If you think you had a good holiday weekend, consider this: Curtis Strange spent two days playing 18 holes of golf and came away with $265,000.
Now that's a good weekend.
"I had more fun playing this year than last year," Strange said Sunday, after beating Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Raymond Floyd to win the Skins Game on the Stadium Course at PGA West.
Strange won 11 of a possible 18 skins in this two-day exhibition--all on three holes.
"It was easier the second time here, because I knew what to expect," said Strange, who was shut out last year.
"I really enjoyed myself, and I'm looking forward to playing next year."
Strange won seven skins Sunday--five when he holed a 35-yard chip shot worth $135,000 from the fringe of the 13th green. The other two skins he won by sinking a 25-foot putt worth $70,000 on the 18th hole.
He will automatically return next year as the defending champion. "There's nothing more exciting than getting your tournament schedule and seeing the Skins Game on it," Floyd said, as he patted Strange on the back. "It means you know exactly where you're going to be for Thanksgiving."
Floyd, last year's winner, won two skins and $60,000 this year, but he doesn't know if he'll be invited back.
Nicklaus, who won $90,000 and four skins, says he doesn't see why he wouldn't be back.
"If it's not broke, don't fix it," said Nicklaus, who has played in all seven Skins Games.
Trevino, who won one skin and $35,000, says he thinks the event officials may change players.
"Jack and I have the old guys to play," Trevino said, referring to he and Nicklaus' plans to join the Senior Tour soon. "If I'm not invited back, I'll caddy for Jack," he added.
Trevino drove the ball Sunday about as well as he ever has. Floyd believed he hit the ball about as solid as possible. And Nicklaus thought he played decent.
But it was Strange who made the shots that counted.
"The only birdies I made the entire two days were the one yesterday on the fifth hole and those two today that won the skins," Strange said.
After nine holes Saturday, Strange had won $60,0000 and four skins, Nicklaus $55,000 and three skins, Floyd $25,000 and one skin, while Trevino was shut out.
The players teed off on the back nine Sunday looking at a $50,000 payoff on the 10th hole, which included a $25,000 carryover from the ninth hole on Saturday.
They halved the 10th hole, and then survived Eternity, the 618-yard par-5 11th hole that is bordered by water, rocks and bunkers. Trevino found the rocks and the others found the green, but nobody could find the cup. So, it was another carryover, which made the 12th hole worth $100,000.
Nicklaus pitched his second shot to the 12th hole from 100 yards out, but it rolled into the bunker.
"That one hurt me--I had it up and it spun off the green," Nicklaus said. "Had that hole been won, Curtis' birdie on the 13th hole wouldn't have been worth five skins."
Floyd looked to be in the best position on the 220-yard 13th hole, when his tee shot rolled to about 12 feet from the pin. Trevino hit water for the third year in a row, while Nicklaus and Strange each bounced and rolled to the fringe of the green. Nicklaus chipped about 15 feet past the pin.
Strange was next.
"It was about a 35-foot chip, not a tough shot, a makeable one," Strange said. "I used a 9-iron and tried to get the speed right.
"When I was studying the shot I heard Vin Scully doing the broadcast on TV and he was describing the shot I had to make. I was hoping he would say it was an easy one."
Strange's chip rolled right at the cup and went in. But Floyd still had a chance to halve the hole.
"I thought I made the putt and so I started walking toward the ball," Floyd said. "But the last couple of feet it sloped and went back up again. I misjudged the speed."
In the history of Skins, no one had ever won the par-4, 390-yard 14th. But then, Trevino, looking for his first skin of the event, always seems to do the unusual.
Trevino hit his tee shot straight down the fairway, and flew his second shot to three feet below the pin. When the other players parred, he tapped it in for his first skin and $35,000.
Floyd won the par-4, 455-yard 15th hole, but Trevino and Strange kept it interesting for him.
"Lee pulled my heart out with that chip, and Curtis pulled my lung out with his putt," Floyd said.
Trevino's chip out of the rough looked like it had a chance. Strange's putt from the fringe missed by an inch. Floyd birdied his three-footer for $35,000, giving Strange the championship.
Still, there was $105,000 left to win, and the journey began on a hole they call the San Andreas Fault.
Trevino, Strange and Floyd all found themselves buried in the 19-foot deep fissure that borders the 16th green. Only Nicklaus' third shot landed on the green, about 40 feet from the cup.
How deep is that bunker?
"I'm just wondering if some fellow ever fell down and killed himself in that bunker if he would end up owning this whole course," Strange said.
Strange made two attempts to blast from the bunker, and Floyd didn't let him try a third time. Floyd picked up his own ball and Strange's and they called it quits. But Trevino hit an incredible wedge shot to within six feet of the cup.
"That bunker is so deep and has such a high wall that the shot Lee hit was as lucky as it could possibly be," Floyd said. "The shot would be better as a hazard.
"Three years ago I did a film clip on how to get out of that bunker, and it took me a half a day. They had to send out for lunch."
Nicklaus' 40-foot putt stopped a foot short of the cup, but Trevino missed his putt to bogey the hole and give Nicklaus $35,000 and his first skin of the day.
All the players were within birdie distance on the 18th green, but it was Strange's 25-foot putt that found the cup and the remaining $70,000.
Skins Game Notes
In the past each player has donated a portion of his winnings to the Junior Golf Foundation. This year, the players designated a charity. Strange chose the Virginia Home for Boys. Strange said. Trevino selected St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.; Floyd chose the Dade (Fla.) Amateur Golf Assn. and Nicklaus picked the Junior Golf Foundation.