Ames isn't your typical tour player
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- It's no wonder Stephen Ames and the TPC-Sawgrass Stadium Course seem to agree with each other so well. Each is blunt, forthright, in your face. No mixed messages or hidden signals. What you see is what you get.
• $1.44 million payday
• Five-year PGA Tour exemption
• Three-year Masters exemption
• U.S. Open exemption for '06
• Three-year British Open exemption
• PGA Championship exemption for '06
The host venue for The Players Championship communicates its message through a no-frills cavalcade of fair-yet-terrifying alleys that brought more than a few top players to their knees in Sunday's final round.
The course's final holes are known as risk-reward types, which is just fine by Ames; he's a risk-reward kind of guy. It was just over one month ago when Ames readied and fired at Tiger Woods prior to their opening-round match at the Accenture Match Play Championship. Rather than lay up with his pre-tournament comments, playing it safe, Ames took a risk -- "Anything can happen. Especially where he's hitting the ball," he said -- and took a figurative triple-bogey and a literal pounding from the world's top-ranked player, losing in the minimum number of holes.
Ames is one part shoot-from-the-hip, one part shoot-from-the-lip. Asked earlier this week to recall his comments about Woods and the subsequent loss, he quipped, "I don't know, what do you think? ... Did I deal with it? I dealt with it. Didn't go anywhere with it. I left it at that. I got my ass pummeled. I lost."
Let the record show that he defeated Woods by a mere 15 strokes this week. What could have been a teeth-clenching, knee-knocking tiptoe through the lush confines of Sawgrass essentially became an 18-hole coronation for the champion. Ames played the first nine holes bogey-free, made double-bogey on 10, then simply played the final eight in 5-under, winning the tournament by six strokes. It isn't often the leader entering the final day in a tournament of this magnitude pulls away for an easy triumph, especially when said leader has only one career tour victory under his belt.
Though Ames was hardly the favorite (even entering the final round, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia -- each trailing by one stroke -- were playing the role of University of Connecticut to Ames' George Mason), he made bigger post-round news with his mouth than with any of the 67 strokes he took on Sunday.
With the victory came a spot in this year's Masters field, but while many players would be doing cartwheels on the 18th green with such an exemption, Ames didn't seem too fazed. "I have no plans of playing at Augusta," Ames said when asked if he would cut short a family vacation to compete in the year's first major, which starts April 6. "We had plans to go somewhere else. My priorities have always been my family first. If it comes down to that, it's probably going to be a two-week vacation."
Before the greenjackets invoke a new bylaw and rescind Ames' invitation -- indicting him on a misdemeanor count of blasphemy, perhaps -- consider that at the time of his comments he had yet to speak with his wife, Jodi, and their two children about rearranging the schedule. Every professional golfer says his family means more to him than his career; Ames proved it by failing to react in the moment and break a promise that he, for now, intends to keep.
In case you can't tell, Ames isn't one to always go with the flow. Most tour players make their home in such sunny locales as Florida and Arizona, but he left his native Trinidad and Tobago a few years back to settle down in, of all places, Calgary. Yeah, the same Calgary that rests in the nether regions of Western Canada, known for hosting the Winter Olympics, a professional hockey team and other cold-weather pursuits.
The adopted hometown seems to fit Ames' style as an aloof, atypical golfer. You could say he marches to the beat of a different drum, something he established once again this week.
Of course, Ames was different in one other way, too. He won.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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