Ames Gives Woods Wrong Kind of Pep Talk

Stephen Ames can barely watch as he loses to Tiger Woods in the most lopsided result in the history of the World Match Play Championship.
Stephen Ames can barely watch as he loses to Tiger Woods in the most lopsided result in the history of the World Match Play Championship. (By Chris Carlson -- Associated Press)
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 23, 2006

CARLSBAD, Calif., Feb. 22 -- It's never a good idea to provoke Tiger Woods, even with a seemingly innocent remark.

Stephen Ames learned that lesson the hardest way possible on Wednesday, absorbing a 9-and-8 first-round drubbing, the worst loss in the eight-year history of the World Match Play Championship at La Costa.

On Tuesday, Ames, the lowest-seeded player in the elite 64-man event, told reporters that, "anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball," referring to Woods's recently somewhat erratic driving.

But five days after Woods withdrew from the Nissan Open in Los Angeles because of the flu, there clearly were no questions about the state of his health or the competitive fire in his belly. Woods began this cool, crystalline day with birdies on his first six holes and seven on his front nine, winning every hole for a 9-up lead at the turn and closing out the match on the 10th, where both men made routine pars.

Afterward, Woods smiled ever so slightly and said he had been aware of Ames' comment. When someone wondered about his reaction to it, the smile was gone when he answered, "9 and 8."

Did Ames' remarks light a fire under him?

"You might say that," Woods added. "As I said, 9 and 8."

Woods's ruthless response was reminiscent of his remarks at the 2000 Presidents Cup after he beat Vijay Singh in the singles competition the day Singh's caddie wore a hat that read, "Tiger Who?" Asked that afternoon about the caddie's cap, Woods would only say "2 and 1," the final score of his victory over Singh at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in the Washington suburbs.

Still, there was no sign of any animosity between Woods and Ames when they shook hands at the start of play on the first tee or when they exchanged handshakes again on the 10th green when the match ended.

"I said, 'Good playing and good luck for the rest of the week,' " said Ames, a native of Trinidad now living in Canada. "I caught a player who was 7-under after nine holes. If Vijay or Phil [Mickelson] had played that guy today, they'd have lost, too. . . . If he continues playing the way he's playing, he should walk away with this."

Woods, now 22-4 in this event, will next face Australian Robert Allenby, a 3-and-2 winner over K.J. Choi, in the round of 32 Thursday. Singh, the No. 2 seed, also advanced easily with a 5-and-4 victory over Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland; third-seeded Retief Goosen of South Africa moved on with a 5-and-4 triumph over England's Paul Broadhurst, and fifth-seeded Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th hole to close out a 2-up victory over Charles Howell III.

The opening round, unlike many years past, was generally devoid of major upsets, though No. 3 seed Ernie Els lost to No. 61 Bernhard Langer of Germany by a 1-up margin when he missed a 15-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole. Els has advanced past the second round only once in his six appearances, with three first-round losses, and he has made no secret of his disdain for the course. Last year, he skipped the tournament, and he'll likely be leading the cheers when the venue is moved to Tucson next year.

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