INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) For Stephen Ames, the Skins Game has become a lucrative holiday tradition.
Ames has won the last two Skins Games, pocketing more than $1.2 million in the process. But as he tries for a third straight title this weekend, he's not only thinking about the $1 million purse.
"I'm just out here to have fun," Ames said Friday at the Indian Wells Golf Resort. "That's what this game is about, having fun."
Ames will try to repeat his titles this weekend against Phil Mickelson, Rocco Mediate and K.J. Choi at the Celebrity Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort. The foursome will play nine holes Saturday and another nine Sunday.
A player must win a hole outright to earn the designated cash prize for the hole. If two or more players tie for low score on a hole, the money carries over to the next hole.
Saturday's first six holes are worth $25,000 each, with the last three worth $50,000 each. The first three holes Sunday are worth $50,000, the next five holes $70,000 and the 18th hole $200,000.
Ames won $675,000 last year, with all but $25,000 on an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Before that, Ames had not played the best golf of the weekend.
"It's about being aggressive at the right time and making the right putt at the right time," he said.
Mickelson is playing the Skins Game for the first time since 2003.
"To win this event, you have to have some luck," he said. "This group is going to make a lot of birdies. We are all going to make five or six birdies."
Mediate, who this year lost to Tiger Woods in a U.S. Open playoff, wondered if organizers dialed the wrong number when inviting him.
"I'm a rookie. I don't know what to expect," Mediate said. "It's still golf, right?"
Besides the money, the Skins Game has become known for friendly jabs between players during the round and on-course antics - Fred Funk forced to wear a dress when he was outdriven by Annika Sorenstam in 2003. Mickelson said the players get quiet on the greens when they are putting for big money, but there's a lot of gabbing on the tee.
"It's going to be talkative on the greens, too," Mediate said. "Sorry."
The event is sponsored LG Electronics.