TULSA, Okla. — Stephen Ames holed a birdie putt on the 18th hole in the third round of the PGA Championship to leapfrog Woody Austin and secure his spot in the last group with Tiger Woods on Sunday. It may have been his biggest mistake of the week.
The last seven players to go head-to-head with Woods on a Sunday at a major have crashed and burned. And, of course, Woods is 12-0 when leading after 54 holes. But, to add spice to the mix, there is history between the world No. 1 and the 43-year-old from Trinidad, who now lives in Canada.
At the 2006 WGC Match Play, Ames was matched up against Woods. Like Rory Sabbatini this year, he said that he thought Woods was beatable. It’s one thing to think it; it’s foolish to make it public. Woods heard the comments and dished out a 9 & 8 mauling.
Asked about it on Saturday evening, Ames rolled his eyes and snapped: “Are we here at the PGA Championship or at the Match Play? Which one are we talking about? I don’t know if I want to go there because you might take it out of context again. So we’ll leave it at that. Next question.”
The uncomfortable questions kept coming for Ames, ranked 39th in the world, who has $12 million in career earnings and two victories on the PGA Tour, including the 2006 Players Championship. Next up, he was reminded about those last seven final-round partners who all struggled against Woods.
“It’s probably because you’re playing with Tiger,” Ames said. “He has that influence on players. It’s probably going to happen to me. I don’t know. I haven’t been in this situation before. I haven’t a clue what it’s like.”
Spoken with the confidence of a condemned man.
Early in the week, as Ames was rising up the leaderboard, he said that his game was suited to this short, dogleg course.
“I’m not a power guy,” he said. “This is up my alley.”
Unfortunately for him, winning majors is right up Woods’s alley.
“He’s a great frontrunner,” Ames said. “He’s going to be tough to beat. But the only thing I have control over is myself, not him.”