MARANA, Ariz.(AP) Stephen Ames has played four matches in three years at the Accenture Match Play Championship, and Thursday took him into foreign territory.
It was the first time he reached the 13th hole.
“When I passed the 12th hole, I had to take a breather,” Ames said. “I’ve never played so many holes.”
He wasn’t joking.
Ames made his debut in 2005 and lost 7 and 6 to Mark Hensby. Then came the early exit last year at La Costa, when Woods beat him in 10 holes by a record margin of 9 and 8. And in the opening round Wednesday, Ames beat Robert Karlsson, 8 and 7.
Safe to say it’s been a good week.
Even after Vijay Singh birdied the 17th hole to close within one hole, with momentum on his side, Ames didn’t flinch. He turned to his caddie and said, “We’ve got nothing to lose.”
Then he lost the 18th to a Singh birdie and headed for extra holes. Ames beat him on the 19th hole with a 4-foot birdie putt, after Singh missed his 6-foot birdie attempt.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ames said.
He said he would take that attitude into the third round against Stewart Cink, and might not feel any pressure until Sunday.
“I’ve got nothing to lose there,” he said. “It’s nice to be in that position, top 64 in the world and you’ve got one guy to beat. And the way that one guy is playing, it will probably be him again.”
That one guy he referred to was Woods, and Ames can only imagine the field day the media would have with that one.
“I would hope it would go 18,” he said, noting that the championship match is 36 holes.
BRACKET BUSTER: Charles Howell III had already advanced to the third round, and it appeared he might get a quick rematch with Phil Mickelson, whom Howell beat in a playoff at Riviera on Sunday.
Instead, Howell will face old friend Justin Rose. They both live in Orlando, Fla., and work with swing coach David Leadbetter.
“It’s almost like a Tavistock Cup,” Rose said, referring to the made-for-TV match each spring between tour professionals from Lake Nona and Isleworth in the Orlando area. “We’re obviously good friends.”
Rose had high praise for Howell, whose West Coast Swing has featured two runner-up finishes and a victory at the Nissan Open.
“I think Charles possibly is the best player in the world right now, other than Tiger,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a tough game. He’s been in contention a lot, and it looks like he’s putting well.
REMATCH: Arizona must feel like England to Paul Casey.
Five months ago at the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, Casey rallied to beat Mike Weir in the second round, built an early lead to beat Colin Montgomerie in the next round, then pulled away to whip Shaun Micheel in the championship match.
At the Accenture Match Play Championship, he is facing the same lineup.
He rallied to beat Mike Weir on Wednesday, then withstood a late rally for a 4-and-3 victory Thursday over Montgomerie.
Micheel, of course.
“We’re going to the stage now where whoever is left, it doesn’t matter what their world ranking is,” Casey said. “Every match is going to get tougher from this point.”
He set a record at Wentworth with a 10-and-8 victory over Micheel, who was the 16th seed in a 16-man field. But don’t let the score fool you. The first 15 holes were tight, and Micheel was poised to square the match with Casey in jail and Micheel in the fairway. Micheel took 8-iron instead of his caddie’s choice of a 9-iron, sailed the green and lost the hole on a double bogey.
Micheel was so furious with his caddie – “Don’t say another (expletive) word to me the rest of the day,” he said – and Casey pulled away for the record rout.
Micheel is the No. 62 seed this week and already up to his old tricks, knocking out third-seeded Adam Scott and Rod Pampling.
DIVOTS: Four of the 16 players remaining have won match play titles – Tiger Woods, David Toms and Geoff Ogilvy in the Accenture Match Play Championship, and Paul Casey in the HSBC World Match Play Championship. … The United States has six players remaining in the tournament, followed by Europe with five and Australia with three. The Americans have at least one player remaining in all four brackets, so there’s still a chance of an All-American semifinal, which has happened twice in eight previous years. … In Thursday’s U.S.-Europe matches, Charles Howell III beat Sergio Garcia, and Stewart Cink beat Padraig Harrington, while Phil Mickelson fell to Justin Rose. Howell and Rose have never played in a Ryder Cup.