It’s been a while since Stephen Ames has seen a lot of putts go in the hole but on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, one of the 50-and-over crew’s major championships, they dropped by the bucketful.
Ames rode his hot putter to a second-round 66 that gave him a share of top spot along with American Scott McCarron.
While Ames has posted four top-10 finishes this season, he’s been tied for 31st and tied for 46th in his last two tournaments, largely due to a balky putter. Even when he played well earlier in the year, his putter prevented him from challenging for a title.
“Putting has been a bit of an issue the six events that I've played,” said Ames. “I've had opportunities but I couldn't make the putts to close things out. I've been working a little bit on that, mentally more than the stroke itself. Those things I've put in place this week that I've been working on, and it's coming out, which is nice. It's freed me up quite a bit.”
His two longest putts came on the back nine. He drained a 20-footer for birdie on 13 and then holed a 25-footer for another birdie on the 16th.
Most of his game remains solid from a swing standpoint. He is inside the top 30 in every significant statistic and currently sits 11th in the Charles Schwab Cup money list, the season-long standing for players on PGA Tour Champions. But as was the case with his time on the PGA Tour, the mental side of his game has always been the difference maker.
“The things I work on with the psychologist at this stage right now of my career, it's always about the mental part, not the physical part,” he said. “That's what we try to get out. Just to try to get out of our own way, basically.”
The second round at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich., was played in cool, rainy conditions which added to the difficulty for the field. That was far different than the opening round where it was warm and relatively calm. Ames firmly admitted he wasn’t a fan of Friday’s weather.
“It was different course, weather, it's cold. Not my cup of tea, literally. I'm not a fan of the cold weather even though I lived in Canada. But I never went out and played golf in this,” he stated.
Ames wasn’t the only Canadian flag on the leaderboard. Mike Weir, who started the day one shot back of top spot, posted an even-par 71 and sits tied for third with Steven Alker and Brian Gay.
Weir birdied the ninth and 10th holes and then made bogey on 17 and 18. The scorecard showed a solid day but the Canadian admitted it wasn’t as good as his opening-round 65.
“Even though it was steady golf I didn't feel like I had it like I did yesterday,” said Weir. “The back nine played a little bit more difficult with the conditions as they are, and I struggled a little bit through those middle holes.
An example of that came on the 15th when Weir hit his second shot into the water but managed to still walk off with a par.
“Actually the shot I hit in the water on 15 I hit a very good shot,” he said. “Just the heavy air, I couldn't believe how short that 5-wood I hit into the green. It was a really nice, well-struck 5-wood, came up short but saved a par.”
Two other Canadians in the field, David Morland IV and Kevin Parker, were projected to miss the cut which came at three-over par.