The 2003 edition was worth a peek only because it matched Annika Sorenstam against the men. And the men?
Well, there was Fred Couples, a lovable figure battling a shaky back ' but still a retread. There was Phil Mickelson, who probably looked pretty good when this Skins was put together at the beginning of the year ' but at seasons end just hanging onto the ropes. And there was Mark OMeara, who now is a long-lost shadow of the O'Meara of five years ago.
Couples was moderately compelling because he had rebounded from the depths the last two seasons ' seasons in which he finished 131st and 108th on the money list. This year, at age 43, he actually won a tour event and finished 31st in cash won. But he has long since passed his prime, and his presence alone isnt nearly enough to make you want to leave the football games and tune in to golf.
Mickelson is even less a reason, considering that in his last 16 events, he cracked the top 10 only twice. He is in the midst of a dreadful slump ' and his play in the Skins was a clear indication.
And OMeara ' well, OMeara is winding down a career that has seen a multitude of ups and downs. In 1998, he won two majors. In 1999, he still played well enough to finish 45th on the money list. Then he turned his attention to other things ' including the tragedy of his mothers death and the excitement of a budding design career ' and basically tuned out of active golf. He was in here solely because he happened to win it last year ' and he was in it then largely because of his association with Toyota, one of the Skins sponsors. A nice guy, OMeara, but he was totally out of place here. But, so probably was Mickelson.
Then there was Sorenstam. She alone made it worth dropping in on the telecast occasionally, just to see how she would do against the gents. Is that reason enough to drop the lawn mover or snow blower, or to change channels from your Sunday pro football game? As it developed, Annika won two holes, one with a hole-out from a bunker on a par-5, another with a 15-foot putt. That gave her five skins with the carryovers, good for second place behind Couples.
The telecast by ABC was anti-climatic, too. Because it was tape-delayed, it was chopped Sunday to fit the time slot. Therefore, you knew it was going to extra holes when they were on No. 18 with 30 minutes still remaining.
But then came a ridiculous shortening of the three playoff holes, showing only a shot or two of each before Couples winning putt on the third. Much better to have some other means of playing off a tie than to grind it out in hole-by-hole competition. The playoff holes should have been the most exciting part of the day. Instead, they were summarily kissed off to fit neatly into the time package.
Lets face it, after T. Woods, there isnt another compelling face in the sport that could draw us away from other mundane activities. And then he is compelling only if he has competition. Ernie Els would have been a reason to watch. So, possibly, would have been Vijay Singh. And Annika certainly was reason. But the field that was there last weekend? No way.
That, though, is the big problem with having to pick a field long before November. There originally was no dearth of interesting subjects ' the first Skins back in 1983 had Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson. Im not so sure that that field wouldnt have more interest today than what was served up to us last weekend.
Curtis Strange, Ian Baker-Finch, et al tried mightily to make it sound interesting and captivating. But it wasnt. Not even remotely. Couples won and piled up more cash on his already money-leading total. Annika won her two holes and was in the mix for a couple of others. Other than that little bit of drama ' zilch!
Its hardly fair to criticize the participants ' after all, they didnt request to be here. And its hardly fair to criticize the announcers ' they get paid to do this one, just the same as they get paid to do the majors. But its more than fair to criticize the event. Lets let the Skins Game die a merciful death, at least as far as a big-time television event is concerned. It has run its course.
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