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End Game for Skins Game

This past week was the 24th Skins Game. Perhaps it should be the last.
After nearly a quarter-century, it would appear that this annual Thanksgiving weekend tradition has run its course.
This years installment included a guy who finished 193rd on the money list, a guy who has one PGA TOUR win in the last eight years, a guy who is a member of the senior circuit, and a guy who many casual golf fans ' who this event was made for ' couldnt identify with his name on his bag.
Stephen Ames, Fred Funk, Fred Couples, John Daly
Do these four players make you want to watch the Skins Game?
I asked my wife, a casual golf fan, Saturday afternoon while watching the Skins Game if she knew who John Daly was. Obviously she did.
I asked her is she was familiar with Fred Couples. He usually wins this thing, she responded. How about Fred Funk? He won last year and had to wear a skirt.
Stephen Ames? Who? No. Should I?
And about two minutes later, she left the room not to return. I imagine that was probably a good representation of the general population.
There are several reasons that the Skins Game has lost its luster. For one, star power, or lack thereof.
When Tiger Woods five-year contract with Disney concluded last year, it also put an end to his obligation to this competition. Hes not likely to return, which means the loss of millions of eyeballs.
This problem that the Skins Game faces is the same problem that the PGA TOUR faces ' a serious deficiency in personality.
Daly and Couples have solid fan support, but they are not overly entertaining to watch on TV. Funk, who tried to inject a little humor on a couple of occasions over the 18 holes, is a really good guy who can pump up a crowd on occasion. But he's not going to steal away a football audience. And this was a great opportunity for Ames to gain some recognition, but, honestly, how many people really care about getting to know Stephen Ames?
So who would be a good replacement? The answer is nobody from the modern game, at least not from the mens side. The ladies might have some good substitutes, especially ' and forgive me if this sounds crass, but its true ' if you factor in sex appeal.
Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak and Lorena Ochoa might make for a highly competitive event, but it probably wouldnt get bigger numbers than a foursome of Natalie Gulbis, Paula Creamer, Sophie Sandolo and May Wood.
(How many of you are Googling Sandolo and Wood right now? Word of warning: Sandolos Web site contains partial nudity.)
Sex appeal, while beneficial to many womens sports, doesnt mean nearly as much in the mens arena. But what does is entertainment.
Todays game doesnt have a Lee Trevino or Chi Chi Rodriguez. Theres not even a Fuzzy Zoeller or Payne Stewart.
There is no flash. There are no showmen.
And there are no legends. No Arnold Palmer or Gary Player or Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson, like they had in the inaugural Game in 1983.
Today, aside from Woods, there is Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh and Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. These are your multiple major winners.
Maybe its just me, but I really have no interest in seeing any of these four players competing in a Skins Game. They are all very talented, but they are also all quite boring.
Its understandable, to a certain degree. I imagine it must be difficult to play to a crowd when you are playing for so much money.
And thats another thing thats wrong with the Skins Game ' even if its not its fault.
There is so much money on the line each week that playing for a million dollars in an event like this just doesnt present any Wow factor (Sixteen events on the 2006 PGA TOUR schedule paid their winners at least $1 million).
Back in 83, the total purse for the Skins Game was $360,000, which was huge money.
Player, Palmer and Nicklaus never earned that much in a single season in their TOUR careers. Nicklaus made $316,911 in 1972, but it took seven wins, including two major titles, to get to that number. And, prior to that inaugural Game, Watsons best financial season was $530,808 in 1980, when he won six times.
Player was the first Skins Game winner, taking home $170,000 ' or just $7,336 less than his richest TOUR campaign in 1978.
One more problem is the location. Each year, the event takes place at a non-descript course in California. Perhaps a change of venue ' to Pebble Beach or Pinehurst or Whistling Straits ' might help. Or even better yet, to somewhere like Bandon Dunes or Pine Valley or Seminole ' places youve heard of but probably never seen.
The Skins Game does have a few things going for it. Twenty percent of the money won went to charity and not into the players pockets. And ABC Sports did air a nice feature on J.T. Townsend, a young man who was crippled during a high school football game and has developed an emotional and financial friendship with Funk.
Then, of course, there is tradition. But a glorious past can carry an undesirable present only so far.
The Skins Game has hit a wall. In fact, it probably hit the bricks a few years ago. It just keeps stubbornly plugging along, trying to break through.
There are several reasons why the Skins Game should die a merciful death. For one more: Ames was the big winner this year ' now he has to be invited back in 2007.
Unless there is no 2007.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs