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Stephen Ames wins Canadian Skins Game

Stephen Ames won the Canadian Skins Game, but the event was all about Jack Nicklaus.

In what was billed as Canada's farewell to the great Golden Bear, the 65-year-old Nicklaus showed he could still compete with younger, longer hitters. He finished second.

``I just came here to learn something from the legend himself,'' Ames said after collecting five skins and $92,443 Tuesday for a two-day total of $120,578.

Nicklaus was followed by John Daly and Vijay Singh in the two-day competition at the Nicklaus North golf course.

Canadian Ames began play Monday by winning two skins and $28,135.

Nicklaus matched his first-day total with a tap-in birdie worth $48,231 on the first hole of the back nine. Playing under steady rain on the back nine of a course he designed in 1995, Nicklaus totaled six skins and $96,462.

He was pleased with his game.

``Not only did it serve a purpose, it paid for some of the purpose,'' Nicklaus said, adding that things got tougher for him when rain made the course play longer the second day. ``I played pretty well. I don't have any complaints.

``I had an opportunity to win and didn't quite get there, but I suppose it was credible golf.''

Even in victory, Ames deferred to Nicklaus, using the event to prepare for a much-anticipated final British Open next week on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

``It was just a pleasure to get to play with Mr. Nicklaus,'' said Ames, who had not done so previously. ``We had a great week.''

Daly was third after just missing an ace on the 210-yard 17th. After Ames' long putt hung on the lip, Daly's easy birdie gave him two skins and $40,192 for a two-day total of $52,250 and allowed him to finish ahead of Singh.

``Me and Vijay have been good friends for a while,'' Daly said, noting that he gets the better of Singh in the skins competitions but is no match for him on tour.

PGA Tour money leader Singh was shut out for the second straight day. After missing a couple of short putts for skins on Monday, Singh went back and forth between a regular and cross-handed grip with his putter Tuesday.

Singh, who won the event in 2001 and 2003, said the sting of being blanked was lessened by the chance to play with Nicklaus so close to his competitive farewell at St. Andrews.

``I'm disappointed and I don't care,'' Singh said. ``I played pretty well. I just made birdies at the wrong time, but I had fun.

``I always have fun with John and it's an honor to play with Jack in what is probably the last competitive round we get to play with him unless we get paired with him at the British Open.

``I'll remember these days the rest of my life.''

Nicklaus hit a 7-iron inside 2 feet on the 158-yard, par-3 10th. After watching Singh, Daly and Ames miss birdie putts in the 15-20-foot range, Nicklaus tapped in to win the first skin of the day.

``I just had to sit there and watch,'' he said.

When Nicklaus missed his first fairway of the event on the next hole, he decided against searching for his ball in the long rough.

``Let's see if they can make a skin,'' he quipped as he quit on the hole.

For the next four holes no one could. Ames, a native to Trinidad and Tobago who received his Canadian citizenship in 2003, finally drained an 8-foot putt for the lone birdie on the 433-yard, par-4 15th to win five skins and $92,443.

Singh had his best chance at a skin when the other three got into trouble on the par-4 final hole, but his routine two-putt par was matched by Daly's up and down out of the bunker to force a playoff. Replaying the 18th, Singh hit his second shot to 15 feet, but was again undone by Daly, who hit a wedge to 5 feet.

Both settled for par and, with the rain pouring down, the players agreed not to play another extra hole, instead donating the final $20,096 skin to charity.


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