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Trying to track down Tiger only part of Ames' plan
Of course, Stephen Ames will try his hardest to win the PGA Championship on Sunday, and he's eager for the chance, even though it's a long shot. But he also knows a strong finish will help him in his quest to make the Presidents Cup.
See Woods-Ames Chart at Bottom
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.com Chief of Correspondents
TULSA, Okla. -- Stephen Ames rolled those expressive eyes of his.
The reporter hadn't even gotten the question out of his mouth. But Ames, who had just polished off a round of 69 Saturday that left him three strokes off the lead at the PGA Championship, knew where he was going.
You see, prior to his first-round match with Tiger Woods at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship 17 months ago, Ames had made some ill-advised comments that he says were taken out of context.
He told the Associated Press that "anything can happen, especially where he's hitting it." Ames had smiled when he said it, though. He also told a GOLF CHANNEL reporter, "How he goes about scoring from where he hits it -- that's the amazing thing.
"That's the mark of a true champion. As bad as he hits it, he still manages to win golf tournaments."
Woods responded by making birdie on seven of his first eight holes the following day on the way to a 9-and-8 victory. Ancient history, to be sure, but hard to forget Saturday since the two will be playing together in the final round of the 89th PGA Championship.
"Are we here at the PGA Championship or are we here at the Match Play?" Ames said. Which one are we talking about?"
When pressed to tell the sportswriter what he had meant to say that day, Ames quickly changed the subject. "I don't know if I want to go there because you might take it out of context again," he said, smiling. "So we'll leave it at that. Next question."
Woods, for his part, wouldn't be drawn into the debate, either.
"We all know Stephen is a person who likes to speak his mind," Woods said. "He's opinionated, and I think he's very honest. And when he's asked a question, he answers it honestly. And I think that's what he did there in that instant, and it is what it is."
Sunday's final round is something of a match play situation, too, although Woods tees off with the upper hand in the form of a three-stroke advantage. Ames, who is the only player to have shot three rounds in the 60s at Southern Hills this week, is 4 under and in what he admits is a no-lose situation.
"Yes, of course, without a doubt," said Ames, who is also hoping to play his way onto the International Team for The Presidents Cup to be played next month at Royal Montreal.
"For me, I'm happy to be in the situation. I had a great round in the U.S. Open, second to the last group going there. Here I'm at the PGA Championship in another major and I'm in the last group going out again.
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"For me it's a great opportunity of being in the situation. Gives me the experiences of being in this opportunity and this experience. Tiger's looking for his 13th (major). I'm looking for my first."
The winner of the PGA Championship has come out of the final pairing each of the last 11 years. Ames, who rolled in a 15-footer on the final hole to edge Woody Austin out of the spot, knows he's facing an uphill battle, but he's anxious for the test.
"Five in front of him might not be enough," Ames said. "We're three behind. We're just trying to get close to him. That's all we're trying to do."
The Canadian who got there by way of Trinidad and Tobago knows Woods has been there, done this 12 times before. He's won each of those majors, as well. Not to mention, Woods has won four times already this season and wants to avoid the major shutout.
Ames' best finish in a major is a tie for fifth at the 1997 Open Championship. He has four top-10s overall in 24 previous starts, including a tie for 10th at Oakmont two months ago. Ames also beat the strongest field in golf at the 2006 PLAYERS Championship.
The two-time PGA TOUR champion admittedly would rather be playing with Woods than in front of him, where players must contend with fans trying to get ahead of the crowd so they can find the best vantage point to see the game's No. 1 player.
At the same time, though, he knows that Woods' mere presence can sometimes exact a psychological toll on his playing partners as the pressure mounts. "He has that influence on players," Ames said candidly. "It's probably going to happen to me. I don't know."
That being said, the 43-year-old understands that he can only control himself on Sunday at Southern Hills. He can't get caught up watching what Woods does. He needs to figure out a way to make birdies and put pressure on his playing partner.
"I play golf and I play my game," Ames vowed. "He's probably going to play a steady game as he does when he's in the lead. ...
(He's a) great front runner. He's going to be tough to beat, without a doubt.
"But you know what? I'm going to be conscious of what I'm doing, how I'm thinking and that's how I've got to play tomorrow."
|Woods-Ames Pairings Since 2004|
|2006 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship:|
|Round 1 Tiger Woods def. Stephen Ames, 9 and 8|
|2005 PLAYERS Championship:|
|Round 1 Tiger Woods 70 (-2) 30th, Stephen Ames 71 (-1) 51st|
|Round 2 Tiger Woods 73 (1) 64th, Stephen Ames 74 (2) 99th|
|2004 Memorial Tournament:|
|Round 4 Tiger Woods 69 (-3) 3rd, Stephen Ames 72 (E) 6th|