A Facelift for the Skins Game


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