CHAMPIONS SKINS GAME
Dana Quigley, left, hugged partner Raymond Floyd after Floyd made a birdie putt on No. 17 worth $410,000 in the Champions Skins Game in Wailea, Maui.
Floyd, Quigley a smash
They win a record $510,000, leaving three teams behind, including Nicklaus and Watson
WAILEA, Maui » Raymond Floyd and Dana Quigley spent most of the day in everyone else's shadow, but emerged just in time to win a record $510,000 at the 2006 Wendy's Champions Skins Game at the Gold Course at Wailea Golf Club.
Yesterday's opening nine belonged to Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. Hale Irwin and Gary Player gave away $600,000 with three missed putts on the front and back side. And Peter Jacobsen and Arnold Palmer spent more time in the sand than tourists at the beach, clearing the way for Floyd and Quigley to steal the ESPN show late yesterday afternoon.
It began with nine skins worth $410,000 at the par-4 17th. Quigley hit a gap wedge to within 8 feet from 102 yards out after Floyd nailed his drive. Floyd knew he was going to make the putt, felt good standing over it, then promptly took a stab at it.
"I hit the ground and the ball at the same time," Floyd said. "In other words, I hit the putt a little fat. But it sure was on line, thank goodness. If it had been off the middle a little at all, I don't think it would have turned in."
"No," Quigley replied. "No, that was quite remarkable that it fell in going up the hill and into the grain. Very, very rarely do you see a putt do that."
As a result, it was the 11th team tournament Floyd has won in his career and the eighth since the King of Skins turned 50. The $410,000 was the most won at a hole since Floyd sank a putt worth $290,000 at the 17th at Mauna Lani on the Big Island in 1995.
"I told Dana we had been dodging bullets all day," Floyd said. "Let's go make a couple of birdies at the last two holes and see what happens."
Jack Nicklaus almost made it moot. He missed a 17-footer for birdie that partner Tom Watson said was "flat-ass straight" when both were standing over the golf ball. Nicklaus wasn't sure he believed it and decided to go a little left of center. The ball appeared to be headed straight in, but broke right at the hole as the ball lipped out, setting up Floyd's dramatic putt.
"I hit the putt at 17 where I wanted to," Nicklaus said. "The greens are really difficult to read. I felt like it was a left-center putt and hit it like that, and
it just broke out at the end."
Watson and Nicklaus dominated for most of the day. Nicklaus made a 15-footer for birdie at the opening hole for one skin worth $30,000, then knocked in a birdie of 12 feet at the par-3 eighth for seven skins worth $230,000. Both birdies were set up by excellent iron shots by Watson, who was hurting over the last few holes.
This was the first year the skins on the Champions Tour went to four two-man teams and an alternate-shot format. The golfers weren't sure when the big shot would come into play. For Floyd, he spent most of the back nine without ever taking the putter out of his bag. He had a putt at the 11th and then didn't need the flat stick until he was standing over the big boy at the 17th.
"The way it unfolded was incredible," said Floyd, who has won six senior skins and one PGA Tour skins in his career. "I've never seen a senior skins unfold like that, where whatever team was in (with a birdie), the other team made the putts for birdie to tie. And the misses. I've never in skins seen so many misses where you could have capitalized."
You won't get any argument from Player and Irwin. As fortunate as Quigley and Floyd were late in the game, Irwin and Player were not, letting $600,000 slip away at four key holes.
The first was at the par-4 fifth for $120,000, when Irwin missed a putt wide left from only 3 feet. It was Player's turn at the par-3 11th, when he let a slick birdie putt from 5 feet above the hole slip past, costing the tandem $120,000. At the par-3 16th, Irwin pulled a 12-foot birdie putt worth $260,000 about 6 inches left of the hole.
Their misfortune continued at the first playoff hole after Player hit his approach shot at the 18th to within 6 feet, clearing the way for Irwin to roll in the putt for birdie for the super skin worth $100,000. But Floyd spoiled that with a birdie putt from 12 feet, forcing Irwin to make his to halve the hole. It lipped out, clearing the way for the record $510,000 victory that left Quigley shaking at the end.
"I don't have any experience in a skins game," the 58-year-old Quigley said. "The very first hole I was almost counting on $30,000 when Jack made it (and he missed his). It's a whole different feeling when you're putting to save it rather than to win a skin. It takes all the fun out of it.
"Raymond said to me, 'We've just got to keep prolonging this until we get a chance to win some aggregate skins.' We made a couple of halves at four and six. The course didn't play anything like we practiced all week. It was totally different because of no wind."
That turned out to be a blessing at the 17th. For most of the week, that par-4 played longer because of the trades. Floyd was the designated driver at that hole. In the breezy practice rounds, Quigley couldn't get his second shot to hold where the right pin was located. But yesterday, Floyd was able to hit his drive about 280, giving Quigley a chance to knock one in there close.
He did, giving Floyd the chance to have a Tiger Woods moment.
"What's a Tiger moment?" Floyd asked.
When told how Woods' dramatic chip at the par-3 16th hung on the lip of the cup before falling in for birdie, Floyd said, "Mine didn't have enough slope helping it like his."
Quigley laughed, then explained, "The difference with his was Raymond's was going uphill into the wind, into the grain and it stopped, then fell in. Tiger still had momentum and gravity working for him. This was God's will, I think, for Raymond's putt to get to that hole. It was a great feeling when it fell in."