Masters Diary: Ballesteros retains pride of place in affections at Augusta

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The Independent Online

Severiano Ballesteros turned 54 on Saturday, meaning he has featured even more predominantly in the narrative here. At the Champions Dinner on Tuesday, Phil Mickelson chose a Spanish menu to honour the dual Masters champion and, before his third round, Rory McIlroy tweeted: "Happy birthday Seve. You are in everyone's thoughts at Augusta this week."

Alas, the word from his Pedrena home is not good as he continues his fight against brain cancer. Golf World reports that two weeks ago he was unable to speak to Jose Maria Olazabal on the phone.

"It's very hard for me to see him the way he is now," Olazabal told the magazine. "I've been with him a few times in the last couple years and it is tough. I find it difficult to see a man I have shared so many special times with struggling with his health. He was so strong mentally and physically, and now, because of the medication, he is weak."

The Seve Foundation did put a tweet out on his behalf. "I call it destiny, one test that God is putting on me & I'm winning. Just like holing 18 putt at St Andrews – Seve".

Fergie throws his support behind Rory

Of all the supporters willing on McIlroy last night, the well wishes of one particular sporting legend will have meant so much to him. Sir Alex Ferguson said: "I'm praying for Rory. It would be fantastic for him to win at such a young age." In his last two Masters, Ferguson has actually sent McIlroy, a rabid Manchester United fan, good luck messages.

Rugby faithful take up McIlroy's cause

Rory McIlroy's bid for a Green Jacket attracted an audience beyond golfing circles. They were even chanting his name at the Heineken Cup quarter-final at Franklin's Gardens yesterday. "Rory, Rory, Rory," went the Northampton faithful.

Their tribute came in response to the Ulster contingent who, when they realised defeat was inevitable, sang "We're going to win the Masters." McIlroy is, of course, an Ulster rugby fanatic and is good friends with many of the players. His manager, Chubby Chandler, revealed that he received many texts from the Ravenhill mob, including one which praised him "for having great guns". That referred to the bulging biceps he has grown under the guidance of his new fitness coach, Steve McGregor. Maybe Ulster will offer him a game.