At Masters Champions Dinner, 1 topic drove the conversation

Past Masters champions pose with Jon Rahm in green jackets at the 2024 Masters Champions Dinner

Players gathered for the Masters Champions Dinner on Tuesday evening.


AUGUSTA, Ga. — On Masters Sunday a year ago, Jon Rahm wasn’t the only Spanish golfer on the minds of golf fans.

Many were thinking about the late Seve Ballesteros, because, well, it was hard not to — and not just because Ballesteros won two green jackets.

Rahm triumphed at Augusta National on April 9, which was would have been Ballesteros’ 66th birthday. In another happy coincidence, Rahm’s caddie, Adam Hayes, was clad in bib No. 49, which he had been assigned by tournament organizers when his boss was the 49th player to register earlier in the week; if you’re the sentimental type, you might have interpreted that “49” as 4/9, aka April 9. Soon after his victory, Rahm came across a Photoshopped image of him and Ballesteros shaking hands on the 18th green. As Rahm absorbed the stirring photo, his wife, Kelley, was with him. “I looked at her, I looked down at the phone and the next time she looked I just had tears on my face, instant bawling, crying,” Rahm recalled last year. “That picture of Seve really got to me.”

Rahm is back at Augusta National this week in the role of defending champion. With that title comes weightier expectations, more glad-handing and media requests and the not insignificant duty of hosting the storied Champions Dinner, for which players convened on the second floor of the clubhouse Tuesday evening. With the help of Spanish super-chef Jose Andres, Rahm had been planning his Basque-themed menu for months. Among his selections: Ensalada de Txangurro, which is a crab salad; Lentejas Estofadas, a lentil stew inspired by Rahm’s grandmother’s recipe; Chuleton a la Parrilla, a smoked and seared ribeye steak; and Rodaballo al Pil-Pil, a fish dish made with turbot and Navarra white asparagus. And Rahm’s wine choice? A 2012 Imperial Gran Reserve Rioja.

As a good host does, Rahm arrived early to his Tuesday soiree. He said he wanted to get comfortable. Butterflies? Yeah, just a few, especially when it came time to rise from his post at the head of the table and address his fellow champions.   

“I was so nervous, I think I blacked out for a second,” Rahm said Wednesday morning on Masters Live. “I have no idea what I said.”

Nick Faldo does.

The three-time champion was seated at what he calls the “Southern Hemisphere” corner of the table near the likes of Gary Player, Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman.

On Wednesday morning, Faldo told that Rahm kept his remarks tight.

“He said he was very humbled and honored to be part of the club — simple as that,” Faldo said. “You know, it’s quite daunting when you sit there for the first time and think that’s the whole history of golf right there in front of you.”

Added Fuzzy Zoeller, the 1979 champion, “Jon did what past champions are supposed to. Get up, say a few words and sit down.”

That Tuesday was Seve’s birthday was not lost on the room, Faldo said, especially among the three Spaniards in attendance: Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia and the meal’s host. Bernhard Langer got in on the action, too.  

“We told more Seve stories, Ryder Cup stories than anything else,” Faldo said, adding that he, for one, didn’t hear any anecdotes that he didn’t already know. “I was there for all the famous shots,” he said, laughing.

Olazabal said he spoke of “what Seve meant to me, especially around this place — all the wonderful moments that we spent together on the golf course practicing and him telling me how to play certain holes, how to hit certain shots. He made me believe that I had the game to win over here. He’s always very close to my heart.”

Faldo said Rahm was more reserved when it came to reflecting on Ballesteros’ influence on him. “He said, ‘You know what Seve means to me,’ but didn’t really elaborate. I think he was quite emotional and tried to keep his emotions in check. He said that a couple of times to us.”

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That Rahm was the first LIV player to host a Champions Dinner didn’t seem to faze anyone, and the fractured state of pro golf also didn’t appear to be a hot topic. The dinner was just…a dinner.

“The food was outstanding and the whole evening was great,” Zoeller said. “But it’s always good. I don’t know why you guys always think that there’s something going on at the dinner that nobody knows about. It’s just 34 people having dinner, talking about old war times. That’s all it was.”

One of the old times that surfaced was the 2020 Masters, which the club held in the fall on account of the Covid pandemic. Just after the dinner had wrapped, Dustin Johnson referenced his five-shot victory that year in a conversation with Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley.

“He said, ‘You know, I think my 20 under is safe,’” Ridley said in a press conference Wednesday, referring to the record-setting 72-hole total (65-70-65-68) Johnson posted that week.

“And I said, ‘Well, I think you’re right, unless we have another tournament in November.’

“And he said, ‘Well, I think it’s still safe.’”

As for how Rahm’s menu was received?

Both Faldo and Zoeller raved about the ribeye, and Faldo also vouched for the Tortilla de Patatas, a Spanish omelette with onions and confit potatoes.

The only item Zoeller said he didn’t try was Mama Rahm’s fabled stew — but for good reason.

If he had downed a bowl, Zoeller said with a grin, “I wouldn’t have had room for anything else.”

Alan Bastable Editor

As’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.