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Ames Tells the Truth on Augusta — Critics Seem Surprised

Geoff Shackelford has a bit of a snarky note about some recent comments by Stephen Ames as he heads to Augusta.

Ames said:

“When you compare it to the other major events, it is the weakest field technically. There are only 90 players (at the Masters); the top 50 players in the world are guaranteed. Of those 90, there are 20 old guys still playing, past champions, who shouldn’t be playing golf. So, technically, it’s a field of 70.”

Which led Shackelford, who is blogging on the Masters for Golf Digest this week, to point out that maybe former Players champions shouldn’t be in the field, ignoring the fact that Ames would get in for being in the Top 50 in the world as well.

Shackelford’s blog, as well as another good one called Golfwatch.com, both linked to a Toronto Star story written by Jim Byers, the paper’s on again, off again golf writer. Byers defends the notion of “old guys,” pointing out Fred Couples could win:

And what about Fred Couples? He’s in the field as a former champion, and he could win another green jacket if his supply of Robaxacet holds out.

We know what Tiger Woods did to Ames at the match play tourney a couple years back after Ames suggested Woods’ wasn’t at the top of his game. We wonder if Boom-Boom, as Couples is known, will have a word with Mr. Ames at Augusta next week or simply let his clubs do the talking.

But Byers ignores the fact the only way Fred Coupleswins anything these days is if someone is able to find a medical cure for the yips that gets around the PGA Tour’s drug policy.

I guess I’m surprised that someone would challenge Ames on what is clearly a truism — the Masters is far from the strongest field.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

24 CommentsLeave a comment

  • rt,

    agreed. i’m a bit tired of GS and other writers slagging on Ames and the like (Rory, for example) for speaking their minds in a golf world filled with drones.

    Jim Rome’s tiger clips of “The golf course looks good… my golf swing feels good… i like MY chances” couldn’t be more true.

    and TPC field is better.

  • So what if The Masters has the weakest field?

    – They never advertise saying that they have the strongest field. They simply published their requirements and that’s that
    – They also don’t get fluke winners as often as the other majors
    – In the post round interview yesterday after his win, Johnson Wagner mentioned that it was a dream come true playing in the Masters. I don’t recall ever hearing anyone else making similar comment about other majors
    – The strong/weak field topic is the concoction of the PGA Tour to make The Players stand out and be the 5th major

  • having LESS players of higher quality/relevance (top 50) actually makes the field stronger not weaker. Less likely for a player on a hot streak.

    the 20 past champions are there to HONOUR them for winning it. It’s hard for someone who hasn’t won it to realize the importance of that tradition. Even for that one weekend of the year. Long after Weir has past his prime and playing in his 50’s…it’ll still be nice to see him tee it up.

    Although, I’m the first to institute a limit on this lifetime exemption. Say 60 years old and not placing dead last.

  • I think it is hard to see The Masters as having anything other than the weakest field of the majors, with the possible exception of the PGA Championship. Yes, the Top 50 are there, but both of the Opens have deeper fields.

    That said, while what Ames is saying is true, there are other things going on at the Masters, clearly, including the history of the event, which is typically celebrated by old guys struggling to break 80. I could really care less about them — but I suppose someone else does. I didn’t get all blurr-eyed when Palmer shot 86 and crossed the Hogan bridge for the last time. Couldn’t have cared less. He should have quit before he embarrassed himself.

  • I think “deeper” field doesn’t constitute stronger field… We get 120+ players at some events…and those events may have 40+ top 50 players in them…does that make it a better field?

    quantity over quality?

    as for watching past champions well past his prime at 60+…yes, it’s hard to watch at times, but when he was under 60, what’s wrong with shooting an 85? I’ve seen pros in their prime hit high 70’s at a major. These old timers may not make the weekend cut but they keep up except for a few bad holes. They are still hitting quality shots. we’ll get a real good idea of how a 10 handicap plays this year at the US OPEN. I think that experiment will show the public, even at 60 these former champions can still play in comparison.

    Let’s turn the mirror around…you’re 60, your kids don’t want to play a round with you cause you’re shooting 10 shots more than them and you’re embarrassing them.

  • DC touched on a great point re quality over quantity.

    Having said that, I could care less about the old guys. But it is not like they are taking away the viewing experience of the Masters.

