Sports Watch

Bill Kwon

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, February 2, 1999

How long can this
good golf thing last?

WHAT a month of golf it has been with both the PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour beginning their 1999 seasons in the 50th State.

The regular tour opened with the Mercedes Championships, involving only the 1998 winners, and David Duval got a jumpstart on his $1 million month by driving off with a new car and a 26-under-par 266 victory. Jeff Sluman captured the inaugural Sony Open that replaced the Hawaiian Open in the first full-field tournament.

Then John Jacobs won the MasterCard Championship -- the Senior Tour's tournament of champions -- at the Hualalai Resort on the Big Island. That was followed by the Senior Skins Game, an unofficial money event, at the Mauna Lani Resort. Hale Irwin, 1997-98 money champion, ended Raymond Floyd's five-year run in that event.

All told, the four tournaments offered $6.84 million in prize money and hours of national television exposure for Hawaii in general and the three neighbor island resorts in particular.

Too much of a good thing? Not really.

The question is, how long can this good golf thing last? After all, nothing is forever.

Both Sony and Mercedes are committed as title sponsors for their tournaments through 2003. MasterCard has two more years as the title sponsor for the tournament at Hualalai, which, in turn, has agreed to host the event an additional five years.

That leaves the Senior Skins Game as the only piece remaining in the January puzzle for next year -- the big 2000.

NOBODY was saying anything about next year, although the four participants -- Irwin, Floyd, Jim Colbert and Arnold Palmer -- said they wouldn't mind coming back.

ESPN Regional Television, in conjunction with TransWorld International, apparently wants to return. But the Mauna Lani Resort has yet to commit itself to host for the 11th year in a row.

Sachiko Murano, Mauna Lani's liaison with ERT and TWI, said that the resort did not want to comment at this time. An announcement should be forthcoming within the next 30 days.

The Senior PGA Tour, of course, would be delighted if the Senior Skins Game remains at Mauna Lani, just up Queen Kaahumanu Highway from Hualalai.

It would make sense because the MasterCard Championship is right before and right there on the same Kohala Coast. Plus, the right players are already on hand as Irwin, Floyd and Colbert were this year.

Holding the event at Mauna Lani is costing the resort big bucks, because the four players stay at its pricey bungalows, complete with butlers. They're maybe the most expensive accommodations on any tour.

SO, you can't blame Mauna Lani to question if it's getting enough bang for its bucks. But if there's any hesitancy on Mauna Lani's part, it would be a public relations coup to host the 2000 Senior Skins Game.

The foursome has yet to be announced. But don't be surprised if making up next year's foursome will be Irwin, as the defending champion, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and the newest kid on the Senior Tour block, Tom Watson.

Watson, who turns 50 on Sept. 4, would be a natural because of his PGA Tour resume. Besides, he played in the original Skins Game, so why not the Senior Skins his first time out?

You know that Nicklaus, who missed this year's event because of hip replacement surgery, will accept if he's physically able to play. He's pointing to Y2K because he plans on retiring from competitive golf after playing in all four majors.

Playing in the Senior Skins Game would be a good way to start off his grand farewell tour.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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