Masters, schmasters

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

The Masters is one of golf's most prestigious majors, if not the crown jewel.

There's the tradition of the green jacket, the toughness of Amen Corner, the pristine beauty of Augusta National and, of course, the legends who've claimed the championship over the event's storied 70-year history.

So you'd think Calgary's Stephen Ames would be stoked about qualifying for next year's tournament, April 7-10. He was one of 14 players named yesterday who'll be making their first Masters appearance.

"It's somewhat of a highlight, I guess. I don't know," Ames deadpanned

yesterday. "It's just another event."

That may sound like heresy to golf fans but, as Ames sees it, the Masters is just another stop on the PGA Tour.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

"Everybody hypes the Masters up too big because of the fact that it's controlled by one party, unfortunately," said Ames, who has never played at Augusta.

"I look at it as another event to accomplish something."

Right now, Ames isn't even thinking about making his Masters debut. He's too busy preparing his family for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii and then he sticks around the Aloha State for the PGA season-opening Mercedes Championship, starting Jan. 5 in Kapalua, Hawaii.

Ames qualified for the Masters by placing in the top 40 on the 2004 PGA Tour money list, finishing eighth with more than

$3.3 million US in earnings.

His breakthrough 2004 season included his first PGA Tour victory at the Cialis Western Open.

Fellow Canadian Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., whose Masters victory in 2003 gives him a lifetime exemption, is also scheduled to play at Augusta National next year, giving Canada two entries in the first major of 2005.

But Ames charges those lifetime exemptions can translate into weak fields at the Masters because former champions -- even those long past their prime -- can return.

"Think about it. There are 40 or 50 guys invited every year, then you end up with 90 who play," said Ames, adding the British and U.S. Opens boast far stronger fields than the Masters.

Phil Mickelson is the defending Masters champion.


Videos

Photos