Garcia wins big at Skins Game

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2000

INDIO, Calif. -- Fred Couples was pleased to win the opening hole of the Skins Game and reach the $2 million mark in his eight appearances in the event. Now if he can just win the final hole.

For the first time since the Skins Game began in 1983, all four players won money Saturday on the opening day of the two-day, 18-hole event.

Sergio Garcia, the young Spaniard playing in his second Skins Game, was the big winner with four skins and $150,000.

Colin Montgomerie of Scotland won one hole worth three skins and $75,000.

Vijay Singh, who had putting troubles most of the day, sank a 12-footer for eagle to win one skin and $50,000 on the ninth and final hole of the day after Couples won $25,000 on the first hole.

''You want to get a skin early, so winning the first hole was good,'' said Couples, whose total Skins Games earnings are more than twice as much as any other player. ''Winning the last one isn't too bad, either.''

The 18th hole on Sunday is a ''super skin'' worth $200,000.

Couples, who has won three times and finished second three others in his seven previous Skins Game appearances, won the first hole with a birdie 3.

Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for a birdie 3 worth $25,000 on the second hole, then birdied from 12 feet on the par-3 No. 8 to earn an additional $125,000.

Garcia, who won two skins and $150,000 in his Skins Game debut a year ago, this time hit a 9-iron within 12 feet on what turned out to be the richest hole of the day, the par-3, 148-yard No. 8. Couples hit into a bunker, and Singh and Montgomerie both missed birdie tries from about 20 feet before Garcia made his 12-footer.

Montgomerie, who said he has never even played a skins format, picked up $75,000 with a par on the 249-yard, par-3 fifth hole.

He hit his 5-iron 15 feet from the pin, the only player to make it on the putting surface off the tee, then two-putted from there. Couples missed for par from 10 feet and Garcia from 8 feet before Singh's 4-footer did a 360-degree spin out of the cup to give Montgomerie the hole.

He seemed amused that he won with a routine par.

''Maybe that was half a skin,'' Montgomerie said. ''I want to think my friends (the other three players) for that one. That's all I can say about that.''

Singh crafted his eagle on No. 9 after hitting his drive into a bunker. He recovered with a 170-yard shot to within 12 feet of the pin on the par-5, 507-yard hole, then raised his hands high over his head and clapped after he made the putt.

''I made a putt, finally,'' he said.

Couples needed only three shots to reach $2 million in career earnings.

He hit a perfect 3-wood off the tee on, the 405-yard, par-4 first hole, then nailed his pitching wedge within 4 feet of the pin. Garcia plopped his second shot into a bunker, but Singh was within 15 feet of the cup and Montgomerie slightly closer.

But Singh's putt tailed off before it reached the cup, and Montgomerie's slid just past the lip before Couples rolled his into the center of the cup.

Couples' Skins game total is more than double that of Mark O'Meara, who is second on the earnings ladder with $915,00 in his three appearances.

Garcia picked up a quick $25,000 at No. 2, a 483-yard par 4. His 6-iron landed some 40 feet from the hole, but the ball slowly trickled down the slope of the green before stopping 8 feet from the cup. Couples had the closest birdie opportunity of the other three on the second hole, but his 20-footer just missed.

''It's nice to get a skin when you're just starting because it helps you to relax a little bit more,'' Garcia said.

All four players parred the par-3 No. 3, and all but Singh, who hit into heavy brush adjacent to the left bunker by the green. Pars also tied the par-5 fourth hole, setting the stage for Montgomerie's $75,000 putt.

Prize money is at stake on each hole in the Skins Game. A player wins the money if he wins the hole (the skin) outright. If two or more players tie a hole, all are considered tied and the money is carried over to the next hole, with the pot building until one player wins a hole.

The first six holes were worth $25,000 each, the next six worth $50,000 each, and Nos. 13-17 worth $70,000 each, leading to a $200,000 ''super skin'' at No. 18.

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