Golf legend Seve Ballesteros underwent a successful third operation last Friday to reduce swelling and remove remnants of a tumour in his brain. The operation, led by chief brain surgeon Javier Heredero at La Paz Hospital in Madrid, lasted more than six hours. In a statement, doctors said the 51-year-old five-time major winner was in a stable condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Ballesteros was admitted to hospital after briefly losing consciousness at Madrid Airport on October 6th. He was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery, but he needed another operation to relieve pressure on the brain last Tuesday. In an open letter to fans, he acknowledged the seriousness of the illness – saying he faced what he called the “most difficult match” of his life. Ballesteros won 87 titles during his career, including the Open in 1979, 1984 and 1988 and the Masters in 1980 and 1983. He was an instrumental figure in Europe’s Ryder Cup resurgence after making his debut in 1979 when the competition was expanded from Great Britain and Ireland to include players from continental Europe. After controversially being left out in 1981, Ballesteros returned in 1983 and helped Europe beat the United States for the first time in 28 years in 1985 to begin two decades of dominance. He went on to win eight caps, winning 22 and a half points from 37 matches. He also teamed up with countryman Jose Maria Olazabal to form the most successful partnership in Ryder Cup history, with 11 wins, two losses and two halves. After his last appearance as a player in 1995, Ballesteros captained Europe to victory on home soil at Valderrama in 1997. He retired last year following arthritic back and knee problems late in his career, while doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat when he was admitted to hospital in 2007.