"He was the most gifted young golfer that I'd ever come across,'' Thomson said. "His exploits bore that out. When he did mature, he was pretty good - as good as anyone of his time.''
Ballesteros was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999.
Much like Arnold Palmer, he brought excitement to golf with his swashbuckling style. He could be abrasive at times, and he often argued with the PGA Tour over how many tournaments he was required to play.
But there was rarely a dull moment with Ballesteros, especially when he got in trouble.
Facing a desperate situation in the 1983 Ryder Cup against Fuzzy Zoeller, Ballesteros hit 3-wood from the edge of a bunker to earn a remarkable halve on the 18th hole at PGA National.
Europe had not won the Ryder Cup since 1957, and it usually wasn't even close. But it finished only one point behind in 1983, and inspired by the fiery play of the Spaniard, it won in the next event in England and now dominates the Ryder Cup.
Along the way, he and Nick Faldo were an inspiration to European youth.
"He probably had the best short game in the world,'' Luke Donald said. "When he was competing, he was the best. And that's how he was able to score. I'm sure there's a few players out there that are similar to that, but probably don't have the charisma that he had getting to the green.''