On the Hot Seat: Stephen Ames

Despite globe-trotting on professional tours around the world for much of his career, despite claiming the erstwhile Western Open in 2004, then prevailing again with a win at the prestigious Players Championship in 2006 and this year's closing tournament at Disney, Stephen Ames might be remembered best for one specific incident.

9 and 8.

That was the score by which Ames lost to Tiger Woods in the opening round of last year's Accenture Match Play Championship. Is it fair that the world's 31st-ranked golfer is best known for one unfortunate day against the game's top player? Of course not.

After all, in addition to those three career PGA Tour victories, he has established himself as an elite ball striker who also won last year's LG Skins Game. In advance of his title defense, we put Ames on the ESPN.com Hot Seat, getting his take on that fateful day at La Costa, the FedEx Cup and why he bides his time in Calgary -- Calgary! -- in the winter months.

Q: First of all, I've got to ask: How's the weather in Calgary this time of year?

A: Oh, it's cold. It's minus-4 Celsius right now. So what's that, about 20, 25 degrees.

Q: Not exactly a hotbed for professional golfers, is it?
A: No, it's not. [laughs]

Q: You were born and raised in Trinidad and then moved to Canada. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?
A: Yes and no. Not good for golf, but great for upbringing a family and everything else in Canada.

Q: Is that why you moved there?
A: To some extent. My wife is also from here.

Q: Safe to assume it will be a little nicer in Kapalua the first week of January than in Calgary?
A: I hope it will. [laughs] I'm sure it will, let's put it that way.

Q: You won the last PGA Tour event of the season at Disney after some pretty major swing changes. Did the victory serve as validation for the overhaul?
A: It's heading in the right direction, yeah. I'm starting to hit the shots that I was accustomed to hitting before. I think the idea is just to be able to get used to the feeling, then still be able to hit the shots. That's always the hardest thing. You know, I did that there over the week and it was perfect for me.

Q: When exactly did you start changing your swing?
A: Almost a year to the date, actually. It was the week before the Skins Game when I started.

Q: And what did you change?
A: I'm a little too much on my left side, so we're trying to get me to feel more on the right side at the top of my swing and then go from there.

Q: Do you think you'll ever put together four rounds better than the 2006 Players Championship, when you won by six?
A: Oh, wow. I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. I don't know.

Q: How good did it feel to play that well?
A: It was good, the last day especially, when everything was on the line. I played awesome except for one hole -- I made a double on 10. But other than that, yeah, I played great golf.

Q: What were your impressions of the inaugural FedEx Cup season?
A: I think it was very good. The events were run very well. I think the only thing that was a downfall was that we had so many weeks on top of one another to play, and I believe that's one of the things we've changed for '08 is that we don't have as many events on top of one another, especially with the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup situations.

Q: If you could wear the commissioner's hat for a day, if there was one more thing you could change about the FedEx Cup, what would it be?
A: Probably get rid of the pro-ams during the FedEx Cup. I think that was suggested, but I'm not sure if it's going to be done. That's hard to do.

Q: I know it's been almost two full years since the Accenture Match Play loss to Tiger Woods, but I've got to ask you about it. Do players ever rib you with whispers of "9 and 8" in the locker room?
A: Nope.

Q: What did you learn about yourself that day?
A: How much I dislike playing in California. [laughs]

Q: What did you learn about Woods?
A: Nothing -- because I knew already how good he was.

Q: Let's talk about the upcoming LG Skins Game. How often do you play skins, whether its in practice rounds for PGA Tour events or just teeing it up with buddies?
A: Never, actually.

Q: And you were able to go in there and win last year and feel comfortable in that format?
A: Yeah, I guess the only thing that is different is the fact that it's a bit of a match play if you're out of the hole. In a way, it's like match play. You can go at the flagstick and if it happens to be a good number, you're going to hit it close and if not, then it's going to be tough. But I think it's a little bit more of a go-for-broke type of thing, which is what it's about anyhow. It's having fun, but also entertaining the crowds that are following.

Q: You know, Fred Funk wore a pink flowered skirt a few years back. That might be a nice color for you.
A: No thanks. [laughs] I'll leave that for Fred.

Q: Let's play Fill in the Blank. The best player without a major is _________.
A: Colin Montgomerie.

Q: The best player without a PGA Tour victory is _________.
A: Hmmm, that's a good one. I think you've got to look at Skip Kendall.

Q: The best player under 30 is _________.
A: Sergio [Garcia].

Q: The best golf course on tour is _________.
A: I guess I've got to go with Augusta National.

Q: The best golf course in the world is _________.
A: Wow. Good one. I've got to either go with Augusta or St. Andrews.

Q: The best thing about being a professional golfer is _________.
A: I don't have someone telling me what time I have to go to work. [laughs]

Q: Sounds like a great job.
A: It is a great job.

Q: Stephen Ames, you're off the ESPN.com Hot Seat.
A: Thanks.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.