LEMONT (Illinois): Canada's Stephen Ames captured the US$4.8mil PGA Western Open by two strokes on Sunday, shooting a 1-under-par 70 at the Chicago's Cog Hill Golf and Country Club.
“It's very nice to win this tournament with all its history,” he said. “I know many of golf's great champions are on this trophy and it's nice to put my name alongside them.”
Ames, who was born in Trinidad & Tobago and took out Canadian citizenship eight months ago, broke through for his first PGA title in his 166th tour start.
At 10-under 274, he outdistanced American Steve Lowery, who also closed with a 70.
Australia's Mark Hensby and Britain's Luke Donald tied for third at 7-under 277.
“I'm very comfortable playing here,” said Donald, whose 67 matched the best round of the day.
But the afternoon belonged to Ames, who had eight top-10 finishes and nearly US$2mil in earnings this year but never doubted his ability to win on golf's elite tour.
“Yes, I never thought that way at all, I just love this game too much,” he said.
The key, according to Ames, was the wind and a newfound maturity.
“I like playing in the wind, and I think the wind kept anybody from making a big run at me from behind,” said Ames, who turned 40 at the end of April.
“I think I hit the ball pretty well this week and putted pretty good, too, but ... my wife is telling me I'm more mature, so that's part of it, too.”
Ames' lone bogey came at the third hole, where a tournament official shouted during his downswing.
He did not make another mistake, sinking birdie putts at the 12th and 15th holes. The last birdie separated him from a pack of contenders as Hensby and Steve Lowery both made double-bogey.
“When I saw their scores go up on the board, I was like, 'Whoa,'“ Ames said.
“I thought they were throwing it away in a sense. Then it got difficult.”
If there is a positive for Lowery, it's the fact his second-place finish will send him to the British Open.
“I didn't try to qualify because last year I finished second at the B.C. Open, which is opposite the British,” he said.
The 41-year-old, who was born in Massachusetts and first won the title in 1991, fired a flawless six-under-par 65 to finish at 10-under 274 and claim the US$560,000 first prize ahead of second-placed Annika Sorenstam.
Sweden's Sorenstam, the world number one, returned a 67 with American Kelly Robbins a further two strokes back in third at six-under 278.
Sorenstam, champion in 1995 and 1996, piled on the pressure with birdies at the last two holes but narrowly missed out on the trophy for a third year in a row. She was second in 2002 and was edged out of a three-way playoff by one shot 12 months ago. – Agencies