    The Masters also invite players from other parts of the world and amateurs where they otherwise would not get the chance to play. Now I wish Ames will comment on that and the news media would report on that.

  • The deepest field is at TPC. The likes of Craig Perks or Jodie Mudd can get it done. When they are not in the field, you don’t have to beat them. Everyone who shows up at Sawgrass is capable of winning the event.

  • I like Ames.

    Refreshing and entertaining as far as PGA Tour personalities go.

    I also agree with his comments on The Masters. It’s a great tournament and one that I never miss, but it is just a big celebration of Augusta National and all it’s traditions, policies and private culture.

  • Poor Ames,

    Just a guy who opens his mouth to change feet…

    Here is a weak field…144 players with only 15-20 of top 50 participating…50 of the top 50 are not all going to play poorly at once…I’d bet more likely the opposite will hold true…as far as past champions, that’s what makes Masters what it is…tradtion…but like many things Ames has to say, it turns out he was just looking for an excuse to change feet…again…

  • Phil – bigger field is deeper. Would you rather have to beat the entire Masters field, or the entire Masters field plus another 60 or so top pros? If the likes of Rich Beem, Ben Curtis, Micheel etc aren’t there, they can’t beat you. The size of the Masters field makes it the weakest. “Pound for pound” it is great, but thin.

  • Do you really think that beating 60 guys is no easier than beating 120? Those next 60 may not all be world beaters, but a handful of them would likely contend. If they aren’t there, they can’t win. A smaller field is always going to be easier to beat.

    Other majors have had winners come out of nowhere. Augusta doesn’t want those champions. Larry Mize was bad enough.

  • I would say there are about 60 who can win. The likes of Lyle and Langher may make the cut, but they won’t win. 70 may be a better number.

    What if you take the same players, and add in the next 50 or 60 top players? Do you really think the smaller field event is easier to win? You are not addressing this point, and saying “quality over quantity” suggests that just beating Tiger and Phil is tougher than beating Tiger, Phil, Ernie, Vijay, Furky, etc.

    You don’t have to beat the average, you have to beat them all. The size of the field makes it weak.

  • Logic would dictate that the top 60 players in a tournament is defacto a weaker field than the same 60 players with the next 30 players in ranking added to the field. This is a fact given that the additional players have no impact on the original’s 60 ability to compete.

    To argue otherwise is logically incorrect. And history proves the point. Just look at the Ben Curtis win of The Open or John Daly at the PGA. Someone else with a higher score would have won those tournaments if the above individuals had not entered.

    The Masters may have the weakest field but is still one of the most entertaining tournaments to watch.

  • The top 55 are quality. Simple question: Which field would be harder to beat – the top 55 or the top 100?

    There is only one answer.

    You have twice mentioned qualifying, but that is not part of my argument and I welcome you to cite where I took issue with the criteria set by the committee.

    I never said that you claimed the winner only need beat Tiger and Phil. I said that if you take “quality over quantity” to the extreme, that is what you are left with. You have suggested some relevance of the mean. That ignores the fact that lesser players, who may have a slighter chance of winning, still have a chance to win. It is always tougher to outscore more golfers than fewer if the lesser group is always part of the larger group.

  • And it is one of the most exciting tournaments to watch, no question, although the changes to the course are doing there best to change that. Still, the Masters means a course we all know, the true arrival of spring, and often good golf and a good champion.

  • Those fields are weaker than PGA, Open, Us Open, TPC – exactly.

    I never said the Masters was a weak field, but is it weaker than all the other majors – no doubt. Are you able to make that distinction?

    Once more, would you rather compete against the top 55, or the top 100?

    You are actually following the logic, but your tone suggests you don’t believe it. You have said quality over quantity. What you fail to grasp is that adding more competivie players to the field does not diminish the quality of the field in any way.

    In your example, would it be tougher to win the Tour Championship or Bridgestone?

  • Figjam is clearly clueless about the game.how can u have a go at Ames for stating facts!? Of course it’s the weakest field-there are less great putters there who have the potential to win..would u have bet on zach johnson in 07??…err.. of course not…
    You have no respect for people who come out and say it how it is…you want everyone to be like the typical puppet golfer who have to say the same old baloney…robot golfers -who always have to say the same old nice nice thing instead of the truth….Just in case u offend one person-pathetic

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