Ames Aims for Swing Changes

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- They sizzle up a delicious ribeye at Packards, but Stephen Ames was being a little different, choosing the grouper instead, which wasnt a bad choice considering the weather at the PODS Championship early last week.
 
Ames could have cast a line out the door of this memorable steakhouse and hooked the catch of the day with all of the rain that began falling at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club just as he finished nine holes of his practice round, an extremely important time for Ames these days.
 
More time on the range would go a long way in the progress of the swing changes instituted by coach Sean Foley over a year ago, but the torrential downpour dampened that plan and became another roadblock to moving forward.
 
Scheduling ' and in this case, a storm that caused tournament officials to clear the course ' has limited the time that Ames and Foley have spent together in the early going of the PGA TOUR season. Their most productive meeting came during three days in Orlando about a month ago.
 
We were working on the same things, just to get it better and better ' understanding it more, said Ames, adding thats his main focus as the season progresses.
 
The backswings gotten better. It seems to fall into place day in, day out and now, were working on the downswing -- for me to understand it better more than anything else, he added.
 
The new changes were introduced to limit injuries to Ames, who began to suffer from back pain in 2006. It isnt so much that Ames doesnt understand the mechanics or the reasoning behind the changes, its just a matter of getting mind and body working together and accepting something new.
 
The easiest way to explain it is if youre learning to drive for the first time, you dont jump in the car and drive 100 miles an hour, said Ames.
 
You drive at 30 miles an hour, so were swinging the club now at a slower pace, hitting 30 per cent shots and 40 per cent shots and every now and again, well throw one (swing) in thats normal and that way, it solidifies the feeling better.
 
Foley adds that a reconstructed swing takes time and that a few more sessions like the one in Orlando might hasten the progress.
 
That was excellent. If I could get that kind of time once a month, we would progress quickly, but he spends enough time away from his family, said Foley, adding that he respects Ames renowned devotion to family.
 
We just spent a lot of time getting him to understand why (the changes) work, After three days of hitting 500 balls a day, he really got the feeling and progressed really well, but you take three weeks off and its kind of back to where it was, so it takes time.
 
Swing changes are a work in progress, added Foley. I figure two-and-a-half years from the day that we started until everything is more natural.
 
That leaves about another year before Ames is completely comfortable, but he has had some finishes that may have left fans with the impression that everything had kicked in, including his win at Disney last November.
 
He didnt seem to have lost anything at the beginning of this season with a couple of top-10s in Hawaii, including a third place finish at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
Obviously, he played really good in Hawaii, almost won at Mercedes and then, he played good at Sony and the thing with Sony was he didnt hit it that great, but he really grinded it and got it up and down, so thats a big thing because weve worked a lot on short game, said Foley.
 
His performance in Hawaii illustrated how far he had come with the changes, according to Ames. Hawaii just kind of solidified that I can take a couple of months off, which it was, get back into it and it was still going to be there, which was nice, he said.
 
Ames fast start in Hawaii was balanced by a missed cut at the Buick Invitational and a tie for 33rd at the Accenture Match Play Championship. Yesterday, he finished T-52 at the PODS, which began his preparations for next months Masters.
 
Ames will play the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week and follow that up with a trip to Doral, before taking the two weeks before the Masters off for a visit to his home country of Trinidad.
 
There isnt a golf course that we play on tour that can actually warm you up for the Masters, said Ames. Its a completely different animal altogether, the greens and everything.
 
Im going to be (at Augusta National) the Saturday, so Ive got the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to prepare, which is enough. I think, for that event, you have to be mentally relaxed more than anything else.
 

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Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.