When Should Past Champions Hang Up Their Green Jackets?
By mustang6560 on 4/6/12
The Masters, like the PGA Championship, grants its winners a lifetime exemption to play the tournament, so regardless of your current standing in the Official World Golf Ranking, you are always invited back to the sacred grounds of Augusta National.

But, with great power comes great responsibility, so my question is "At what point should past champions respectfully decline their invitation?"

For example, let's discuss Sandy Lyle. The 1988 Masters champion
opened with a 14-over par 86 in the 2012 Masters. I mean no disrespect to the Scotsman, but he had more bogeys and double bogeys than pars, and he did not have a single birdie. Also, what about Craig Stadler, the 1982 Masters champion? He did five strokes better than Sandy, but his 9-over par 81 is nothing to write home about.

Personally, I think if you are a past champion and you shoot two rounds in the 80s, it's time to consider hanging up the green jacket. By playing in the Masters and posting an NBA-type score, you are taking away the opportunity for a younger player to contend for his own green jacket. The idea of a lifetime exemption is nice and all, but there comes a point where opting to use it becomes selfish and I think Sandy and Craig are getting to that point quickly.

I would like to think I would do the right thing and decline the invitation to make way for a younger golfer.


Flickr, Peter


[ comments ]
mjaber says:
They aren't taking any spots away from anyone. If you meet specifc criteria, you're in, otherwise, you're out.

I've heard that Augusta does make "requests" to past champions to not continue playing, because they are no longer competitive. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me.
4/6/12
 
joe jones says:
I would like to pose a question. Would you like to be the person that suggests to Arnold Palmer, Gary Player or Jack Nicklaus that they HAVE to quit playing. I think not. A few players go far beyond the point where they should quit but if they feel ok with the score so be it. Most realize that the time has come but it should be left up to the players themselves to decide.
4/6/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
Whether a past champion plays or not, they are not taking anyone's spot. The Masters as a set criteria for an invitation and when a person drops out, they do not let in an alternate. That being said, I agree with you that past champions need to stop playing when their participation becomes a distraction to the other players and/or they have little or no chance of making the cut. Sandy Lyle finished 20th in 2009 but he looked like a donkey among thoroughbreds Thursday. Hope he was just having a bad day.
4/6/12
 
mustang6560 says:
I know the Masters has a criteria, but the folks at ANGC will be less likely to extend special invitations if the field is filled with irrelevant past champions.
4/6/12
 
mustang6560 says:
@joe jones- I think Sandy Lyle and Craig Stadler are much different than Arnold, Gary and Jack. I would have no problem telling Craig/Sandy to hit the road.
4/6/12
 
mjaber says:
I don't think AGNC extends special invitations very often, or very many. I think they only gave out 1 this year. It's probably easier to get a special exemption for the US Open than a special invite to the Masters.
4/6/12
 
SteveMM says:
Typo alert: It should be "14-OVER par 86". If he shot 14 under, this would be a very different story! :)
4/6/12
 
srogers13 says:
When AGNC gives out a special invite (and it is rare,) you can almost be certain that it is going to a golfer from Asia. So if an old guy withdraws, or even a youngin like Dustin Johnson, there is not an alternate list to replace them. Most players will quit playing when they feel like it. This year, Ben Crenshaw has said it is probably his last year. Plus, the old guys do love the attention of being a past champion, once a year at least.
4/6/12
 
bducharm says:
If you have won The Masters, you should be able to come back as often as you want! Lifetime means lifetime!!!
4/6/12
 
SpaceMaNy0 says:
I agree lifetime means lifetime, but they need to be realistic vs. their personal view of competitive. I would play Augusta as much as I possibly could too, though. In fact I've thought I'd love to see Gary Player try the first 2 rounds again. Look at what Tom Watson did a few years back, and even Freddy this weekend. Jack could maybe still post a couple 71s to be on the leaderboard for the weekend. All that said, Sandy and the Walrus might shoot 80s, but I say let
'em play. I sure would.
4/6/12
 
srogers13 says:
Tom Watson is close to making the cut again.
4/6/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
Bducharm has it right. Lifetime means lifetime, if they have such a problem with it then change the friggin policy. Frankly I am sick of hearing about this place with its sacred aura, dusty old traditions and mysterious untouchable inner workings.
4/6/12
 
