One phone call changed everything.
Thomas Bjorn pulled out of the Match Play Championship with a recurring neck injury, and Ames was first in line to replace him in the 64-man field at La Costa Resort. One minute he was on his way to Tucson for a $3 million tournament, the next he was on the practice range getting ready for a $7.5 million World Golf Championship.
As the No. 64 seed, Ames drew Tiger Woods as his opponent in the first round Wednesday.
Anything can happen, Ames said, breaking into a smile.
Especially where hes hitting the ball.
Ames knows better than most that the Match Play Championship is the most unpredictable tournament in golf, especially with the matches lasting only 18 holes'more or less'until the championship round Sunday. A year ago, he made his debut at La Costa Resort as the No. 19 seed and was beaten, 7 and 6, by Mark Hensby.
Hes not a big fan of this event, but he wasnt about to miss a chance at the $1.35 million prize.
You can get it going and knock out your opponent, or it can go the opposite way, Ames said as he hit balls on the range with only four irons at his disposal. It reflects on who plays well that day.
Ames and Woods both had short weeks at Riviera.
Woods, the No. 1 seed and a two-time winner of the Accenture Match Play Championship, withdrew from the Nissan Open after making the cut on the number because of the flu. It was the first time in his professional career he left a tournament early because of health reasons.
He showed up at La Costa at lunch, hit a few balls and played a practice round.
Ames played only one round at Riviera, then had to withdraw Friday morning because his caddie'Robert Ames, his brother'was too sick to work. Ames showed up at 6:30 a.m. that day looking for a caddie, but there was none available that suited his standards.
He spent the rest of the week in Santa Monica with his family, and was getting ready to go to Tucson when the PGA Tour called and told him he was in the field at La Costa.
Sergio Garcia previously said he would not play at La Costa, citing travel reasons. The world ranking that was published a week ago Monday determined the field, and while Craig Parry at No. 66 was one spot ahead of Ames, the Australian did not commit to the tournament.
Vijay Singh is the No. 2 seed and will open against Graeme McDowell. Singh has never advanced beyond the second round in this tournament.
Retief Goosen, the No. 3 seed, starts off with Paul Broadhurst of England, who hasnt competed in match play since the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island.
Ernie Els made it to the semifinals in 2001 when the Match Play Championship was held in Australia, but he has not gone further than the second round at La Costa. After losing in 19 holes to Phil Tataurangi in 2003, the Big Easy skipped this event the last two years. He is back as the No. 4 seed, and faces Bernhard Langer.
Bjorns exit shuffled the first-round matches, although it didnt matter much to Charles Howell III. Instead of facing Els in the first round, he now gets Phil Mickelson, the No. 5 seed.
Howell simply was thrilled to see sunshine and green grass at a resort known lately as Lake La Costa because of so much flooding. A year ago, the tournament didnt start until Thursday because of rain that left small lakes in some of the fairways.
Its the first time I can leave my canoe in the locker, Howell said.
Despite its fickle nature, Howell looks forward to the Accenture Match Play Championship. Instead of beating 143 players, he only has to worry about six, even though he might not make it past the first one.
He has been knocked out of the first round the last three years, losing to Nick OHern in 19 holes a year ago.
That feeling leaving on Wednesday night is not a good one, Howell said. It feels like you missed the cut.
The defending champion is David Toms, who routed Chris DiMarco in the 36-hole match last year, nearly closing him out at the turn before winning, 6 and 5. One of his toughest matches was in the semifinals against Ian Poulter of England, whom Toms will face in the first round Wednesday.
Ames, meanwhile, keeps a backup set of clubs in the Nike trailer. His regular set was being shipped from Tucson, expected to arrive at 8 a.m. Tuesday.