Ames Sinks Rich Putt on Final Hole to Defend Skins Game Title

By Associated PressNovember 25, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 LG Skins GameINDIAN 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.
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.