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Players shut out during first day of Skins Game

Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2001

INDIO, Calif. -- The way Tiger Woods and his buddies were so accommodating on Saturday, you might think they didn't need the $300,000 up for grabs on the front nine of the Skins Game.

It's doubtful they do, but here's something that might get their attention -- playing the 18th hole on Sunday in a winner-take-all for $1 million.

That scenario became increasingly likely Saturday after a new rule that makes it harder to cash in skins led to a front nine where all four players were shut out for the first time in the 19-year history of the Thanksgiving weekend event.

If Sunday's skins don't come any easier, Greg Norman can see himself walking to the 18th tee with Woods, Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik with the entire $1 million purse at stake.

''The chances are 70 to 80 percent we could be coming down to 18 with all the marbles on the line,'' Norman said.

An opening nine that in previous years would have had all but Parnevik winning money with skins ended with all four players skinless, but eagerly anticipating the back nine on Sunday.

A rule change designed to keep viewers tuned to their televisions ended up keeping the foursome from winning any of the $300,000 that was on the line over the front nine at the Landmark Golf Club. Under the rule, a player who won a skin had to at least tie for best score on the next hole to cash it in.

No one did, so now the 10th hole will be worth $350,000 all by itself.

''Has there ever been a day when no one won a skin?'' Woods asked as he entered the media room after the round.

There hadn't, but, then again, there has never been a time in the made-for-TV event where so much was up for grabs on the back nine. That could be the case on Sunday, and Norman, for one, couldn't be happier.

''I think this is the perfect segue into Sunday television,'' he said. ''I like the idea of going to 10 tee on Sunday dead broke and needing to win to keep it going.''

Skins were won -- Woods took the first hole, for example -- but the rule change meant players couldn't collect unless they either won or tied the next hole. No one did, although Montgomerie let a chance to collect $125,000 slip away with a bad decision that led to bogey on the par-5 sixth.

Under the old format, Montgomerie would have pocketed $75,000 on Saturday, with Norman and Woods earning $25,000 apiece for their lone skins.

Four skins were won in the first five holes, but none were cashed in. The final four holes were all halved by two or more players.

In fact, the new rule meant that there was never a chance to win money on the final three holes because no skins had been won the hole before.

''It's a great format,'' Woods said. ''You have to play well, there's no fluke involved.''

Montgomerie agreed.

''It must be better for the viewers,'' he said. ''It makes for a very interesting day tomorrow.''

With Woods returning for the first time in four years and the rule change that television officials hoped would build excitement as play went on, there were high hopes that this year the Skins Game would rebound from sagging ratings and regain its prominence in a now-cluttered offseason.

Woods did his part to bring in a large gallery, but the jury is still out on whether the tradeoff in Saturday's cashless day will be worth the boost the event may get on Sunday with large sums in play.

Woods had $25,000 taken from his pocket when Norman birdied the second hole to nullify Woods' birdie win on No. 1. A hole later, Norman lost his chance to collect money when he made par and Montgomerie birdied for the skin.

Montgomerie couldn't cash in, though, making par on the next hole while Parnevik and Woods birdied.

Montgomerie, the defending champion after earning $415,000 last year, put himself in position to win at least $125,000 with a 21-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 fifth hole.

All Montgomerie had to do was tie the low score on the next hole, a 569-yard par-5, and he put himself in good position to do so by actually outdriving Woods by 7 yards on the hole.

''It was the first time I'd ever been seven anything ahead of Tiger,'' Montgomerie said.

Montgomerie made a mental mistake with his next shot, though, costing him a chance to win. Instead of laying up with an iron, he hit a 3-wood into a fairway bunker 70 yards short of the hole. He then hit his bunker shot thin over the green into a bush, ending his hopes of cashing in on the previous hole's skin.

Unlike last year's event, when Montgomerie won two skins with pars, all four players played relatively well in light breezes at the Landmark Golf Club.

Woods made three birdies and shot 33 on the front nine, while Montgomerie shot 35, and Norman and Parnevik both shot 36.

Australian Open

GOLD COAST, Australia -- Stuart Appleby shot a 4-under-par 67 to share a three-stroke lead with Australian compatriot Scott Laycock after three rounds of the Australian Open.

Both are at 7-under 206 entering the last round of the $750,000 tournament. Ernie Els finished with a 73 and slipped to 209. Geoff Ogilvy of Australia had a 74 and was at 210, one stroke ahead of countryman Rod Pampling (75).

World Open

KAIMON, Japan -- Kiyoshi Murota of Japan equaled a course record with a 9-under-par 63 and held a four-stroke lead after three rounds of the $1.16 million Casio World Open. He is at 20-under 196, with Sergio Garcia of Spain (66) and Dinesh Chand of Fiji (64) sharing second. Murota made three straight birdies after the turn and had one of his two eagles in the par-5 13th hole. Garcia began the third round one stoke behind Murota. He also eagled the 13th.

Asian Open

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Sweden's Carl Pettersson shot a 3-under-par 69 to share the third-round lead with Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez in the $1.5 million BMW Asian Open.

Jimenez closed with a 70 and was tied with Pettersson at 7-under 209 entering the last round. Second-round leader Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden (72) and Thomas Levet of France (69) were one stroke back.

Jimenez looked set to hold the outright lead, but missed a 1-foot par putt on the 18th.

Stephen Dodd of Wales (70) and Brian Davis of England (69) were at 211. Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain shot a 70 to finish at 212 with Charlie Wi of South Korea (68), Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand (68) and Barry Lane of England (69).



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