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Skins Game Has Shot At Redemption Once Highly Popular Event Features Four Big, If Not Entertaining, Stars

Bill Huffman Arizona Republic

The people who produce the Skins Game are billing this weekend’s extravaganza as the best edition in the past 10 years.

Of course, having Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, John Daly and defending champ Fred Couples all wired for sound and playing 18 holes of golf for $540,000 can make you feel pretty confident.

Shoot, Woods seems capable of carrying this made-for-TV event all by himself.

“This year we came within one (player) of hitting the biggest grand slam in the Skins Game since the early days of (Jack) Nicklaus and (Arnold) Palmer,” said one Skins official, who asked that his name not be used. “Truthfully, I can’t remember such a marquee foursome - even if Tom Watson is a little past his prime - since Fuzzy (Zoeller), (Lee) Trevino, Nicklaus and Palmer were paired up back in ‘86.”

Ah, yes, the 1986 Skins Game, which, by the way, topped the Masters that year in television ratings as golf’s most-watched event. If you have forgotten, Zoeller set the all-time Skins record that year by winning 14 of the 18 skins for $370,000.

The next year was equally as exciting, as the same foursome returned, and Trevino made an ace at the 17th hole, ending up with 10 skins worth $310,000.

Since then, this annual golf ritual, which is considered the forerunner of all “Silly Season” events, has been mired somewhat in mediocrity.

Lest we forget, the roots of the first Skins Game were planted in 1983 in Arizona, where Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson and Gary Player gathered in Scottsdale to play on a new course called Desert Highlands. From the get-go, the Skins Game was a huge success, even though Player and Watson became embroiled in a nasty incident over whether Player committed a rules infraction.

The game moved to California in 1985, and that was the year Zoeller bumped Player from the lineup. The next year, Trevino pushed Watson out of the original equation.

Those Skins Games, from 1985-87, are often referred to as the golden years of the Skins because Trevino and Zoeller brought their comedy acts, plus some great golf, to the telecast.

That won’t happen this year, because outside of Watson, who has a fairly good sense of humor, you’re looking at three serious guys who like to play for money.

Woods still is shy on camera, although he’s getting better after winning two PGA Tour events in the final two months of the season.

Daly, while likeable, has been in a bit of a funk since he burst on the scene back in 1991 by winning the PGA. His off-course troubles have haunted him, and he can’t be happy about this season - a total disaster.

Couples never has had much to say. He let’s his clubs do the talking and avoids the spotlight whenever he can. But he seems to thrive at the Skins Game, where in the past four years he has won more money - $910,000 - and more skins - 29 - than any of the 15 other players.

The main attraction is length off the tee, with big hitters Couples, Daly and Woods. But what of Watson?

“I don’t mind hitting last (from the fairway), because I know from past experience in the Skins Game that the biggest factor of all is making a birdie at the right time, or else you’re going to get shut out,” said Watson, who is 27 years older than Woods. “That’s the beauty of this event. It’s why so many people watch it.

“The way I see it, I’m just an old dog looking for a bone, especially if it comes on the back nine.”

Wordcount: 612
Tags: golf

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