Stephen Ames blasts his way to a 64 at PGA Tour Champions’ Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

Stephen Ames blasts his way to a 64 at PGA Tour Champions' Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

En-Joie Golf Course was for the taking in Friday’s Round 1 of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.

No one took greater advantage in sweltering heat than Stephen Ames, twice a winner this season on the PGA Tour Champions who sits atop the Charles Schwab Cup earnings list ($1,270,963). He played bogey-free golf in a round of 8-under-par 64.

Ames made birdie on four of the final six holes to pass Steve Allan, who similarly made eight birdies in his round of 65.

Rocco Mediate sits solo third after a perfectly satisfying 66. Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer share fourth with Paul Stankowski (67). Els arrived in Endicott having won each of the last two Tour events, and Langer, soon to turn 67, continues his remarkable resurgence from February surgery to repair a torn Achilles.

Langer, 2014 champion at En-Joie, made five consecutive birdies beginning at the par-5 eighth.

Two-time defending Dick’s Open champion Padraig Harrington is smack in contention again, sharing seventh on a seven-birdie, three-bogey round of 68.

Second-round play is to begin at 7:50 a.m. Saturday, with the leaders off the tee at 12:25 p.m.

“I just played golf. I hit some nice — hit some quality golf shots,” said Ames, 60, an eight-time senior tour winner. “Tough to hit a lot of fairways on this golf course — they’re extremely narrow — but I think the opportunities, when I did hit the fairway, I made some birdies on it. Other than that, putted nicely and didn’t make any mistakes.”

He concluded his lowest round of the season by holing a birdie putt of 10 or so feet at the last. As for the root of his birdies on the three front-side par-5s?

“Length, I guess. Had the advantage of that,” he said. “Also the fact that I did hit the fairway, so that kind of helped. Actually, I missed the fairway on the third, I got it up and down from about 80 yards. So, I mean overall, just like I said, just playing golf. Capitalized on situations when they arose and putted nicely.”

Allen, 50-year-old Australian with one top-10 through 11 events of his rookie season, played in the first group of the day. He was 4-under through nine and proceeded to make birdie at the 12th, 16th and 18th in a spotless back nine.

“For the most part I played pretty well. I got lucky a couple times with my drives,” he said. “Hit a few drives left in the middle of the round, and one of them kicked in the fairway, I had gaps in the other two, so I was a little lucky. I played well, I holed out well around the hole.

“Any sort of shortish putts for par or birdie, I made ’em, so that kept the round going.”

Allan added, “The conditions are perfect at the moment. The greens have a little bit of firmness to them, but they’re not too hard. The course is in great shape. A good little bit — there’s a little bit of rough, so you have to drive the ball well, but it’s not overly penal if you just miss a fairway, so I love it. It’s great.”

Mediate made seven birdies against one bogey. He was forced to withdraw from his most recent three starts with a back ailment. His top finish in four completed events this season was a second to Ames at the Chubb Classic.

“Everything worked. I drove crappy on some holes, but I drove good on the holes I needed to, I guess,” he said. “I haven’t played healthy since Tucson. I’ve been out a lot, been out for a couple two months. I’m ecstatic, ecstatic. Feel much better, yeah.”

Odds & Ends

– Chad Campbell, in his third PGA Tour Champions event, was 4-under through five without making birdie – eagles at the first (hole-out from 127) and par-5 fifth took care of that. He shares seventh after a 68.

– Ames has eight top-10s in 12 starts this season. He was T4 two weeks back in the American Family Insurance Championship.

– Els has been a second- and third-place Dick’s Sporting Goods Open finisher.

– Dick Mast, 73-year-old Monday qualifier at the Links at Hiawatha Landing, shot 72 with four front-side birdies.

– Jerry Kelly withdrew before the first round, citing a back injury.

Round 1 Results

Stephen Ames 64

Steve Allan 65

Rocco Mediate 66

Paul Stankowski 67

Ernie Els 67

Bernhard Langer 67

Mario Tiziani 68

David Brandson 68

Dick’s Sporting Goods Open crowd favorite John Daly on the tee, June 21, 2024.
Michael Wright 68

Notah Begay III 68

David Duval 68

Miguel Angel Jimenez 68

Mike Weir 68

Padraig Harrington 68

Ken Tanigawa 68

Chad Campbell 68

Tim Petrovic 68

Doug Barron 68

Cameron Percy 69

Vijay Singh 69

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