007 because of a long history of back pain and has since concentrated on golf course design.