Nicklaus-Watson wins Champions Skins Game

Published 2:56 am Monday, January 15, 2007

By By JAYMES SONG, AP Sports Writer
WAILEA, Hawaii — Jack Nicklaus wasn’t in a giving mood.
Nicklaus and Tom Watson earned seven skins and $260,000 on the back nine Sunday to edge Gary Player and Hay Haas in the Champions Skins Game.
Team Nicklaus-Watson finished with nine skins and $320,000, boosting the Golden Bear to a career-record 96 skins and $2,295,000. Second last year, Nicklaus and Watson sealed the win when Player-Haas bogeyed the first playoff hole and were eliminated.
Player and Haas, the Champions Tour player of the year, finished with six skins worth $290,000 in the four-team, alternate-shot event. The $30,000 margin was the second-smallest in event history, behind only Gary Player’s $10,000 victory over Watson in 2000 in individual play.
It was the first time since the 2000 tournament that everyone took home money.
Arnold Palmer made a 10-foot birdie on the second playoff hole on No. 16 to earn a skin worth $100,000 — and avoid being shutout for the third straight year. He teamed with Loren Roberts, making his first appearance in the tournament.
Defending champions Raymond Floyd and Dana Quigley began the day tied for the lead with Nicklaus-Watson at two skins and $60,000, but were blanked on the back nine.
Nicklaus and Watson pressured their opponents early on Watson’s bending 18-foot birdie putt on the par-3 11th, picking up seven skins worth $260,000. The hole ballooned to $260,000 after the previous six holes, including five Saturday, were carried over.
Haas, who won four Champions Tour events last year, had a chance to halve the hole, but left his 12-footer high.
With only $120,000 claimed on the front nine Saturday, $650,000 was up for grabs on the back side.
Nicklaus said his team didn’t make very many putts, ‘‘but we made the right putts at the right time. That’s why we got the check.’’
Nicklaus-Watson had seven birdies during the 18-hole, two-day event at the Wailea Golf Club’s Gold Course, a scenic layout with 93 bunkers. The 6,833-yard course built on the slopes of the dormant volcano Haleakala is surrounded by ancient Hawaiian rock walls. Conditions were sunny and calm Sunday.
Player-Haas made a late surge, picking up three skins worth $150,000 on Player’s 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th to draw to $30,000 of Nicklaus-Watson with $100,000 up for grabs on the 18th.
The 18th was carried over when Haas’ 7-foot birdie putt swirled in to halve the hole. But his approach fell short into the bunker on the first playoff hole, leading to a bogey for his team and a win for Nicklaus-Watson.
After being shutout for 13 holes, Player-Haas got on the board and got back into contention on the 420-yard 14th.
With three skins and $140,000 on the line, Haas holed a 10-footer for birdie to get his team on the board. Watson missed an 8-footer to halve the hole.
The 77-year-old Palmer struggled early in the day, often leaving his partner in the sand, rough and near trees. But Roberts, making his Skins debut, often answered with amazing saves.
Palmer came through on the second playoff hole, No. 16, pumping his right fist as the gallery and his opponents cheered. It was the same hole where he made a 25-foot birdie putt earlier in the day.
Palmer called it ‘‘lucky.’’
Everyone didn’t believe him.
The eight invitees have combined to win 553 tournaments worldwide — including 46 majors — and nearly $104 million.
Last year, Floyd made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole for nine skins and $410,000 to give him and Quigley a total of 10 skins and a record $510,000.