Stephen Ames' winning streak: a remarkable year on the PGA TOUR Champions
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Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
Stephen Ames couldn’t have known he’d surpass his PGA TOUR Champions victory total this year in just 10 events.
What he did know is that he had a great year in 2022, but it went largely unnoticed because he didn’t do then what he is now doing at an alarming rate: winning.
“I guess everything is kind of in place in my life,” Ames said Tuesday, two days after picking up his third victory of 2023 at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines. “I rededicated myself to my health and being in shape the past year, taking charge of my life. Everything is kinda different. And I’m striking while the iron is hot.
“I played really well last year but the putter just was not good. As far as my game goes, the putter is the only real difference. The ball-striking is the same.”
Ames, 59, finished eighth in the Schwab Cup race in 2022 - the best finish of any player who didn’t win a single tournament and the highest Schwab Cup rank of Ames’ career.
He’s in position now to obliterate that and is off to the best start of his Champions Tour career. He won the Trophy Hassan II in Morocco in February, the Mitsubishi Electric Classic in May, and the Principal Charity Classic in June. He tied Steve Stricker for the most wins this year and now is second in the Schwab Cup standings behind Stricker.
Moreover, he stared down Stricker in the final group on Sunday. While Stricker couldn’t seem to make the clutch putts he's known for, it was Ames who seized the moment. Tied with Stricker and Jerry Kelly at 16 under when they stepped to the tee at the par-3 17th at Wakonda Golf Club, it was Ames who stuck a 9-iron to five feet and holed the putt in the center of the cup to take a one-shot lead.
“I had to beat two of the hottest putters on our tour in Steve and Jerry Kelly,” Ames said. “This one felt a little more satisfying.
“Obviously Steve has been playing so well. He's very good, very steady, and he has a plan of how to play and sticks with it. So yeah, it was nice to be in that position and to win.”
Ames was born in Trinidad and Tobago but also has dual citizenship in Canada, where he currently resides. He has won four times on the PGA TOUR, most notably at THE 2006 PLAYERS Championship. He entered the final round at TPC Sawgrass leading by one and fired a 67 to crush the field by six strokes.
When Ames is at the top of his game, it’s usually his iron play that does the talking. He said he didn’t putt particularly well when he won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at TCP Sugarloaf, he simply “hit it so close that the putts were easy to make.” He has led PGA TOUR Champions multiple times in par-3 scoring average.
But the putter finally got hot in Iowa.
Stephen Ames claims fifth win at Principal
“I haven’t really changed anything with the putter,” said Ames, who had only one bogey on Sunday -- a three-putt at the 14th. “I’m just trying to make it as simple and the least technical I can. I’m trying to get the feel part of it.
“Last week, I widened my stance a little and felt sturdier over the ball. I haven’t felt this well over it in a long time and the putter started kicking in.”
Ames said he’s working out four or five times a week whether at home or on the road. He believes the better conditioning has helped his results so far this year.
But the easygoing Ames has no grandiose plans just because of his three early victories.
“I’m not putting any pressure on myself to win the Schwab Cup,” said Ames, who added that with another win and such solid standing in the Schwab Cup race he’ll take additional time off this year, including skipping next week’s DICK’S Sporting Goods Open. “I’ll take top five. I’m not gonna push myself to try and catch Strick.
“I’m just enjoying everything right now. I’m trying to rack up as much money as I can until I sail off into the sunset.”
Now he can afford a bigger sailboat