AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Two-time Masters champ Seve Ballesteros was too ill to attend the Champions Dinner, but the Spaniard was very much a part of the night.
Phil Mickelson, who selected the menu as the 2010 winner, went with a Spanish-themed dinner that included paella.
"All of the past champions are really thinking about Seve," Mickelson said. "Honoring Seve is easy and no big deal. I just want him to know we all wish he was here and we are thinking about him."
Ballesteros, who has been battling brain cancer, was one of Mickelson's golfing heroes. He recalled playing a practice round with the Spaniard at his first PGA Tour event when he was only 17.
"He was the guy I wanted to play with," Mickelson said. "He was the classiest gentleman to me. From that day on and the rest of my career, he has been the nicest guy and supportive and nothing but class to me. I just always appreciated that."
Mickelson tried to model his own career after Ballesteros, who was one of the most imaginative shot-makers in the history of the game.
"I watched the way he played and loved the way he played and was drawn in by his charisma," Mickelson said. "He didn't let me down at all. He was every bit the gentleman I thought he was and more, and I just want him to know we are thinking about him."
Jack Nicklaus, who holds the Masters record with six victories, still marvels at the way Ballesteros could bail himself out of trouble.
"Seve was a seat-of-the-pants golfer. He invented shots," Nicklaus said. "When he couldn't drive it to find it early in his career, he would play out of parking lots, under cars, over the top, out of trees, and he would knock it on the green and make pars. That's what he did. That was Seve."