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Seve Ballesteros in 1984
Seve Ballesteros' victory at St. Andrews in 1984 remains one of the great moments in European golf history. (Getty Images)

Sadly for him, and us, Ballesteros cannot return to Open this year

Like so many of us, Mark Garrod was hoping to see the great Seve Ballesteros stand on the first tee at St. Andrews one more time, if only so we could show our appreciation to him for his many gifts to the game.

By Mark Garrod PA Sport Golf Correspondent

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- "On the tee, from Spain, Severiano Ballesteros."

So many people were hoping to hear those seven words one more time -- almost certainly one last time -- at St. Andrews on July 14, the eve of the Open Championship. But, sadly for the fans and even more sadly for the man himself, it is not going to happen now.

The doctors who have been treating Ballesteros, indeed keeping him alive, since the discovery of a brain tumor have advised against "potentially emotional situations."

And nothing would have been more emotional than the reception the 53-year-old was guaranteed on being announced at the start of the four-hole Champions Challenge, part of the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Open.

Let us just hope that there will still be an opportunity for the gallery to show its appreciation for the player who gave more to European golf during his career than any other. Flashing up on the big screens the putt he holed to win at the Old Course in 1984 should do the trick.

However, back at his home in Santander, Spain, assuming he was watching at the time, Ballesteros would have to prepare himself for another "potentially emotional situation" if it happened.

Tears flowed during an interview he gave last month. At the time, he was still hoping to make the trip to St Andrews despite his physical condition.

"I don't have very good balance because my left leg has lost some feeling," he said. "My left hand is worse. When I have something in the hand, the keys or a glass of water, I don't know if I have it or not. Some of it might come back a little bit, but not like before."

During the conversation, Ballesteros' left arm repeatedly slid off its resting place on his knee and he picked it up with his right hand and put it back in position.

The three-time Open champion has also lost about 75 percent vision in his left eye and his energy levels were down -- no surprise, of course, given all the surgeries, all the chemotherapy and all the radiation treatment.

"But I'm getting stronger again," he insisted. "The doctors who saved me, they say that in my treatment I am on the 15th hole. I'm looking forward to finishing this round."

He has been hitting balls again for over a year now and Tom Watson's amazing performance at Turnberry last year just two months short of his 60th birthday gave Ballesteros belief that he might even make a return to the Open itself and not just the curtain-raising event.

There were tears in his eyes as he talked about the possibility.

"My goal was to compete in the championship, but I cannot," he said. "But I think I have the obligation to go and play the four holes. Because of what St. Andrews means. To me and to people. Because of what all the British people have done in the past for me. They want to see me and I have to go out there for them."

And how other players wanted him to.

Sir Nick Faldo had commented: "I hope he is there -- and I hope I am playing with him," while Paul McGinley said: "Fingers crossed that it can happen -- it would be wonderful.

"Jack Nicklaus was given a sending-off at St Andrews and this would be similar. It would be huge and very emotional. I would certainly organize my schedule around watching it,” McGinley added. "He's so popular in Britain and there would be a massive outpouring of goodwill towards him.

"My main memory is that Open against Tom Watson at St Andrews. I was a kid at home, 17, and I remember vividly watching it,” he said. "Watson was my hero, to be honest, but Seve was up there as well and from a European perspective he was head and shoulders above everybody else. 

"Now I've played the game professionally I lean a lot more towards Seve. I see what he stood for, what he did for the game. He brought charisma and a sexiness to the game of golf that we did not have before."

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