Stewart takes 2nd Skins Game in row Sudden-death putt denies Couples

November 30, 1992|By New York Times News Service

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Payne Stewart put $220,000 worth o salve on an otherwise poor year yesterday by winning his second consecutive Skins Game in sudden death.

In a format where opportunism is everything, Stewart made a 3-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole, worth $120,000, to edge Fred Couples, who already had won $210,000.

On that hole, the 171-yard, par-3 17th at the Bighorn Golf Club, all four players hit excellent tee shots, with Tom Kite the farthest from the pin at eight feet and Stewart the closest at three feet.

"I thought at least three of us were going to the next hole," said Stewart. "Those were preposterous odds for all three of those guys missing. You couldn't have gotten them in Las Vegas."

But Kite, who was shut out in the two-day event, missed his putt to the right, and Greg Norman, who won $110,000, also pushed his 5-footer.

Couples, who had birdied the 17th hole in regulation play after hitting a 6-iron to a foot, stepped up to his putt along the same line as the previous player, less than confident of the line. It caught the left edge, spun nearly all the way around the hole, and stayed out.

"I played it straight, but I pulled it just enough," said Couples. "I didn't hit a perfect putt, but I certainly thought it would kind of lip in. It was kind of stunning. It's hard to forget a three-footer."

Stewart, the 1991 U.S. Open champion, gathered himself enough to knock his putt into the center of the hole.

"I was in shock," said Stewart, who won five "skins" worth a total of $190,000 yesterday. A skin on one hole is worth $20,000, and if no one wins the hole outright, that money is carried over to the next hole. "I thought there was cellophane on the hole. I figured because I had the worst year of all these guys, they were giving me an early Christmas present."

Indeed, Stewart, 35, the winner of eight titles on the PGA Tour, has not won since his Open victory. His 1992 season has been plagued with injuries including a herniated disk and a bone spur in his neck. He won $334,738 to rank 44th on the money list and never finished better than third.

His only victory of any kind had come in last year's Skins Game, when he won $260,000 to defeat John Daly, Jack Nicklaus and Curtis Strange. By winning yesterday, he become the third player to repeat as champion in the 10-year history of the made-for-television event.

"It's special to win again," said Stewart, who will automatically be invited back to next year's event.

Stewart designated 20 percent of his winnings to benefit the Baltimore-based Foundation Fighting Blindness, an organization that pays for research at more than 30 institutions nationwide, including Johns Hopkins University.

Skins winnings

3'

Total earnings in the Skins Game:

Player ... ... ... Earnings

Payne Stewart .. .. $220,000

Fred Couples ... .. $210,000

Greg Norman .. .. .. $110,000

Tom Kite ... ... ... $0

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