Ames forgoes preferred break to play Masters

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The Independent Online

Not content with stunning the golfing world once by making the game's best look rather silly at the Players' Championship here on Sunday, Stephen Ames was at it again yesterday.

But if his six-shot victory in the "fifth major" stretched incredulity, then his revelation that he had almost turned down the chance to play in next week's Masters defied belief. The invite to Augusta is a supposedly glittering by-product of his saunter at Sawgrass, but this 41-year-old is not impressed. He wanted to go on holiday instead.

"I didn't have any plans of playing at Augusta," said the Canadian citizen who was born in Trinidad. "It was something I had to talk to my family about before I made that decision - with the kids and my wife. We are going to go [to the Masters]. I'd rather go on vacation, to be truthful. In the end I have listened to them."

After his spectacular triumph, Ames met up with his family in Orlando, where the reunion must have been emotional. Last July, his wife underwent an operation to remove half of her lung after being diagnosed with cancer. "It's been a difficult year," said Ames, who is of English descent through his father. "This was going to be a wonderful holiday home [to Trinidad] but their dad is now going to play in another golf tournament."

The Masters is not just "another golf tournament", although, in the light of his private life - not to mention the fact he now has a three-year exemption to play in the season's first major as well as the Open - Ames' apparent indifference is understandable.

There may be more to it, however, as although he insisted yesterday that he has nothing against Augusta, a few comments last month hint at a sizeable disaffection. Then the former European Tour regular lambasted the Georgia authorities for adding too much length to the course and "playing into the hands of the top players". He even went as far to imply that it had been specifically set up for Tiger Woods. Now that the newly-ranked world No 27 is a "top player", he has obviously seen fit to change his mind.