By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
WAILEA, Maui Only four men who have won nearly $40 million could leave half a million out on the golf course and grin about it.
When the sun comes up this morning at Waileas Gold Course, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Hale Irwin will meet on the 10th tee for Day 2 of the Senior Skins Game. That hole will be worth $140,000 (five skins). By the end of the day, $500,000 will have changed hands.
The fearsome foursome managed to snag only one-sixth of the $600,000 purse yesterday, in ideal conditions that translated to multiple birdies the first seven holes were decided by birdies. A huge gallery (6,000 estimate), whales and light trade winds greeted Wailea Resorts Skins debut but, as usual, most of the excitement was saved for today.
There was a surge of skins in the middle of yesterdays front nine, then silence. Nicklaus third consecutive birdie collected the first cash $60,000 on the third hole. On the next hole, Palmers breathtaking approach shot, to within two feet, turned into $20,000. Irwin dropped a six-foot birdie putt to win $20,000 more at the fifth.
From there, Players anguish was all that set these guys apart. And the other three werent listening.
Last January, in the Skins final year at Mauna Lani on the Big Island, Player was shut out for 18 holes, then drained an 18-foot birdie putt worth $220,000 to beat everybody. These four may be senior citizens, but there is nothing wrong with their memories.
"We stole a few from Gary today," Nicklaus said yesterday, "but last year Gary stole some from us. Thats the way Skins works."
Player hit an approach shot every bit as breathtaking as Palmers on the sixth, but it lipped out and Palmer covered his birdie from long range. Nicklaus did the same on the seventh.
Nicklaus and Player missed from within 10 feet on the final hole, underestimating the radical pull of an oceanside green.
"I knew it broke, I just wasnt sure how much," Nicklaus said. "First I thought it was an inch, then I ended up playing it five or six inches and it wasnt nearly enough."
Irwin, by far the youngest and most successful of this group in recent years, told anyone who would listen how well Player and Nicklaus played yesterday. They were a factor on every hole but the one Irwin won.
"What about me?," Palmer asked plaintively.
"Ill get to you," Irwin said with a smile. "They played the kind of game you need to play to be in a Skins Game. You have to be there all the time, all the time.
"Neither I nor Arnie played as well as we would have liked, but nevertheless were still here with all those skins hanging out tomorrow."
SHORT PUTTS: Ten percent of each players winnings go to charity. The players have designated St. Louis Childrens Hospital (Hale Irwin), Barbara and Jack Nicklaus Junior Golf Endowment Fund, The Gary Player Foundation and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women as their charities. ... Palmer has played in 13 of the 14 Senior Skins Games, missing only 1997 when he was suffering from prostate cancer.
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