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Rain or shine, Stephen Ames’ sunny 2024 forecast is more winning

6 Min Read



Wins rain-shortened Chubb Classic by three strokes over Rocco Mediate

    Written by Jeff Babineau @JeffBabz62

    NAPLES, Fla. – The PGA TOUR Champions might consider rebranding itself in 2024. Ladies and gents, welcome to the Steve Tour.

    Steven Alker, winner of the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and gunning for three consecutive Champions Tour victories at the Chubb Classic, popped onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere just more than two years ago and has won eight times. Steve Stricker won six tournaments a year ago, including three majors, and was runner-up in five more. Now, a third Steve – Canadian Stephen Ames, with a smile so bright he should do toothpaste ads – is the latest to turn trophy celebrations into a regular habit.

    2023 was 'The Year of Steve' on PGA TOUR Champions

    A four-time winner in 2023, Ames won again Sunday without needing to ever strike a shot. The final round of the Chubb Classic at Tiburón Golf Club’s Black Course was washed out because of a massive storm that blanketed southwest Florida with steady rains. Ames, 59, was declared the tournament’s official winner early Sunday morning. He shot 67-64 to finish at 13-under 131, beating Rocco Mediate (63-71) by three shots. It was his seventh career victory on PGA TOUR Champions.

    With a dire forecast on tap for Sunday, the Chubb’s final round had initially been adjusted to nine holes, a sprint to the finish, but after a half-inch of rain fell overnight on Saturday, officials met with weather personnel and called the tournament shortly after 6 a.m. The Chubb marked the first 36-hole finish on PGA TOUR Champions since the 2021 Insperity Invitational, which was won by another Canadian, Mike Weir.

    “There was basically no doubt that the course was going to become unplayable,” said Brian Claar, PGA TOUR Champions’ Vice President, Rules, Competition and Administration, “and with the continued rain, we just don’t see how we can ever get back out. We’re supposed to get 1-2 inches by 3 o’clock, so we made the decision.”

    For Ames, who turns 60 in April, the rain-shortened Chubb was his fifth triumph in 53 weeks. He returned from a shoulder injury in 2022 and played nicely (10 top-10 finishes in 25 starts), but he didn’t win. Then last season, he learned to turn all his close calls into victory speeches.

    Ames said he doesn’t have room for the trophies at his current residence with wife Kelly in Turks and Caicos, so his storage unit is filling up fast.

    Last season, Ames won Trophy Hassan II, where he will defend this week (Ames was scheduled to be on a charter late Sunday night to Morocco); won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic in Atlanta, where he made one bogey all week; won the Principal Charity Classic in Iowa (66-66-67); and captured the Boeing Classic in Seattle, where he played his last five holes in 6-under and won by seven.

    Stephen Ames wins the 2023 Boeing Classic

    Clearly, as he closes in on 60, he has found a new gear. On the PGA TOUR, Ames won four events in 394 starts, the highlight being his triumph at THE PLAYERS in 2006. On the Champions Tour, in his first seven seasons, he won twice. Now, in 53 weeks, Ames has won five times in 24 starts. He admits that it’s very different.

    “I was knocking on the door (in 2022) but didn’t win,” Ames said Sunday after dropping by Tiburón to pick up his nice glass trophy and his check for $270,000. “Last year, ’23, I won four times, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is a little different for me.’ So I learned a lot from that, from being in that situation.”

    Mediate, 61, birdied his final hole Saturday to lift himself out of what had been a five-way tie for second. It was Mediate’s best finish since winning the 2019 Sanford International. Paul Broadhurst, Ernie Els, Mark Hensby and Alex Cejka tied for third.

    Ames began Saturday’s second round at Chubb four shots behind Mediate, who had opened with a course-record-tying 63. After a slow start (his first birdie did not arrive until the fifth hole), Ames soon picked up steam. With the wind picking up off the nearby gulf, several players stumbled in their rounds. Mediate made double bogey at 13 after an errant tee shot; Els made bogeys at Nos. 9 and 11; Cejka had two late bogeys; Davis Love III had a run halted by a double bogey; and Alker, one shot from the lead at one point, plummeted with a triple bogey at 13.

    Not Ames. He just kept forging ahead, piling up birdies. He birdied nine of his final 14 holes, giving him 14 birdies over two rounds against a single bogey. With few leaderboards to view, he checked his phone at one point Saturday and was pleasantly surprised he was leading.

    “I saw that and said, ‘OK, maybe I should push down the pedal a little harder,’ which I did,” Ames said, “and more birdies started falling, which is obviously fun.”

    It is difficult not to have fun if you are Stephen Ames these days. Why the surge? There are several factors.

    For starters, he credits some quality swing work he has done with Canadian coach Shauheen Nakhjavani over the past five years. Ames is in terrific physical shape, and in the gym four to five times a week. He stays mentally sharp after getting back with psychologist Alan Fine, with whom Ames worked a decade ago on the PGA TOUR, where he climbed as high as 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Off the course, Ames said he is very happy in a second marriage. Life is good. These days on the Champions Tour, Ames ranks much, much higher than 17th, that's for certain. He has become a force. His peers rave about his swing and his sneaky power.

    On the Steve Tour, he is a Stephen to be watched.

    “His golf swing is so good, it really doesn’t break down,” Mediate said Sunday. “It’s like him and Alker, they look to be in the same mode to me. They don’t really miss a lot, and if they putt decent, they’re right there.

    “Stephen (Ames) hits it good and hits it long. Really long. And straight. He hits it a mile, and that’s an advantage. He’s just good. He was hurt for a while, he had a bad shoulder, and he has come into his own. Now he’s healthy, and he’s playing beautiful golf.”

    Funny, but as Ames closes in on turning 60, the question needed to be asked: Is his current golf as good as any that Ames has played? Ever?

    “Yeah,” he said, “I would probably say it is, yes, for sure.”

    How confident is Ames feeling about the state of his game? He mentioned that while some might view his rain-shortened victory as “lucky,” Ames believes that had there been another round to play, given how good he is striking it, he might win “by five or six.”

    In the old days, when Ames would declare such things, many viewed him as cocky. These days, it is just steely confidence. Why, winning has become so easy, so routine, that he won Sunday in Naples without ever hitting a shot. That is something to which he gladly could get accustomed.

    “It’s kind of nice to wake and go, ‘Oh, congrats,’” Ames said, flashing that trademark bright white grin. “It was a first for me.”

    A first among a bunch of firsts. With that, Ames was off to Miami, and then on to Morocco. The Chubb trophy was being shipped to Turks and Caicos, bound for storage. Yes, on the Steve Tour, life indeed is grand.

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