Confidence is Skin-deep for Strange

November 26, 1990|By John Strege | John Strege,Orange County Register

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Curtis Strange was barefoot and impregnable yesterday, and in the process defied the notion that his game is on the rocks.

Strange won the Skins Game for the second straight year, earning $220,000, including $155,000 yesterday on the Stadium Course at PGA West.

Greg Norman was second with $90,000, while Jack Nicklaus, blanked on Saturday, won two skins and $70,000 yesterday. Nick Faldo, meanwhile, was shut out on the back nine and earned $70,000 for the competition.

Strange won five skins on the back nine, including the final two, aided by a birdie made possible with a remarkable shot he hit while standing barefoot on a rock pile.

The 17th and 18th holes were halved, and the foursome returned to the 10th hole to begin a playoff. Strange's drive stopped about a foot from the rock pile paralleling the fairway on the left, 111 yards to the green, 125 yards to the hole.

To provide traction while standing atop the pile, Strange removed his shoes and socks. He then hit a pitching wedge shot that hit in the fringe right of the green and kicked toward the hole, stopping 5 feet away. He made the birdie putt.

"I could go into a 15-minute dissertation on how I knew I was going to do that," Strange said. "I just got real, real lucky. I was just trying to flop something way up in the air and trying to get something on the green. I didn't want to slip. That's why I took off my shoes. I never actually saw the shot. I don't know where it hit or where it ran."

Part of the reason was that Strange was examining his pitching wedge, which had clipped a rock on his follow-through.

Faldo also birdied the hole, and Nicklaus and Norman bowed out by failing to make birdie. Strange and Faldo birdied the second extra hole, the 18th, and parred the third extra hole, the 10th again.

On the fourth extra hole, No. 18, Faldo hit his approach into the water and made bogey. Strange made a routine par, worth $70,000, a new car and a load of confidence.

"Obviously, I'm very pleased," he said. "I played really well today. I said yesterday my goal is to try to be in every hole, and I thought I was in every hole. And I made some key putts. I'm very, very pleased with my game."

Thus, an otherwise disappointing year ended on a positive note for Strange, who will take six weeks off and ponder the future rather than dwell on the past.

Strange earned $277,171 on the PGA Tour in 1990, a sum he nearly equaled here. He finished 53rd on the money list and failed to win a tournament for the first time since 1982.

When he got into a game of one-on-one with Faldo, Strange said, "It got a little more intense than I thought it would be." Faldo downplayed the intensity.

"You didn't finish 53rd on the money list this year, either," Strange said to Faldo.

Faldo probably just wanted the day to end. He was victimized by a stomach virus.

"I was feeling lousy," Faldo said. "I actually felt better as the day went on. I was just pleased I had a good day yesterday."

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