Lefty thought of Seve for Champions Dinner

Phil Mickelson

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Phil Mickelson was planning a Spanish menu for the Champions Dinner at the Masters to honor two-time champion Seve Ballesteros until realizing the Spaniard was not healthy enough to travel.

Mickelson said Tuesday on a conference call that he had been in contact with Ballesteros, hopeful that he would be able to return to Augusta National this year despite his ongoing battle with brain cancer.

“I just sent him an e-mail saying that if he were able to come, and feeling healthy enough to be able to make this tournament, I would love to have the dinner be something that he would like – a Spanish dish of paella or whatever he thought would be appropriate,” Mickelson said. “I wanted to kind of honor him.”

Mickelson said some e-mails he received recently indicate that Ballesteros will not be able to make it.

“Our thoughts and prayers are going to be with him that evening,” Mickelson said.

Ballesteros was diagnosed with brain cancer in the fall of 2008, a year after he announced his retirement from golf at an emotional press conference at Carnoustie during the British Open.

The Spaniard remains an inspiration, and spoke by telephone to Europe’s Ryder Cup team before the matches in Wales last year, which Europe won over the United States.

Mickelson has a special connection to Ballesteros, beyond their imagination to escape trouble on the golf course. Mickelson was 10 when he first watched the Masters, which Ballesteros won for his first green jacket. He recalls telling his mother that day, “I want to win that tournament. I want to be like that and win this event.”

Mickelson won the Masters last year with a daring shot through the pine trees on the par-5 13th that set up a birdie and carried him to a 67 and a three-shot victory over Lee Westwood.

Without Ballesteros in attendance, Mickelson said he would honor past champions by going heavy on beef – further evidence that his attempt at being a vegetarian was, as he said last month, “doomed to fail.”

“I learned one thing over the years,” Mickelson said. “Many of the past champions, they love beef and they love meat. I plan on having a trio of different meats, whether it be bison or venison or just filet.”

He also said he would serve plenty of green vegetables.

The defending champion hosts the Tuesday night dinner at the Masters and is responsible for picking up the bill.

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