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Montgomerie wins Skins Game in playoff

In a Skins Game largely devoid of any golfing drama, Colin Montgomerie won $415,000 and the title by making two routine pars.

Playing the skins format for the first time, Montgomerie clinched it with a par-5 on the third playoff hole today after defending champion and career Skins Game money-winner Fred Couples self-destructed in sand, brush, and finally water.

``As Freddie said when we started this event, there is a lot of luck involved,'' said Montgomerie, who won $340,000 in the playoff after earning $75,000 the first day of the two-day event. ``I didn't actually play very well. I ended up very fortunate.

``I don't know what happened to Freddie (on the deciding hole), but I was suddenly left alone. My other skins I won with a par as well, so I must come back here again.''

The Scot has been the dominant player in European for several seasons, and has three second-place finishes in majors in the United States.

With only Montgomerie and Couples left in the playoff, Couples drove into a fairway bunker on the third extra hole, then his second shot bounced off the lip, hit a cart and landed in a shrub. It only got worse: his third shot bounced into the water in front of the green.

Couples said of his second shot: ``It hit a first-aid cart, which is something I needed at the time.''

Montgomerie wrapped it up with a rather anticlimactic tap-in on that playoff hole, the 563-yard No. 18.

His other winning hole came a day earlier, when his par on No. 5 earned him the $75,000 after the rest of the foursome had bogeys on the 249-yard par-3.

Both Vijay Singh, the runner-up with $260,000, and Sergio Garcia, who earned $200,000, were eliminated on the first playoff hole Sunday.

``I played decent golf and had an enjoyable two days,'' said Singh, who had competed in the same format previously in other parts of the world but was making his Skins Game debut.

Garcia, whose game was the sharpest of the four, noted that skins competition doesn't always reward best play, saying, ``I had nine birdies and made almost nothing.''

Couples, who reached the $2 million mark for eight Skins Game appearances by wining $25,000 on the first hole, added $100,000 on No. 11, but still finished fourth this time.

Couples couldn't cash in on an excellent opportunity on the second playoff hole, missing a 5-foot birdie try after Montgomerie was off on his long putt. After Couples tapped in, Montgomerie made his 3-footer to tie.

Montgomerie, who had difficulty making putts most of the tournament, did have one fine shot at a critical time - chipping in from 25 feet for birdie on the first playoff hole. Couples drove the green on the 334-yard par-4, then two-putted from 45 feet. His eagle try to win the tournament died just one ball rotation from the hole.

Garcia missed from 15 feet and Singh from 4 feet on the first playoff hole, and par wasn't good enough to keep them in the playoff.

Singh sent the event into a playoff by making a 6-foot birdie putt to tie Garcia on No. 18. Montgomerie hit his second shot into the water in front of the green, and Couples missed a long birdie try before Garcia tapped in for birdie on the par-5, 563-yard 18th.

Singh won $210,000 with a birdie on No. 15, when he stuck his 7-iron 8 feet from the pin on the 183-yard par-3.

After Garcia and Singh both left their long birdie tries short on No. 11, Couples rammed his 18-footer into the center of the cup to win what would be his final skin of the tournament.

Garcia, who won $150,000 on the first day, added $50,000 to his bankroll with a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 12.

The 20-year-old Spaniard hit - then charmed - a fan on the 14th hole, when his drive bounced into the gallery and struck a woman on the cheek. Garcia not only apologized, he gave the woman, smiling by now, a kiss on the cheek.

Prize money is at stake on each hole in the skins format. A player wins the money if he wins the hole (the skin) outright. But if two or more players tie a hole, all are considered tied - except in a playoff - and the money is carried over to the next hole.

The first six holes were worth $25,000 each, the next six $50,000 each, and Nos. 13-17 worth $70,000 each, with a $200,000 ``super skin'' at No. 18.

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