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January 31, 2003

Stephen Ames


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Stephen Ames to the interview area. Great round today, 64, puts you at 22-under par. Talk about the good things that happened at La Quinta Country Club.

STEPHEN AMES: Well, the sun was shining, again. The good thing for today, again, was my putting was really good. It was strong. I didn't miss -- I think I missed one putt under ten feet.

Ball-striking, my driver was occasionally off-course, and so was my 3-wood. But other than that, my iron play was exceptionally strong. I hit it inside of ten feet probably about five or six times. That was the main -- that was the goal for the day, was give myself as many opportunities for birdies as I could. And I did that today, which was nice.

It was a good round.

Q. La Quinta, if there is such a thing as a tough course in this tournament, La Quinta might be the one, and you go over there and shoot 64. Do you feel like that puts you a little bit ahead of the game, even though 64 is a pedestrian score around here?

STEPHEN AMES: I agree with what you said. I think La Quinta is the toughest of the four on the roster.

Going into today, just like my caddie had said, Phillip Price came up to me and asked me what this course was like and I said, "Well, you don't see too many 64s or 65s around here."

Today I played well. My iron play was really strong. Didn't make any foolish mistakes like giving myself no opportunities of hacking it out and putting it in the fairway and then throwing it on the green kind of thing.

Again, the iron play was really good. Saving Grace was the putter again, too.

Q. I think three years ago when you withdrew from the tournament, through four rounds, you were 23-under and now you are 22-under through three rounds. Is that an indication of the scoring in general on the TOUR, or do you feel you are a better player now than you were three years ago?

STEPHEN AMES: Three years ago -- I'm a different player, definitely, without a doubt. I'm a lot stronger. I'm hitting the ball a lot further. Even from last year, we have last year's yardage books in there, and there are some holes that I'm 20 and 30 yards further than what I was last year. There's a major difference in that aspect.

This year, from three years ago, even from last year, my putting is a lot better, also.

Q. Is that 20 yards from a new ball, a new club or the lifting of the weights that you are talking about?

STEPHEN AMES: I think it's a combination of both. I'm a fitter golfer now, also. My technique has gotten a lot better. The ball is definitely helping.

I can't compare the Nike ball to the new Titleist that they have or the Red Callaway. I used to play the Blue Callaway, and that was my main concern when I switched from the Callaway ball to the Nike ball - if I was going to lose distance or gain distance. They were going equivalent or further with the Nike, but not 15 or 20 yards further than the Titleist is now.

Q. Do you like being the lead horse in this race? Does it matter?

STEPHEN AMES: Doesn't matter, because I have one more day with the Amateurs. So as far as I'm concerned, it's still not an event. Doesn't start till Sunday.

Q. Most people move from Calgary, Canada, to Trinidad and Tobago. You've done it in reverse. Do you know what the temperature is up there today? I think it was minus 6. Is that unusual, to go from the Caribbean up to the frigid north?

STEPHEN AMES: Well, the people that move from Calgary to Trinidad, as an example, in the Caribbean, are a lot older than I am. (Laughter).

For me, if I had to live or wanted to live in Trinidad, it's too hard of a commute to play golf in the States and do that. Also the facts that my wife is from Calgary; we have two sons now. There's no better place than living in Canada or the States for the kids to grow up. Especially right now in Canada, they are having a great time in school right now.

My oldest has just started school and it's a great place to grow up. Why not?

Q. You mentioned you feel the tournament doesn't start until Sunday because of the Amateurs. So how do you approach that?

STEPHEN AMES: I don't, because I'm just going to go out and play my own game tomorrow, have as much fun as I can.

Like I said, till Sunday, the tournament doesn't really start. If you're within three or four shots of the lead, you still have an opportunity of winning this event. If I give myself that opportunity of being close by, then Sunday, it's going to be more of a shootout, yeah.

Q. Should we consider you Canadian or Trinidadian?

STEPHEN AMES: A bit of both right now, still. I am still a Trinidad Tobago. I am a resident of Canada and I have applied for my Canadian citizenship. Right now it's in wait.

Q. Did you ever see ice hockey when you were in Trinidad and Tobago?

STEPHEN AMES: No, never.

Q. When was your first experience? Are your kids now playing it?

STEPHEN AMES: They are too young, but they like the ice. Doing the skating, basically. My eldest wants to do it because a lot of his friends do it now. It's a rough sport. I don't know if I wanted to get into that. But I can see my youngest doing that, because he's a bit of a roughy.

My first time seeing it I think was in Toronto or something. That was years ago. I was 16 or 17 years old and I enjoyed watching it. At that time Gretzky was still playing. Now that I live in Calgary, any time that I'm home, I go and watch the games as much as I can, yes.

Q. Did you see this coming this week? Was there something that tipped you off in your game that when you came here you knew that low scores were going to come?

STEPHEN AMES: I knew that low scoring was going to be there, but I didn't know that it was going to be me, no.

Coming into this event, I played Phoenix, and prior to Phoenix, it was almost a week -- I think it was a week in San Diego, because I was getting over chicken pox at that time.

I spent a week with my coach, and the biggest change that we had noticed was the fact that the putter head was going back a lot straighter and through the ball because we had changed the setup a lot.

That, to me, has been my downfall over my years playing on TOUR. My ball-striking has never really been far behind everybody else, but the putting has, definitely.

Right now, that's one of my strongest points right now, which is good, this week.

Q. How often do you think about the PLAYERS Championship and watching Craig do that, his finish?

STEPHEN AMES: I don't, actually, think about it, what happened. For me, it was a good opportunity. Almost happened. Didn't happen. Life goes on, you know. (Laughing).

The thing that maybe I would have sat down and thought about, like I did when I was sitting down and watching him chip-in, was the fact, "Oh, there goes the Masters, there goes the U.S. Open for the next five years."

Those are the things I looked at more than anything else. The opportunity of getting into those events rather than having to try to qualify, that flew out the window more or less.

JOE CHEMYCZ: Let's go through your card.

STEPHEN AMES: First hole was a driver. I had 100 yards, sand wedge to about a foot.

Next hole, I hit 3-wood, 7-iron, two and a half feet.

Next hole was a par 3. I hit 5-iron about 45, 50 feet and made that. That was my long one for the week so far.

The next hole, I made par there, but I missed a 4-footer for birdie.

Then I didn't birdie any of the par 5s.

8, I hit 3-wood, 8-iron about 25 feet and made that.

10 was definitely one of the reasons why I switched to Nike. Coming out of the rough with the blades is a lot easier than coming out with the Callaway clubs, unfortunately.

For me it was 3-wood just into the rough here and I cut a beautiful 9-iron that landed on the fringe real nice and soft. Somebody told me it hit the flag and it finished three feet left of the flag there.

13, missed the fairway with the driver. Laid up to my wedge yardage. Hit it about eight feet behind the hole. Made that putt there.

The next hole, I hit driver, 7-iron about five feet, four or five feet left of the hole and made that.

16, I hit driver, 8-iron about five feet. Made that.

JOE CHEMYCZ: 64 with one birdie on a par 5.

STEPHEN AMES: Yeah, it was a rough day. (Laughing). It was good. I'm not going to complain about it.

End of FastScripts....

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