Notes Nothing Silly About Freddies Earnings

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Fred Couples already has made $450,000 in two events since the PGA TOUR season officially ended, representing 58 percent of his earnings this year. And while he finished second to Stephen Ames in the Skins Game, he continues to show why he's the king of the silly season.
 
Couples' runner-up finish at Trilogy was worth $385,000, pushing his career earnings in the Skins Game alone to $3.9 million. For those keeping score, that's more money than Arnold Palmer made in his 50 years on the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour.
 
Is the end near?
 
'I've had my run,' Couples said. 'I got lucky to be in this year. Maybe they'll let me come back next year. I don't know how many years I've been here, but it's been a long, long, long time.'
 
So long, in fact, that he was able to add some perspective on a silly-season event that has lost its punch.
 
The Skins Game began in 1983 with Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson, who combined to win 198 times on the PGA TOUR, including 42 majors.
 
'This is a little different group than those guys, to say the least,' Couples said.
 
Ames, Couples, John Daly and Fred Funk have combined to win 29 times, including three majors.
 
But while it was lacking in star quality, and some wish the Skins Game would go away, it still drew a larger television audience than some regular PGA TOUR events in the fall. The overnight rating for the first round on Saturday was 2.3, the same as the national rating in 2005 when Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam joined Funk and Couples.
 
The Sunday overnight was 1.6, compared with a national rating of 2.7 last year.
 
Meanwhile, the PGA TOUR is putting together the final touches on the 'challenge season' for 2007. And while there won't be any significant changes, the tour wants to make sure the silly season is structured like regular tournaments.
 
'They had three criteria,' said television producer Terry Jastrow, who runs the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge. 'Did it forward the image of the PGA TOUR? Did it have a meaningful charity component? Did the players like it?'
 
The Target World Challenge, the bonanza of the silly season with a $5.75 million purse, is the only stroke-play event over 72 holes. It's the only one assured of getting Tiger Woods, who is the tournament host (the event benefits the Tiger Woods Learning Center).
 
But that doesn't guarantee big ratings.
 
Target last year drew a 1.6 on Saturday and Sunday, the same overnight rating as the Skins Game on Sunday.
 
SUB-PAR BLUES
Jerry Kelly kept shooting good scores at the wrong time.
 
Kelly led the PGA TOUR this year in one of the more peculiar statistics -- most tournaments with all four rounds in the 60s without winning. Kelly did it five times. He tied for 13th in the Sony Open, tied for 12th at Colonial, tied for ninth at Disney and was runner-up at Tucson and Milwaukee. He wound up 39th on the money list, although he didn't win until the Merrill Lynch Shootout, a week after the official season ended.
 
Right behind in the '60s and bust' category was Heath Slocum, who did it four times (Tucson, Booz Allen, John Deere and Disney).
 
And perhaps the strongest effort came from two-time winner Jim Furyk. He had three tournaments with all four rounds in the 60s without winning, and two of them were World Golf Championships. The other was the Buick Open. All three were won by Tiger Woods.
 
CLOSING BELL
After two straight years in the top 10 on the PGA TOUR money list, Sergio Garcia fell to No. 49 this year, and it wasn't hard to see why. His biggest problem was Sunday.
 
Garcia didn't break par in the final round of a PGA TOUR event until a 69 at the Memorial.
 
Of the 12 cuts he made on TOUR, he broke par only three times in the final round and broke 70 just twice. His final-round scoring average was 72.9, which placed him 181st among 196 players and 4.2 shots behind Tiger Woods.
 
Garcia most recently was in contention Sunday two weeks ago at the Taiheiyo Masters until closing with a 77.
 
AUGUSTA ON HIS MIND
Brett Quigley had by far his best year on the PGA TOUR. He finished 20th on the money list with more than $2.6 million, about as much as his last three years combined.
 
Best of all, he finally gets to play in the Masters.
 
'Unbelievable,' Quigley said. 'That's pretty cool, especially going to school in South Carolina, going down to the practice rounds. To me, that's probably the best reward for playing great this year.'
 
Quigley played Augusta National two years ago with his father, a college friend and a member. He said it was 40 degrees with miserable conditions and 'I loved every minute of it.'
 
He already has a caddie lined up for the Masters -- his father, Paul, a top amateur in New England who also caddied for him at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields in 2003 when Quigley opened with a 65.
 
'I think I have to, my first time there,' Quigley said. 'I think it would be an amazing thing for the both of us, something I would love to share with him.'
 
DIVOTS
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson will be partners again in the Champions Skins Game, to be played Jan. 13-14 on Maui. Other teams will be Arnold Palmer and Loren Roberts, Gary Player and Jay Haas, and defending champions Ray Floyd and Dana Quigley. ... U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy had a tough time going from the slick greens of Australia to the Bermuda greens of Poipu Bay at the Grand Slam of Golf. 'I played the Australian Open last week,' he said. 'If I hit some of those putts that hard, I would have been bouncing off the shins of the people in the crowd.' ... Shane Bertsch and Patrick Sheehan tied for the PGA TOUR lead by playing 34 tournaments this year. Sheehan will play in his 35th this week in California -- the final stage of Q-school.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Five years ago, 55 players earned at least $1 million on the PGA TOUR. This year, 59 players failed to win a tournament and still earned at least $1 million.
 
FINAL WORD
'There are two criteria for me to get it. One was the fact that Tiger didn't want to play.' -- Skins Game champion Stephen Ames.
 
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