Wednesday 22th August, 2007

 

Woods sinks Ames’ major hopes

 
 
 
 
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Stephen Ames... that’s the kind of photo I’d like to see him more often...victorious.

Two Saturdays ago, for the first time in the nine years since he first joined the P.G.A. Tour, I sat in front of my television set watching Stephen Ames line up a birdie putt on the 18th hole and I kept praying that he would miss.

Strange you might say coming from a person who has been one of Ames’ strongest supporters during his professional career.

Not really if you understood the implications of him making the putt.

The date was Saturday August 11. The occasion was the third round of the 89th P.G.A. Championship, the final major for 2007. It was shortly after 7 o’clock T&T time. The birdie would have placed Ames in 2nd place by himself going into the final round.

Why then should I have wanted him to miss the putt?

Simply because it would have meant that he would have entered the final round in the lead group alongside the tournament leader, Tiger Woods. And that is trouble by itself.

The history of the P.G.A. Tour is replete with players who have failed to handle the occasion and whose final round scores have reflected that inability.

So that when Ames’ putt found the bottom of the cup, my heart sank. I felt that any chance he had of doing exceptionally well in the tournament had disappeared with that putt.

And 24 hours later, my worst fears were realised.

After playing brilliantly for the first three days of the tournament with scores of 68, 69 and 69, Stephen’s game fell apart under the pressure and he could only record a six-over-par total of 76 which saw him dropping from 2nd to joint 12th at the end of the tournament.

I am convinced that had he been in the penultimate group playing with Geoff Ogilvie, he would have been able to play the game of which we know he is capable without having to deal with the additional pressure that comes with playing alongside Tiger.

And that pressure is tremendous. I have seen it at first-hand. The thousands of screaming fans and the television cameras monitoring your every move make it difficult for all but the sturdiest of characters to remain unmoved.

Tiger Woods is the only player who seems to be able to shut himself off from that type of pressure and enter a zone from which he only emerges after victory.

And victory was again to come his way, his 13th major victory. He now stands just five short of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record of 18 majors. All that remains is to see how long it will take Woods to surpass that record, for surpass it he will.

In Ames’ case, I knew that the pressure would be additional. The American Media have never allowed Ames to forget the comments he made about Woods prior to the World Match Play Championship in 2006 and the fact that Woods subsequently beat him by one of the largest margins ever in match play, 9 and 8.

As soon as the round was finished, at the post-round interviews, they seemed to want to talk about nothing else. It was rehashed by every reporter on television and was splashed across the pages of nearly every newspaper on the final day of the tournament. And they tried to get him to comment on it again.

To Ames’ credit, he refused to be drawn into any discussion on the issue. But they wouldn’t leave him alone.

I really wonder what they expected him to say. Anything he said would have led to more confusion and bacchanal. It’s that on which they seem to thrive. Should he have said, as Bobby Clampett suggested on television, that he knew he was playing against the best player in the world and that he just didn’t have a chance.

What stupidity!

If that is the attitude that Clampett adopted during his playing career on the P.G.A. Tour, it is no wonder that he hardly ever troubled the leader board.

It was because of all of these factors that I kept hoping that Ames would miss the putt. That would have taken most of the attention off him and placed it on the shoulders of another 40-year-old, the American, Woody Austin who, on the final day, without the pressure that Ames had to undergo, turned in a spectacular round and finished 2nd overall.

I suppose the uninformed would say that as a professional Ames has to learn to deal with whatever pressure is thrown at him.

Let me assure you that where Tiger Woods is concerned, that is a lot easier said than done as many great players have found out over the years.

I wanted Ames to do well at the P.G.A. Championship. I didn’t think he would win. No one has ever defeated Woods when he has held the lead or had a share it going into the final round of a major. And I did not believe that the 2007 P.G.A. Championship would have been any different.

But a 2nd place finish would have guaranteed Ames a place on the President’s Cup team for the match against the Americans later this year. Twelve players comprise that team with the top 10 point leaders being automatic choices while the captain has two picks. Ames stood in 18th position prior to the P.G.A. Championship and needed a great finish to move into the Top 10.

I was convinced that he would not have been among captain Gary Player’s picks and I was proven right

A 2nd place finish would have also sent him skyrocketing up the points standings in the Fed Ex Cup competition which gets underway tomorrow with the Barclays, the first of a series of tournaments which will culminate in one golfer winning the largest purse ever at stake in professional golf.

But it was not to be.

But, as the French would say, “C’est la vie!”

Whatever disappointments we face, we must pick ourselves up and move on. And that’s just what Stephen Ames will have to do.

Now let’s head for the 19th Hole

AMAPLAYA TEAM CHALLENGE LAUNCHED

A gala launch of the 2nd annual Dewar’s 12 Amaplaya Team Challenge Golf Tournament took place last Wednesday at the Hospitality Suite at Angostura. The tournament is rapidly becoming one of the most eagerly anticipated on the entire golf circuit since the organisers, Ron Ameerali and his wife, Mira, have set standards never before seen at a local event.

The two-day tournament will be held on Saturday 1st and Sunday September 2, at the Millennium Lakes Golf and Country Club at Trincity and will feature 26 teams of four players. There will be different formats on each of the two days.

On the 1st day, the two best scores on each hole will count towards the team’s total while on the 2nd day, the players will compete in a modified scramble format.

At last week’s launch, as has become traditional, Mr. Ameerali presented a cheque to a charity of his organisation’s choice, on this occasion the Alzheimer’s Association of T&T. A cheque was also presented to the Golf Association as a contribution to the development of junior golf.

Last year’s tournament was won by a team named “The Alligators” comprising Mungal Bissessarsingh, Eddie Honore, Clyde Ramkhalawan and Noel Rose.

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