Last but Not Least Ames Wins Disney Finale

By Associated PressNovember 4, 2007, 5:00 pm
 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Even without a trophy, Stephen Ames felt he had nothing to prove.
 
Despite a winless season, he already considered this year a success because he revamped his swing to eliminate nagging back issues. He twice contended in majors, when he was tied for the lead on the final day at Oakmont and played in the final group at Southern Hills.
 
One last trip to escape the chill of Calgary turned into so much more Sunday.
 
Ames ran off three straight birdies on the back nine at Disney, the last one a 4-iron that was close to perfect, then saved par from 65 feet away in a bunker on the closing hole for a one-shot victory in the Children's Miracle Network Classic.
 
'I came down here to work on my golf swing,' Ames said. 'Here I am winning an event, which is awesome.'
 
Ames closed with a 4-under 68, and that bunker shot to 3 feet for par on the 18th hole at the Magnolia Course was enough to hold off hard-charging Tim Clark in the final PGA TOUR event of the season.
 
Clark birdied six of his last 10 holes for a 66, the lowest score on the weekend of a tournament that no longer is a pushover.
 
'I didn't everything I could, and it wasn't enough,' Clark said.
 
Ames won for the first time this year, and he had to work hard for it. Seven players were tied for the lead at some point in a final round filled with sunshine, and even a one-shot lead with three holes to play was no bargain.
 
'It was a grind coming down the stretch,' Ames said. 'The way I finished with three pars, I'm quite happy I did.'
 
Ames, who grew up in Trinidad & Tobago and moved to Calgary 13 years ago -- he's now a Canadian citizen -- heads home to a winter of freezing temperatures, plenty of work in the gym and an earlier start to next year than he anticipated.
 
'I was planning on going to Maui for a Christmas vacation, and now I have another reason to go,' Ames said, referring to Kapalua for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship that starts the 2008 season.
 
Ames finished at 17-under 271, the highest winning score at Disney since Tiger Woods won with the same score in 1999.
 
Scott Verplank, who shared the 54-hole lead with Ames, was tied with four holes to play until he couldn't match Ames' birdie on the 15th and three-putted the 16th from about 70 feet. He shot 71 and tied for third with Tag Ridings (70) and Robert Gamez (68).
 
The consolation prize went to Kevin Stadler, who tied for 15th to move into the top 125 and keep his card for next year. Stadler finished at No. 124, while Matthias Gronberg locked up the final spot with a tie for 37th.
 
Stadler began the Fall Series at No. 108 on the money list, but made only two cuts over the last six weeks and had dropped to No. 127. He played the final round knowing he was somewhere around the magic number.
 
'It's not life or death, but it's a hell of a big deal,' Stadler said.
 
Justin Leonard was among those atop the leaderboard in the final round until a late bogey dropped him into a tie for sixth, leaving him short of the top 30 on the money list to earn a spot in the Masters.
 
Gamez had a 67-68 weekend and tied for third to earn $239,200, pushing him up to No. 132 on the money list. Gamez and Jeff Gove at least moved inside the top 150, meaning they can skip the second stage of Q-school and at least have conditional status next year. Tripp Isenhour had a chance to join them, but he failed to make birdie in his round of 75.
 
None of that concerned Ames, 43, who only wanted to finish out his season on a strong note. He chose Disney as his last event because his swing coach, Sean Foley, lives in Orlando and he figured they could work on his game.
 
He sure got a good test.
 
'I wanted to see how my golf swing held up,' Ames said. 'Part of it held up, and part of it didn't.'
 
It was messy atop the leaderboard, nothing new at this tournament. The seven players tied for the lead at some point included Bryce Molder, who made eagle at No. 14 to get to 15 under, only to give it back two holes later when his drive found the water.
 
Verplank went ahead a 15-foot birdie on the seventh hole and stayed atop the leaderboard most of the day.
 
Ames holed a 12-foot birdie on the 13th hole to tie for the lead, he and Verplank both birdied the par-5 14th, and the turning point came at the 204-yard 15th, where Ames hit a 4-iron that rolled past the pin and settled 8 feet away.
 
'That was a clutch shot,' Ames said.
 
He also knew what followed -- three of the longest, toughest holes on the Magnolia course, knowing that Clark already had posted his score. But he kept the ball in play off the tee, and didn't have to work too hard to par until his bunker shot at the end.
 
Clark had no reason to play this week, because he already is exempt for the Masters. Even after running off four straight birdies starting at No. 9 with a 30-foot putt, winning never occurred to him until his 10-foot birdie on the 14th put him in a tie for the lead.
 
But he had few complaints.
 
'I really didn't leave anything out there,' he said.
 
DIVOTS:
Verplank went over $3 million for the first time in his career. ... J.B. Holmes came into the week at No. 126 on the money list and tied for ninth to finish at No. 118. He already was exempt for 2008 from winning last year, but at least qualified for The Players Championship. ... Molder tied for sixth, his first top 10 on the PGA TOUR in more than five years.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Children's Miracle Network Classic
  • Full Coverage - Children's Miracle Network Classic
  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes