• Golf

Westwood hails 'inspiration' Ballesteros

ESPN staff
May 7, 2011
Seve Ballesteros captured the hearts and minds of millions © PA Photos

World No. 1 Lee Westwood has paid tribute to his "inspiration" Seve Ballesteros, who has died at the age of 54.

Ballesteros, a five-time major winner, was instrumental in growing golf's popularity, with his attacking style winning him many admirers.

"I grew up watching him play this swashbuckling style of golf, and he became very much an inspiration," Westwood said. "He was one of the first to take the European game over to the Americans and show what we could do.

"He's the kind of player who would just about take anything on. When you thought he was on trouble, he would hit it close and hole the putt. You never knew what to expect next with Seve, so I think that's what drew everyone to him. He kept everyone on the edge of their seats."

Westwood also revealed the role Ballesteros played in inspiring the European team to victory at this year's Ryder Cup - a tournament the Spaniard excelled at as both player and captain.

"He's so connected with the Ryder Cup, and he made a phone call that weekend and we all sat down," Westwood said. "When Seve talks, you listen, and when he starts talking about the Ryder Cup, you pay even more attention."

Phil Mickelson, who also credited the Spaniard as his idol and tailored the Champions Dinner at this year's Masters to pay tribute to Ballesteros, highlighted his impact on the sport.

"He has certainly had an impact on the game, but to me the greatest thing about Seve is his flair and his charisma," Mickelson said.

"Because of the way he played the game of golf, you were drawn to him. You wanted to go watch him play. He had charisma and he kind of had so many shots that it was fun to watch him play."

Meanwhile, 14-time major champion Tiger Woods expressed his sadness at Ballesteros' death, lauding his talent and bemoaning the loss of one of the game's great ambassadors.

"I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Seve Ballesteros," Woods said. "I always enjoyed spending time with him at the Champions dinner each year at the Masters.

"Seve was one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.