A Facelift for the Skins Game

By Brian HewittNovember 29, 2004, 5:00 pm
The Skins Game may very well be the most overanalyzed event in golf, coming as it does at a time of year when all the so-called serious tournaments have concluded and everybody is kicking back and deciding just how much fun The Skins Game ought to be.
In one corner stand the critics who insist The Skins Game represents everything that is bad about golf and that the concept has long since outlived its usefulness (if indeed, there was anything useful about it to begin with).
Those critics need to chill.
There will come a day, however, when The Skins Game will run its course. Its a made for TV event. And all television shows - even Seinfeld - end some time.
My personal opinion on all of this is that The Skins Game is relatively healthy, if not thriving. I also believe that change would not be a bad thing.
But first lets grandfather Fred Couples into this thing for as long as he wants to participate. Couples has played in 11 Skins games and won more than $3 million in the process.
He is laid back. The Skins Game is laid back. For that matter, Couples may be the best player in the month of November in the history of golf.
Annika Sorenstam didnt win a skin last weekend in California. But I think her presence is important to the event. Or at least the presence of a woman is important. Id hate to see The Skins Game 10 years from no, without Michelle Wie. I do, however, think the women in The Skins Game, deserve a break from the teeing ground.
Its no shame for Sorenstam to have to admit that she cant keep up off the tee with the likes of Couples, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. Having to hit 7-woods and 4-irons into baked greens is an unfair disadvantage when youre playing against opponents hoisting wedges to the same tucked pins.
Sorenstam is more dominant on her tour than any player in the world today. She belongs at The Skins Game and she has earned the right to a level playing field. If she or Wie wants to play on the PGA Tour, they must hit it from the same tees. The Skins Game, however, is a different animal.
Speaking of the playing field, I like the Palm Springs area as much as the next guy. Its a terrific golf Mecca with a plethora of excellent golf choices, great weather, friendly people and terrific restaurants.
But lets think outside the box for a second here. Do you think Augusta National would ever open its gates to a Skins Game? Almost certainly not.
But wouldnt it be fun to see The Skins Game at a classic venue? There are plenty of them still open in late November. To name a few - Pinehurst, Riviera, Seminole, Champions, Olympic, Harbour Town, Torrey Pines, L.A. North, Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunesthe list goes on.
Most of those great places probably wouldnt want the Skins Game either, for one reason or another. But a few of them probably would. How about a Skins Game at the TPC at Sawgrass? Its a long shot. But we have come to know the holes there. And that familiarity would only heighten interest in the event.
Hello? Seventeen? Island green? Stiff wind? A dozen carryovers?
Theres a name for this. Its called great theater.
Heightened interest means better ratings. Better ratings mean more money for all the parties involved. A rising tide floats all boats higher.
One more suggestion: Lets have all four players put up their own money. Thats $250,000 apiece for a total purse of $1 million. Commission an accounting firm, say Price Waterhouse, to audit and verify the checks written by each entrant. Half of all Skins money won would go to a charity of the players choice. So to break even, a player would have to win $500,000.
To many people, The Skins Game is little more than another opportunity for rich golfers to become richer with no downside.
Make em pay an entry fee. Then lets see who antes up. This is not a new idea. But it is one with increased merit at the end of a year in which Vijay Singh won almost $11 million in one PGA Tour season.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

Getty Images

Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Getty Images

LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.