Finally, that time of the year has nearly arrived.
Excitement is reaching fever pitch for The Masters – we’re all nominating our picks and setting our clocks for the wee hours to watch Augusta National Golf Club play host to the world’s best golfers.
But will it? Will a worthy champion don the green jacket knowing he’s beaten the best field of competitors our game could possibly offer?
I’m not so sure about that.
Personally, I think The Masters has the weakest field of the four Majors – hear me out.
Take this year for example; there are 97 players in the field – all of them invitees. Of those, there will be a whopping 19 past champions in the field.
Some of them – Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott – should of course contest the iconic tournament.
But 57-year-old Ian Woosnam? Mark O’Meara, who is nearly 60? Even the guy who broke Aussie hearts with that famous chip-in to deny Greg Norman in 1987, Larry Mize? He’s also 57. Come on.
Augusta National discourages past champions of a certain age from competing, but not all of them take the hint and to me this makes The Masters the most diluted field in Major championship golf.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love The Masters. The aura is wonderful, the crowds are absolutely exceptional, and when I made the cut in 1993 I got to see how fantastic the galleries were. I was doing OK on the leaderboard on the weekend and the crowds were like nothing I’d ever heard in my life – it just gave you chills. And they’re very knowledgeable fans at Augusta, plus they’re all golf lovers. That’s really special.
But a 97-player field is already a step down from the 156 who’ll tee it up the Open Championship at Royal Troon in July. The 145th Open will be comprised of the world’s best players, top amateurs and deserved winners of qualification events from around the world.
So how would I strengthen the field at The Masters? First of all, I’d give immediate invites to the top 100 players in the world. To me, the top 100 players deserve, in this day and age, to get into every Major championship, every single year. No ifs or buts. Then, you consider top amateurs and after that, past champions.
Even if you had to expand the field to 132 players, so be it – the talent is certainly there.
It only takes a glance down the Official World Golf Rankings to see some of the world-class golfers who probably won’t be at Augusta.
As the world’s top 50 players are invited, the first omission would be American Chris Kirk but he earned an invitation from a US PGA Tour victory in 2015, so that leaves our very own Matt Jones.
Jones is world No.52 (at the time of writing) and if he doesn’t sneak into the top 50 by the cutoff date of March 28, he won’t be there.
Yet he held off world No.1 Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott to win the Australian Open several months ago and he’s a US PGA Tour winner.
The Masters is indeed “a tradition unlike any other” and that’s what makes it such a special sporting event.
But it’s the most popular golf tournament we’ve got. It showcases our game to the world, so I think we should put our best team on the paddock.
– Brett Ogle is the host of the Fox Sports Golf Show and a two-time winner on the US PGA Tour.