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Irwin wins Senior Skins Game

Hale Irwin birdied the final hole and won the last 11 skins and a record $450,000 to win the Senior Skins Game on Saturday.

He holed a 5-foot putt on the 18th for $260,000 to win the event at Wailea Golf Club's Gold Course for the third time. Irwin won in 1999 and 2001, but skipped the event in 2000.

Jack Nicklaus, who has been battling nagging back problems and has not played tournament golf since the British Open in July, collected the first seven skins for $150,000 and second place.

Arnold Palmer and senior rookie Fuzzy Zoeller finished with no skins.

Irwin's winning total bettered the mark set by Raymond Floyd in 1995 of $420,000.

Irwin's first skins came when he sank a 5-foot birdie on 415-yard 10th hole to take three skins and $90,000.

``Finally,'' he said. ``Finally, I'm on the board.''

He then made birdie on the 530-yard 13th to add three more skins to give him $190,000, going into No. 18.

Zoeller threatened to win his first hole on No. 15 with a birdie, but Irwin halved the hole, matching the shot.

The quartet parred the next two holes to set up Irwin's tournament winner.

Nicklaus picked up the first seven skins when he sank a 6-foot birdie on the 567-yard seventh. It was the most money won at the start of the tournament since he won eight skins worth $140,000 in 1990.

The only hole where his back problems were noticeable was on No. 14 when he nearly rolled the ball on his second shot.

Nicklaus had the chance to win last year's Skins, but eventually lost to Irwin, who had seven skins worth $260,000.

Zoeller, who turned 50 in November, struggled in his senior debut. His first full-field event will be the Royal Caribbean Classic next week.

Several shots landed into the trees and bunkers.

Palmer failed to claim a skin, but stayed competitive on several holes.

Palmer showed some emotion when he barely missed a birdie putt on No. 12 that would've won him two skins worth $60,000. He tossed his putter, jumped up and spun around when the ball lipped the cup.

Zoeller just smiled.

The first six holes were worth $20,000, No. 7 to No. 12 $30,000, the next five $40,000 and the final hole worth $100,000.

Between the four participants, they have won 212 tournaments, including 52 major PGA and Senior PGA championships, and $38 million.

Conditions at the course were windless, overcast and muggy. The 6,835-yard course on Maui island runs along the base of the dormant volcano Haleakala and has 93 bunkers and one lake. Many of the holes overlooks the Pacific, which had spouting humpback whales.

The first 11 holes were televised on ABC on Saturday. The players changedclothes after No. 11 for the final seven holes, which will be shown Sunday.

Divots

Zoeller got his unofficial induction into the senior tour at a pretournament luau. The shirtless Zoeller, wearing a coconut bra and a grass skirt, wowed the audience with his impromptu Tahitian dance. ... Irwin was struck in the backside with a golf ball by one of his playing partners. He playfully flopped around and jokingly threatened to sue. The partner is an insurance agent representing the Wailea course.


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