AUGUSTA -- As the reigning Masters champion, Phil Mickelson selected the menu for the annual champions dinner Tuesday night.
The choice was Spanish cuisine, in honor of Seve Ballesteros. Ballesteros, who won the Masters in 1980 and 1983, is battling brain cancer and was not well enough to attend the tournament.
“I was 17 down at my first PGA Tour event at the San Diego Open and was able to get a practice round with him,” Mickelson said Tuesday. “Here’s a guy that I looked up to and watched the way he played, loved the way he played, was drawn in by his charisma, and he didn’t let me down at all. He was every bit the gentleman I thought he was and more.”
Mickelson said his wife’s recent bout with breast cancer made him mindful of how much a thoughtful action can mean.
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“When Amy and I went through the most difficult time in her treatment, the players on tour did a lot of things for us to let us know they were thinking about us. And it really meant a lot,” Mickelson said. “It’s just that I want him to know we all wish he was here, we’re all thinking about him.”
Tough time for trees
A heavy storm that swept through the area in the early hours of Tuesday morning claimed a few leafy victims at Augusta National Golf Club.
One of the magnolias bordering Magnolia Lane was uprooted by high winds. The tree was one of 61 along the famed entry road to the course.
More alarming was a less well-known pine just off the 15th fairway -- Firethorn -- which fell around 1 p.m. during Tuesday’s practice round. The crowd and the players on the 15th green, including two-time Masters champion Tom Watson, stopped at the sound of a series of loud cracks as the tree fell.
Officials and grounds keepers quickly roped off the area. No one was injured.
Ready for debut
Rickie Fowler is one of the up-and-coming young stars in golf, especially in the U.S.
He was the PGA Tour’s rookie of the year last year when he had seven top-10 finishes, and he played in the Ryder Cup.
But Fowler is making his first trip to Augusta National.
“To have a chance to play in my first Masters as a professional, after my good year last year, it’s something I dreamed about as a little kid,” Fowler said. “I watched plenty of Masters growing up. The green jacket is obviously something that means quite a bit in the golf community, to have a chance to be in the tournament.
“I feel like there’s a chance that we could be walking up (No.) 18 in contention, and that’s something I’ve dreamed about, the special walk up 18. So just to be part of it is really cool.”
Oklahoma State standout Peter Uihlein is also making his first trip to the Masters, and he and Fowler played together with the Cowboys and also on the Walker Cup team in 2009.
Uihlein qualified for this week’s tournament by winning the U.S. Amateur last summer.
“Obviously I’m excited,” Uihlein said. “I think playing in the Masters is pretty special, and to be here as the Amateur champion, it’s even more special. I’m excited. I’m nervous, and I’m definitely looking forward to the week.”