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Stephen Ames wins Skins Game in playoff

Stephen Ames took the big bucks in his first Skins Game.

Ames rolled in a 3-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole Sunday for $270,000 that gave him the championship with a total of $590,000.

"I forgot about the golf swing and just started playing golf," Ames said. "I made some nice putts and hit some good shots where I made some skins early on."

Five-time champion Fred Couples finished second with $385,000. John Daly won one skin worth $25,000 and ruined his chance at the $270,000 still up for grabs when he drove into a fairway bunker on the third playoff hole.

Fred Funk, who wore a pink skirt on one hole last year then went on to laugh all the way to the bank with $925,000 and the title, was shut out in his second trip to the Skins.

Couples and Funk were eliminated on the second playoff hole, when Ames and Daly each had birdies.

Couples, who was making his 13th appearance and is known as "King of the Skins," ran his career earnings in the event to $3.9 million. Although he didn't win this time, Couples played the best golf of the foursome, with 10 birdies and an eagle over 20 holes.

"Freddie should have won," Daly said. "No offense to Stephen, but Freddie played better than all three of us. Stephen just got it at the right time."

In Skins competition, a player wants to win the big-money holes as the pot builds up. Ames won the title by taking eight skins and Couples won nine, but for but less money.

Although the joking and needling didn't quite measure up to the hoopla over Funk's donning a skirt for the third hole last year when Annika Sorenstam outdrove him, there were a lot of lighter moments.

Funk played a couple of practical jokes, including replacing Daly's ball on the sixth green with a remote-control ball that lurched back and forth, then serving as Daly's caddy on the 11th tee, when he handed him a huge wedge and a child's 9-iron.

"I didn't realize his bag weighed 9,000 pounds," Funk said. Daly shot back, "That's all the cigarettes."

When Ames curled in a 10-foot birdie putt to tie No. 17 after Couples made a birdie from 45 feet, Couples said, tongue in cheek, "I'm so happy for him."

Funk and Daly also teed off at the same time, side by side, on No. 16, chuckling almost the entire time.

Daly won the first hole of the two-day, 18-hole event, then had trouble off the tee and on the green most of the rest of the way.

"It just kind of sums up the way my putting's been this year," Daly said. "I haven't made anything."

Funk said it was no fun to get shut out in the defense of his title, but "It was a good average for two years. It's just a thrill to be a part of this Skins Game."

Ames, the first touring pro from Trinidad and Tobago, made his Skins Game debut after winning The Players Championship earlier this year.

The 42-year-old Ames, now a Canadian citizen, made $250,000 with a 1-foot birdie on No. 12, then rolled in an 18-footer for another birdie and $70,000 on No. 13.

Daly's tee shot on the third playoff hole, the par-4, 415-yard No. 2 at Trilogy Golf Club, lodged deep in the sand, just below the lip of the bunker. Another 6 inches on his drive would have cleared it.

He hit out of the sand and into the fairway and Ames tucked his approach within 3 feet of the pin. Daly finally tapped in for a bogey before Ames sank his putt.

All four players had tied with birdies on the first playoff hole.

Couples, who topped the earnings the first day with $175,000, added $140,000 when he won the 15th hole with a 5-foot birdie putt, and $70,000 more with an 8-foot eagle putt on No. 16.

Blanked the first day, Ames earned a cool quarter of a million dollars after hitting his wedge within a foot of the pin on the par-4, 377-yard 12th. He quickly picked up another $70,000 on the next hole when he rammed in an 18-footer, the ball striking the back of the cup, bouncing up, then dropping in.

The prize money on the first six holes was $25,000 each; Nos. 7-12 $50,000 apiece; 13 through 17 worth $70,000 each. The final hole was a "Super Skin" for $200,000. When a hole was tied, that money carried over until one of the players won a hole outright.




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