Daly drives through wind to steal Skins spotlight Rookie takes all: $120,000, two cars

December 01, 1991|By Maryann Hudson | Maryann Hudson,Los Angeles Times

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Those who braved the cold, gusty winds and walked miles over rolling fairways to see John Daly crush a golf ball got their money's worth yesterday at the Stadium Course at PGA West. So did Daly.

The 25-year-old country boy from Arkansas shut out Curtis Strange, Payne Stewart and Jack Nicklaus and won six skins worth $120,000 and two cars in nine holes at the $540,000 Skins Game.

"I wasn't keeping up with the money. All I wanted to do was get a car for my mom," Daly said.

Daly won $100,000 and five skins on the par-5 fifth hole when he drove the ball 330 yards and finished with a two-foot birdie putt. The other skin and $20,000 came when he two-putted for par from 20 feet on the par-3 sixth hole, on which all the other golfers found water.

What's more, the Daly said, the highlight of the day had nothing to do with money and everything to do with playing with his idol, Nicklaus.

"I didn't relax until after I made the skins," Daly said. "I was real nervous, not because of the Skins Game but because I was playing with him. [Nicklaus] meant so much to me. I was glad the wind was blowing, because you always have an excuse [for a bad shot] if it is.

"I am not a good wind player because I hit the ball so high, but today I hit the right shots at the right time."

No one won the final three holes, so the $90,000 carries over to today's final nine holes, making No. 10 worth $120,000 when the foursome tees off.

"It will get your heart started real early," Nicklaus said.

Daly consistently out-drove the others by an average of about 50 yards, consistently used less club for second shots and caused the gallery to go wild.

"What's so fun is listening to the crowds respond to John's drives," Stewart said. "Jack and I are back there just trying to pump up. In our wildest dreams we aren't going to hit that far."

Daly's drive off the ninth tee hit a spectator, Shirley Katt, on the back of the head. Play was held up for 15 minutes until she was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for a blood blister and released.

"I talked to her and asked her if she was OK," Daly said. "It's upsetting. With the wind blowing so bad and the sand blowing all up in your eyes, it makes it difficult."

Nicklaus said the conditions were the worst in the nine Skins Games in which he has played. The winds gusted from 35-45 mph, blowing putts and players off-line on the greens and pushing shots off-course.

"These are is not the biggest winds I have played in, but with this golf course there is no room for error. You can't roll the ball around here," said Strange.

Daly is occasionally compared to Nicklaus for his long-hitting and his blond hair. But Nicklaus said he doesn't think he has ever hit the ball as far as Daly, adding, "I don't think I could swing that hard."

"I enjoyed playing with John today," Nicklaus said. "He's been a fresh breath to the game of golf. I don't mind if I ever win another skin. [It's] just that everyone's excited about him. We all come out winners in that type of situation."

In the Skins Game, the first six holes are worth $20,000 each; Nos. 7-12 are $30,000 each and Nos. 13-18 are $40,000 each. A player has to win a hole outright or the money carries over to the next hole until a hole is won.

Nicklaus had a chance to win three skins and $60,000 on the third hole with a two-foot putt for par, but Daly spoiled Nicklaus' chance by chipping in from 20 feet, downhill from the fringe, to halve the hole.

On No. 5, a 533-yard, par-five hole, Daly hit a left-to-right drive 330 yards, faded a 4-iron over the green 214 yards to land in the gallery, 15 feet from the pin, and chipped up to within two feet. Nicklaus, Strange and Stewart had a chance for birdie, each missing putts from about 10 feet.

Then on No. 6, a 255-yard, par-3 hole over water, Daly hit a 3-iron to the green, then two-putted for par and the skin. Stewart hit a 2-iron, Strange and Nicklaus 1-irons. All but Daly hit water.

Stewart came close to winning the remaining holes. On No. 7, a 350-yard par-4 hole, he hit a pitching wedge to the green, 103 yards over water, that rolled to within two feet of the pin. It looked like a sure birdie and a skin.

"Then out of the blue," said Stewart, "here comes John again."

Daly hit a wedge 27 yards over water to within three feet of the cup, and the two halved the hole.

Stewart came close again on No. 8, a 557-yard par-5 hole, when his eagle putt of 50 feet stopped about a foot from the cup. But Nicklaus came out of the bunker to within five feet and sank his putt for a birdie. Stewart and Nicklaus parred the ninth hole to set up today's remaining purse of $420,000.

Skins Game cards

Cards yesterday for John Daly, Jack Nicklaus, Payne Stewart and Curtis Strange over the first nine holes of the Skins Game at PGA West:

Par out:... ...444... 353... 454-36

Daly out: ... .544... 343... 354-35

Nicklaus out:. 444... 454... 444-37

Stewart out:.. 454... 354... 344-36

Strange out:.. 445... 455... 45x-xx

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