Paradise continues for Nicklaus and Watson at Skins Game
KAANAPALI — It was another day in paradise at the Royal Kaanapali Golf Course, as eight golf legends — the teams of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara, Fuzzy Zoeller and Ben Crenshaw and Fred Couples and Nick Price — took center stage in the final nine holes of the 2011 Kaanapali Champions Skins Game on Jan. 30.
Right out of the gate, Couples drove his tee shot deep on the 519-yard, par-five hole to give his partner, Price, a shot at the green. Couples just missed his eagle putt from 16 feet but gave Price an easy tap-in for birdie.
O’Meara missed his four-foot birdie putt, giving Price and Couples two Skins and $80,000. They were finally on the board after a shutout on the front nine on Jan. 29.
The 11th hole, a par-three uphill layout, played into the trades and forced pars all around. Nicklaus was the only one with a chance for birdie from five feet, but his putt burned the edge and pushed the Skins to the next hole.
With $80,000 on the line going into the 12th hole, a par-four, all four teams were on the green in two with a chance for birdie. Nicklaus put his approach close to the hole, but Watson wasn’t able to convert. Langer sank his seven-footer for the birdie and the two Skins to bring their total to $200,000.
The next four holes brought many chances for Skins, but a few missed putts on Kaanapali’s slick, undulating greens saw the Skins carried over to the 17th hole.
“Couples and Price were definitely the front-runners today on a lot of holes but just missed out on making their putts,” stated Watson.
He added, “The beauty and tragedy of Skins format is that sometimes it just takes one hole.”
And that hole would be the par-three 17th for the team of Nicklaus and Watson.
Nicklaus said, “It’s a game of patience. I’m just glad I picked the right shot on 17… I saw everyone else hitting their iron shots, and the wind was blowing really hard, so I took my six iron, choked up a bit and didn’t put any spin on it.”
Nicklaus knocked it to within 12 feet.
O’Meara also landed his tee shot on the green, leaving Langer with a 15-foot putt. Langer lipped out and fell to his knees in disbelief.
“There was a lot of pressure, but I just needed to make a good stroke,” said Watson. “There’s pressure on me — I certainly don’t want to let my teammate down, especially after his great shot and he’s left me with a 12-foot putt for birdie and five Skins.”
Watson converted that birdie putt and brought home $250,000 for himself and Nicklaus to secure the overall trophy for the day, bringing their two-day total to $310,000.
With the final $100,000 hole up for grabs, the four teams continued to battle it out as the Maui afternoon tradewinds picked up and the crowd along the 18th green was six-people deep.
Zoeller’s tee shot went astray and landed in the left rough, forcing teammate Crenshaw to lay up. O’Meara and Watson’s drives landed within ten yards of each other, and both partners were able to find the lagoon-protected green.
Couples out-drove the group by about 40 yards and gave Price a nice look at the green. With no one able to convert their birdie putts, Watson/Nicklaus and Price/Couples would par the hole, and the group would head back to the 17th tee for a two-hole sudden death playoff.
Three of the four teams would halve the 17th par-3 hole, leaving Price/Couples out for the final Skins. O’Meara and Langer won the final playoff hole with a par, bringing their two-day total to $300,000.
Nicklaus commented on the Skins Game, “Coming to an event like this is fun. It’s fun to compete, and I just don’t really compete anymore.”
He added, “My two sons came out and brought their families, and we’re going to travel a bit after this. This trip is like a two-week vacation for me, and I won some money, so it’s great.”
Discussing the course conditions, Nicklaus said, “These greens — the superintendent did a really good job. He got some speed on them, and you had to fear your putts. The key was to be close to the hole on your approach shot.”
The final results were: Nicklaus/Watson with $310,000, Langer/O’Meara with $300,000, Zoeller/Crenshaw with $80,000 and Couples/Price with $ 80,000.
The players will donate 10 percent of their earnings to a charity of their choice.
For more information on Kaanapali Golf Courses, visit www.kaanapaligolfcourses.com or call 661-3691.