Can Stephen Ames hold off Bernhard Langer and Mike Weir?


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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — If Stephen Ames had his way in the 82nd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, the 58-year-old Canadian would prefer to be the hunter instead of the hunted in Sunday’s final round at Harbor Shores.

“I don’t like to be that guy, period,” said third-round leader Ames after his 4-under-par 67 in Saturday’s third round left him at 12-under 201, two strokes ahead of fellow Canadian Mike Weir and PGA Tour Champions legend Bernhard Langer of Germany, who also recorded 67s at the par-71, 6,852-yard Jack Nicklaus design by Lake Michigan.

In addition to Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, and Langer, who has won two Masters and a record 11 senior major titles, the leaderboard’s top 12 golfers include defending Senior PGA champion Alex Cejka of Germany and the top two money-winners on senior circuit – No. 1 Steve Alker and No. 2 Miguel Angel Jimenez.

That’s heady company for the 58-year-old Ames, the 2006 Players champion who has just two senior victories, to hold off.

“Either way I look at it, I’m going to go out there and play my game,” Ames said. “I can’t control what anybody is doing. The only thing I can control is myself, so I’m going to try and keep my emotions the way they are right now and play golf. If it comes out, it comes out.”

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The 64-year-old Langer and the left-handed Weir, who started the day two strokes behind Ames and his co-leader and housemate for the week, Scott McCarron, were among the 39 golfers who shot sub-par rounds in Saturday’s ideal scoring conditions which were opposite of Friday’s rain, wind and cold temperatures.

Ames started his round with birdies at Nos. 2 and 3. After he bogeyed the 436-yard seventh hole, Ames finished the front with a birdie on the par-5 ninth to turn in 2-under 34. Ames then birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and finished with six straight pars to maintain his lead over Langer and Weir, who stumbled on their way to the clubhouse.

“I was just keeping it in play and getting those long putts really nice and close,” added Ames, who had double bogeys in each of his first two rounds but didn’t come close to one Saturday.

The 52-year-old Weir couldn’t avoid one at the par-3, 201-yard 17th hole where his 6-iron tee shot missed a bunker but not a rake outside of it. The ball caromed off the rake into the hazard where it lodged against a couple of branches. Weir ended up making an 8-footer to save his double bogey.

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“That was an unfortunate bounce,” added Weir, who made seven birdies in his round, including five in a six-hole stretch beginning at the fifth hole. “I hit a nice drive and an 8-iron close at 18 (for his last birdie).”

Langer would be a shot closer if not for his three-putt bogey from 35 feet at 18, his only mistake in a round which began with a birdie at No. 1 and two more at Nos. 6 and 9 for a front-side 33. He added two more on the back nine at Nos. 12 and 15 before chipping in from the fringe for par at the par-4 16th and then getting up-and-down at No. 17 for another par.

“It’s always fun to be in contention,” said Langer, who has three top-10 finishes in previous Senior PGAs played at Harbor Shores in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Langer, who makes his home in Boca Raton, Florida, completed the senior grand slam with his Senior PGA championship in 2017 at Trump National outside Washington, and while he didn’t play in the 2018 event at Harbor Shores because of his youngest son’s high school graduation, he did show up for its media day.

“The golf course was perfect,” Langer continued. “(It was) really (in) very good shape. Nice fairways, fantastic greens and the weather was phenomenal.”

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As was the scoring. American Paul Goydos, who has just three bogeys in three rounds, was a stroke behind Langer at 9-under 204 after a four-birdie 67. A stroke behind Goydos at 205 are defending Cejka (68), Florida’s Brian Gay (69) and the 50-year-old Alker (69), who has two victories and almost $1.2 million in earnings. Alker managed to overcome a pair of double bogeys in his round with six birdies.

Jimenez, who is No. 2 in money earnings with two victories, had the best round of the day, a 6-under 65, and leaped into a tie for eighth at 7-under 206 with Americans Shane Bertsch (67) and Gene Sauers (66), Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee (66) and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who fought through a stiff neck to shoot 68.

Sunday’s weather is predicted to be sunny and warmer but with gusty south winds. That could mean Harbor Shores’ record winning scores of 19-under 265 by champions Rocco Mediate (2016) and Paul Broadhurst (2018) could be safe.



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