When the chips were down, Bruce Crampton won the big money.
The Senior Tour's leading money winner won $22,000 Tuesday in the $36,000 Skins Game sponsored by Centinela Hospital Medical Center. The event opened the GTE Senior tournament week at Wood Ranch Golf Club in Simi Valley.
Crampton won a shoot-off with Arnold Palmer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Dale Douglass and Gary Player. After Palmer, playing on a sore knee, won a $14,000 skin with an eight-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole, nobody won again through nine holes.
For the shoot-off, it was decided a chip shot closest to the hole would win it. A crowd of about 8,000 watched as Crampton put his shot within 10 feet of the pin on the 18th green. He beat out Douglass for the big pot of $22,000 by less than two feet.
The winds, which figure to be a major factor in the $275,000 54-hole tournament that gets under way Friday, played havoc with numerous shots, but that merely added to the excitement.
Crampton, who won seven tournaments and $454,299 as a rookie on the 50-and-over tour, said he hit an eight-iron for the winning shot.
"It was 'Taylor' made for the eight-iron," said Crampton, referring to the brand of club he uses. "Actually, it was 122 yards into the wind."
Asked when he knew he had won the big purse, he answered: "When I saw that Arnie's shot wasn't closer. I went up alongside the green after I hit my shot.
"I think the Skins Game is a great idea. It gets people interested early in the week. It is a relaxed atmosphere. It was a thrill for me to be invited to play with such greats as Palmer, Player and Chi Chi."