Saturday, August 11, 2007
Woods, Ames to be paired for first time since fateful match
By Bob Harig and Jason Sobel ESPN.com
TULSA, Okla. -- Stephen Ames had to know it was coming. Shortly after holing a birdie putt on his final hole of Saturday's third round, clinching a date with Tiger Woods in the final pairing, Ames took a seat at the podium in the PGA Championship interview room and was asked right off the bat about his history with the world's top-ranked player.
It was at last year's Accenture Match Play Championship that Ames claimed, "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball," prior to his opening-round match with Woods, only to lose 9 and 8 one day later.
Time may heal all wounds, but that doesn't mean Ames wanted to address the situation.
Ames birdied his final hole on Saturday to get into the final pairing with Woods.
"Are we here at the PGA Championship or are we here at the Match Play?" he asked rhetorically. "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."
Sunday marks the first time Woods and Ames will be paired together since their 10-hole round last year. Woods, for his part, doesn't think the incident will have any effect on the final round.
"I'm just going to go out there and play tomorrow," he said after shooting a 1-under 69 to take a three-stroke 54-hole lead. "I know what I have to do tomorrow. And I would just stick to my guns and go do what I need to do. And hopefully I can execute."
Executing may not be as easy for Ames, who has never played in the final pairing at a major. Woods has been in this situation twice already this year and though he hasn't won either time, his playing partners have fared even worse.
At the Masters, Stuart Appleby bogeyed four of the first seven holes en route to a final-round 75 and a T-7 finish. At the U.S. Open, Aaron Baddeley opened with a triple-bogey, shot 80 and finished T-13.
"[Woods] has that influence on players," Ames said. "It's probably going to happen to me."
So much for the power of positive thinking. "I haven't been in this situation," he continued. "My game plan tomorrow is to be conscious of what I'm doing and not to be conscious of what Tiger's doing. That's the only thing I have control over is myself, not him. That's the biggest concern that I have is being me. I gotta be me, myself."
Boo Weekley had a chance to match the all-time major championship record if could birdie the final hole Saturday at Southern Hills Country Club.
Not that he knew anything about it.
Weekley, from the Florida Panhandle town of Milton, was 6 under through 17 holes and needed a birdie to shoot 63, which would have tied the mark that Woods matched on Friday. He ended up three-putting the hole for a 65.
"That would have been nice," Weekley said when informed that he was playing for a record. "I was just trying to make par. If it was going to go in, it was going to go in."
Weekley, who won at Hilton Head this year, has been a curiosity with his country twang and his candor. When playing in the Scottish Open last month, he innocently asked Paul Lawrie if he was playing in the next week's British Open and how he qualified. Lawrie, of course, is a former Open champion and didn't need to qualify.
He also had unique comments about the food, driving on the left side of the road and links golf. And he found a following.
"Yeah, I was very surprised over there that people would root for me," he said. "I mean, being a foreigner, I didn't know what to expect, especially [going there] for the first time. I didn't know how the people would respond to me, being who I am.
"And I reckon as long as you're being yourself, you can't go wrong there."
Speaking His Mind
Woody Austin was hoping to get to play in the final pairing with Woods on Sunday. When he heard that Ames birdied his final hole to get into that pairing, Austin was none too pleased.
"Well, that stinks," he said. "If you ask anybody, you don't want to be in front of him or behind him. You'd rather be inside the arena with all that goes on around him. From that standpoint, I'm pretty disappointed that I'm not inside that arena, because there's just so much commotion that goes on around him."
Austin, as is typical, was tough on himself again after shooting a 69 that left him four strokes back of Woods.
"I could have shot what he shot [Friday]," Austin said of Woods' 63. "I outplayed him at least four or five shots and he beat me by seven. I could run down his round because I watched it. And I had it inside him all day long, and he beat me by seven shots. So if I have his round and I play that way, then I think I can shoot 63 also."
Oklahoma resident Scott Verplank hoped to put himself in position for a shot at his first major championship. But he shot 74 and fell seven strokes behind Woods.
"I guess I slept wrong," said Verplank, who is tied for sixth at even. "I got a little quick, the same stuff that I always do when I don't play like I feel I should. I got a couple of bad lies, which I know everybody does. But I guess since I haven't been in the rough very much the first two days, I didn't know it was that bad. I just really didn't play any good. There was really no two ways about it."
Around Southern Hills
The U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams will be determined after the PGA Championship, with captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to add two at-large selections to their 12-man squads on Monday. Austin can move into the top 10 in the U.S. team standings by finishing no worse than tied for second. ... Ames (68-69-69) is the only player in the field with a chance to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.