David B says:
Lifetime is just that - Lifetime! Guys who do not produce have their own reputations to consider. It's golf. Unlike the NBA or other major sports, there is honor and decorum in our sport. I would think that when an older player plays poorly - and that definition is entirely within him, that he would pass. Until that time, his level of play is a reflection of his athletic ability as well as his mental state and love of the game. By the way, I would love to shoot 80's at Masters or otherwise! Play on until you die - a motto for all golfers.
4/6/12
 
elhacker says:
@Beef - Amen brother!
4/6/12
 
Werepuppie says:
I agree that all winners should be allowed to play.It is part of what makes the Masters a great tournament.
Sometimes though it could be hard to swallow for their playing partners.I would bet that some of these guys could not even reach the fairway from the tee now.Just imagine some of the guys like Arnie who are close to 80.It would take 3 shots to reach their partners drive.That is a big distraction for the guy having to wait on them.
4/6/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
Then put all the stubborn old-timers in the last groups on Thursday and Friday, let em swat it around the course for as long as they want and then let the cutline dispose of them. Problem solved. Make another tradition out of it.
4/7/12
 
TeT says:
Lifetime is good.... Augusta doesnt put on the master for you, they do it for themselves and the golfers... and mostly themselves its just bonus for the rest of us
4/7/12
 
tennesseeboy says:
Let them play. It might make since to have a rule that if you reach a certain # over par that you must drop out of the round.
4/7/12
 
joe jones says:
As an old fart with a lot of artificial body parts it must be painful to walk the hills and valleys of Augusta. If the veterans feel they must try regardless of score, God bless them. I have said that Augusta is the one course I would give anything to play but I know it's not physically possible for me. I can dream tho!
4/7/12
 
oobscott2 says:
call me a bad person if you want, but if I had the chance to play the tournament every year I would. Screw what everyone else thinks
4/7/12
 
madmx99 says:
I say let them play. I like having them play together in groups, though.
4/7/12
 
falcon50driver says:
Why is it some people are all GA GA about The Masters and Augusta but then have to slam everything about it. The Traditions, the aura , the older players the members, the rules. What exactly do you like? Azaleas?
4/8/12
 
BDA says:
Lifetime is Lifetime, but I do think that the past winner should look at his own game and know weather or not if you going to be competitive of just go out and play 2 rounds and go home. If he really thinks he is competitive then go for it if not, use your integrity and decline, as for guys like Palmer and Gary and Jack, well them starting off the Masters is a tradition in itself.
4/8/12
 
nomullies says:
A bit off topic but what happened to Faldo? He dropped of the golfing map in a hurry. I suppose he makes a good buck commentating but by all accounts he's in great shape and should be able to play at least on the seniors tour and possibly the Masters.
4/8/12
 
Scott Shields says:
Or think outside the box a little. Maybe have all the older folks, or the ones less likely to compete have a Master's Legends match play, or four ball, or something on Wednesday rather, while all the kido's play in the par 3 or something, maybe give them an option -- or have a one day ryder cup format, and have team Arnold versus team Jack? Give them all a shot at re-living past glory, while not getting in the way of the actual competition? *shrug*
4/9/12
 
DoubleDingo says:
Let them play. They will be cut on Friday anyhow if they don't play well enough. Tiger played like crap, and they didn't show his shots very often. TV is like that, play crappy and don't get much if any airtime. If the old guys make the cut, they will only get minimal recognition. And those young bucks that want to play in the tournament; well they better meet the criteria to make it in the tournament, or buy tickets to watch it live or sit on the couch and watch it.
4/9/12
 
DoubleDingo says:
I know if I had a lifetime invitation to the event, I would definitely go every year and enjoy it even if I was cut on Friday.
4/9/12
 
BAKE_DAWG40 says:
I agree. Lifetime is what it means. I'm not completely sure what the Open Championship guidelines are but, imagine if the R&A told Tom Watson a few years back he was too old to play. How would that tournament have ended? He almost won that championship at 60+ y/o! I was on the edge of my seat the whole day of that particular Sunday before he lost to Cink. I can tell you this, if I could play well enough and won that tournamnet, I would be there EVERY year regardless of what I shot. Until I knew when it was time to hang it up i.e. Nicklaus, Palmer, & player etc.
4/9/12
 
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