Ames Tiger and Next Weeks Masters

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The beginning of this weeks column has nothing to do with the Masters Tournament. It has everything to do with Stephen Ames.
 
As a member of the media, I sat on the Golf Central set during our coverage of Live From The Players Championship and watched the Ames victory news conference ' as Im sure many of you did.
 
Just as quickly as Ames talked about his unbelievable round of 67 to win by six shots, the news conference turned into a full-blown inquiry about Ames potentially taking a pass on an invite to the Masters.
 
Ames was asked about playing in two weeks at Augusta and said he wasnt planning on going to the Masters because of a previously scheduled family vacation.
 
Say what??? Not going! How dare he.
 
Thats what it felt like watching the media handle his shining moment. I give Ames credit. His family was waiting in Orlando for the Players Champion Ames to drive down and spend the week at Walt Disney World Resort. And here was the media making him out to be selfish. At least thats the way it felt watching it.
 
Ames hadnt even talked with his family about the ramifications of winning The Players Championship, and was doing everything to play it right and put family first. Who knows what would happen in a few days time (ultimately he and family made the decision that hed accept the Masters invitation) ' but the media didnt want to give him the courtesy of time. They wanted a story. Forget any conversation with his wife, just play Augusta.
 
Wrong. Enough said. Let him celebrate the victory - dont put him in a spot to choose Augusta over his family. Thats where media types get a bad wrap. Sorry, but it didnt sit well with me.
 
As for Ames victory. The final round 67 was as good as Ive seen in 11 years covering The Players Championship. And as I reflected that Sunday evening, I couldnt help but wonder how folks would have been reacting if Tiger had shot the 67 under those conditions.
 
Papers and magazines and television networks alike would have been saluting his greatness, and talking of a Tiger romp at Augusta next week. Ames deserved every bit of a salute befitting Woods. His round was flawless ' sans the double bogey at 10 which actually came because of a mud-ball that died short of the green and wound up in the bunker.
 
So, congrats Stephen on a dominating Sunday performance we thought was reserved only for the greatest of them ' Tiger Woods.
 
As for the Masters Tournament. Go ahead and pick Tiger if you want. Hes obviously the favorite. And well he should be. But do it at your own risk. Its a new golf course and Tigers dealing with a family situation that is fragile at best. One part of me says Tiger is a lock to win it for his ailing father, who may not be around long enough to see another. Another part of me figures he couldnt possibly put four rounds together with the usual Tiger-like focus making a T-15 just as likely.
 
And thats what makes this years Masters the most unpredictable and exciting I can remember.
 
What about Phil Mickelson? He hasnt won yet this year. Given his talent, thats amazing. Are we confident enough in him that all he needs to turn around inconsistent play is a major championship?
 
What about Ernie Els? He hasnt won this year on the PGA TOUR either. His Sunday start last week at the Players Championship seemed like the Ernie we know, but he couldnt quite get there. Els told me hes been working harder on his game that anybody realizes and he loves being under the radar. Is that good enough to go to Vegas?
 
Vijay Singh seemed the most likely character to supplant Stephen Ames last Sunday at the Players Championship. Didnt work out. Singhs still looking for the big one this year. Can he get a second green jacket? Sure. Did Sunday at the Players Championship make you feel supremely confident?
 
And what of Sergio? Putting looked good. Everything looked good ' until Sunday at Ponte Vedra Beach.
 
Retief looked consistent. But take away Sunday at Pinehurst and Retief is always consistent. Do you think hes a lock to be there?
 
Furyk, DiMarco, Toms go ahead and pick one. Is Augusta National too long? Well see based in some ways on those three and their chances to contend on the back nine (second nine) come Sunday.
 
All the questions. All the speculation. All the anticipation. Thats why the Masters is something we really cant wait for. The years first major. The time to find out so much about so many.
 
And what if Stephen Ames wins it. What will that news conference sound like?
 
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann