Woods ends up tied for seventh

Updated: July 8, 2004, 6:04 PM ET
Associated Press

LEMONT, Ill. -- Stephen Ames kept his word.

Winless in his first 165 career starts, Ames made good on the promise he gave his two young sons by winning the Western Open on Sunday. He shot a 1-under 70 to finish at 10-under 274 and win by two strokes.

Tiger Woods
APMissing putts all day Sunday, Woods didn't sink a birdie until No. 15.

"I promised them I was going to win the trophy at the beginning of the week," Ames said, unable to suppress a smile. "This is their first week out on tour with me since Phoenix, and I told them, 'Guys, I'm going to win this week for you.'

"And our dream came true."

The first touring pro from Trinidad and Tobago fought to control his emotions over the final three holes, and he looked overwhelmed when fans at the 18th green greeted him with a standing ovation. After he putted out, he and his caddie -- his brother, Robert -- hugged.

Ames then walked to the edge of the green, crouched down and opened his arms, and his sons ran into his embrace.

"The last three holes, I was watching the leaderboard and it was tough," he said. "I kept asking where my wife was because I wanted to make sure my boys were there to enjoy this with me, as well."

Steve Lowery (70) was two strokes behind Ames. Though he missed out on his first victory since 2000, he did earn a trip to the British Open as the lowest finisher not previously exempt.

"I just kind of found that out," Lowery said. "Everybody is telling me I'm in. I've got all these commitments to these tournaments I'm going to have to change."

Northwestern alum and local favorite Luke Donald matched the best round of the day with a bogey-free 67, which put him in a tie for third with Mark Hensby (67) at three strokes back. Stuart Appleby (72) and Geoff Ogilvy (73) were four shots behind Ames in fifth.

Tiger Woods began the day with a chance to get his first stroke-play victory of the year, just four shots off the lead. But he couldn't get his putts to fall, leaving several birdie chances within inches of the hole, and didn't make his first birdie until the 15th hole. He shot an even-par 71, and finished tied for seventh.

Still, it was quite the comeback for a guy who flirted with missing the cut Friday. Woods now has four top-10 finishes in his last five starts, and his game might be rounding into shape just in time for the British Open.

"I just didn't get the ball close," Woods said. "I was putting well, but when you've got 20-, 30-footers, it's hard to make a run at the leaders."

Ames turned pro in 1987 and joined the PGA Tour in 1996, but the closest he'd come to victory was a second-place finish at The Players Championship in 2002.

"My belief in winning a golf tournament was always that I had to have the perfect golf swing, and it's not the perfect golf swing," Ames said. "I had to believe that my golf swing was good enough to win out here."

His results earlier this year finally convinced him. He had eight top-10 finishes in 16 events, including six of his previous seven starts. He could never quite get that first career victory, though, with his best finish this year a third at The Colonial.

But Ames knew it was only a matter of time.

"I just had to wait for it to happen. This week, it happened," said Ames, who won $864,000 to bring his season earnings to a career-high $2.75 million.

Ames began the day tied with Hensby with a one-stroke lead. He lost a stroke early on the par-4 No. 3, losing his concentration when a marshal yelled at fans to stop walking while Ames was in his backswing.

The ball landed behind a tree, and Ames put his next shot into a trap, then two-putted for a bogey. But with the wind swirling around Cog Hill Golf Club and making birdies a rare sight, Ames knew he still had a chance if he stayed patient.

"The day is long, and there's a lot of holes to play," he said.

Sure enough, he tied Lowery for the lead on the par-3 12th, putting his tee shot within 5 feet of the pin.

A few minutes later, Lowery fell out of contention. He drove into thick rough behind traps on the par-4 13th, and had little choice but to lay up. His third shot landed in more rough, this time on the right side of the green. He had a nice chip shot, but it rolled about eight feet past the hole.

His bogey putt then ran to the edge of the cup and hung on the lip, refusing to drop.

"I played well all day, but you need to come back and make a couple birdies," Lowery said. "I just couldn't do it."

Alone at the top, all Ames had to do was close it out.

He got to 10 under on the par-5 15th, two-putting from 48 feet for a birdie. He then sealed the victory with a par save on 16. After his second shot landed in rough short of the green, he chipped within 10 feet and made the putt.

"I'm sure it's going to be big. I'm going to make sure of that -- let's put it that way," Ames said when asked how big the celebration would be in Calgary, where he now lives.

"I own a restaurant at home in Calgary, and the restaurant is going to be closed down and there's going to be a few people drinking a few bottles of champagne."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press