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Ames defends Skins Game crown

11/25/2007 - Golf Stephen Ames

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Stephen Ames chuckled about his
mostly mediocre 18 holes of golf. He can laugh all the way to the
bank.

With $650,000 at stake on No. 18, Ames coolly knocked his 7-foot
birdie putt into the center of the cup Sunday to win the Skins
Game. The only other hole he won was the first, a day earlier.

"That's the nature of the Skins Game," Ames said, his smile
still as wide at it was when his rich putt dropped. "It's always
been the way you play at the Skins Game.

"You kind of let the other guys beat themselves up and then you
sneak in there when you need to."

Taking the title for the second year in a row, Ames finished
with nine skins and $675,000 of the $1 million purse.

Five-time champion Fred Couples, playing in the 25-year-old
tournament for the 14th time, also won nine skins, pocketing
$325,000 to push his career earnings in the made-for-TV event to
more than $4.2 million.

"Somebody's going to birdie the 18th hole, probably, and
Stephen did it to win a big, big, big skin," Couples said. "If
you win the right holes, you win money."

Couples won three skins and $75,000 on the first day with a
bunker shot into the hole for an eagle on No. 4, then picked up
$250,000 with a 5-footer for birdie on No. 10 to begin the second
day.

Masters champion Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich, making their
Skins Game debuts, were shut out.

"I certainly enjoyed the experience and playing with these
three guys," Johnson said. "It's a very unique event. It's
nothing like I've ever been familiar with.

"But when all is said and done, I'm very disappointed. I came
here to win some skins, and I didn't."

Said Wetterich: "I just feel bad for the charity I was trying
to play for. I feel worse about that than anything else."

Each player donates 20 percent of his winnings to a charity of
his choice, and Wetterich had picked Big Oak Ranch. Ames' donation
will go to the Ames Foundation, and Couples' to California
wildfires victims.

Ames, whose birdie on the opening hole of the tournament was
worth $25,000, finally came up with another for the really big
money 17 holes later. He stuck his 9-iron from 142 yards out close
enough to the pin on No. 18 to give him a good chance, then watched
the other three miss their considerably longer putts.

Johnson missed from 40 feet, Couples from 20, then Wetterich's
10-footer slid past the left edge of the hole to give Ames his
chance.

He stroked the ball firmly and right on line, then, beaming, he
accepted his playing partners' congratulations.

Realizing pars don't win skins, each of the foursome played
aggressively, and frequently wound up in trouble because of it.
Ames, a naturalized Canadian citizen from Trinidad & Tobago, didn't
even finish No. 15 after his drive sailed into bushes to the left
of the fairway. Couples and Johnson each birdied to tie the hole.

Ames' winning total was $590,000 in the tournament last year,
when he clinched the title with a 3-footer for birdie worth
$270,000. Couples finished second then, too, with $385,000.

The first six holes were worth $25,000 each, and Nos. 7-12
$50,000. The 13th through 17th carried a prize of $70,000 and No.
18 was worth $200,000.

In the Skins Game format, a player takes a skin by winning a
hole. If the hole is tied by any of the players, the money carries
over and all four remain in the hunt.