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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 5, 2006

New format stirs up Skins Game

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer


WHO: Teams of Arnold Palmer and Peter Jacobsen, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, Gary Player and Hale Irwin, and Raymond Floyd and Dana Quigley

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. tomorrow

WHERE: Wailea Gold Golf Course, Maui (6,845 yards, Par 72)

PURSE: $770,000. $30,000 first 6 holes, $40,000 next 6, $50,000 next 5, $100,000 18th. Money carries over if no team wins hole outright

PRO-AM: 8 a.m. today

ADMISSION: $10 Pro-Am, $25 Skins. Children 12-under free with ticket-holding adult

PARKING: $3 in grass lot off Wailea Ike Drive (free shuttle). Open 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow

TV COVERAGE: 1:30 p.m., ESPN

INFORMATION: 875-7450 on Maui or ChampionsSkinsWailea.com

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Arnold Daniel Palmer

Age: 76

Career titles: 96 worldwide, including 13 majors

Official career winnings: $3.6 million

Highlights: World Golf Hall of Fame (1974) ... Athlete of the Decade for '60's Peter Erling Jacobsen

Age: 51

Career titles: 17, including 1 major

Official career winnings: $9.5 million

Highlights: 2003 PGA Tour Comeback Player of Year ... 2005 Champions Tour Comeback Player of Year

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Jack William Nicklaus

Age: 65

Career titles: 114, including 26 majors

Official career winnings: $9.5 million

Highlights: World Golf Hall of Fame (1974) ... Sports Illustrated Best Individual Male Athlete of the Century Tom Sturges Watson

Age: 56

Career titles: 56, including 12 majors

Official career winnings: $17.8 million

Highlights: World Golf Hall of Fame (1988) ... Six-time PGA of America Player of Year

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Gary Player

Age: 70

Career titles: 163, including 15 majors

Official career winnings: $7.8 million

Highlights: World Golf Hall of Fame (1974) ... South African Sportsman of the Century ... won tour events in five different decades ... traveled more than 14 million miles Hale S. Irwin

Age: 60

Career titles: 85, including 10 majors

Official career winnings: $28.6 million

Highlights: World Golf Hall of Fame (1992) ... three-time Champions Player of Year ... member of Colorado's All-Century Football Team

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Raymond Loran Floyd

Age: 63

Career titles: 60, including 8 majors

Official career winnings: $14.3 million

Highlights: World Golf Hall of Fame (1989) ... 2000 Champions Comeback Player of Year ... only golfer, with Sam Snead, to win PGA Tour events in four different decades Dana C. Quigley

Age: 58

Career titles: 12

Official career winnings: $12.5 million

Highlights: 2005 Champions Player of Year ... oldest ever (58) to earn money title in 2005 ... shot in 60s in half of last year's 84 rounds ... holds tour record with 278 consecutive starts

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Originators trace the birth of the Wendy's Champions Skins Game to 1983, when two television executives envisioned the popular weekend golf game blown far out of proportion.

Instead of hackers playing for $1 skins, four of the best golfers in the world would play for hundreds of thousands in front of a TV audience. If a player did not win a hole outright, the money would carry over so, for example, Raymond Floyd could win $290,000 with one putt in 1995.

The format has barely been tweaked since. This year, it has been shaken and stirred for tomorrow's latest version at Wailea's Gold Course on Maui.

The seniors have switched to a two-man team format. Teammates will tee off on either the even or odd holes, then hit alternate shots. The pot is up to $770,000 and every man has his new best friend watching his back and his wallet.

"It is a good concept. I think it will revitalize the skins game," said Gary Player.

Interest is clearly up. Wailea's hotels are crowded. All ESPN commercial spots have been gobbled up. The tournament Web site had to be upgraded because it received so many hits.

Attendance might be down because it has moved to a weekday from the usual Super Bowl Sunday morning slot. ABC, which has shown every other senior skins game, has the Super Bowl this year and couldn't squeeze golf in, leaving it to ESPN and a Monday tee time.

But the players are enthusiastic.

"I enjoy the Skins Game and when they called me ... I don't know whether I had any influence on the format change, but they were trying to put some spice in it and I suggested the alternate shot for them to consider," said Jack Nicklaus, the defending champion whose $340,000 last year was the biggest paycheck of his remarkable career.

"I think it's kind of an interesting format. It's fun and I think it allows somebody like myself, who is really not playing a whole lot of golf, to have some fun, play with some of my old friends and have a little competition."

Nicklaus is playing with Tom Watson. They first met in Topeka, Kan., when Watson was 15. Last summer they celebrated Nicklaus' British Open retirement together.

Arnold Palmer, whose charm helped elevate this concept and the senior tour into successful ventures, is playing with the puppy of this eightsome in Peter Jacobsen, 51. It is the 22nd time they have played together in a sanctioned team event.

Player, the 70-year-old from South Africa, is teamed with Hale Irwin, who has turned the Champions Tour into his personal bank machine.

The "upstarts" are Floyd, who won this a record five straight years, and 2005 Champions Player of the Year Dana Quigley, whose idea of an off day is to only play 36 holes.

Each player donates 10 percent of his winnings to charity. Half goes to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the other half to the charity of the player's choice.

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.