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Mark O'Meara claims Skins Game title

Mark O'Meara was the forgotten man in the Skins Game until he wound up with the most money Sunday.

O'Meara stole the show from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, collecting three skins with a 2-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole, and securing his second Skins Game title by holing a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

"It's been a while since I won anything," said O'Meara, whose last victory came four years ago in this event.

O'Meara finished the two-day tournament with eight skins and $405,000, and his final skin on No. 17 left the others playing for second.

That honor went to Mickelson, who was in danger of being shut out on the final day until he captured $200,000 on the par-5 18th with a two-putt birdie. That was enough to move him from last place to runner-up with $300,000 and three skins.

Fred Couples, who played better than anyone Sunday but claimed only two skins, wound up with $170,000. Woods was last with $125,000, winning his only skin on the opening hole with an 18-foot eagle putt. He finished with four skins over two days.

"That's better than I usually do," Woods said. He had won only five skins in his previous three Skins Game combined.

Mickelson, making his Skins Game debut, got a little help at the end.

"Wouldn't it be cool if we all won a skin today?" Mickelson said to Woods as they walked to the 18th tee, knowing he was the only player without one.

Mickelson had a 30-foot eagle putt, while Woods was in the back bunker in two. A fan standing directly behind Woods clicked his camera in the middle of his swing, and the ball rolled some 15 feet by the hole.

"I flinched," Woods said. "I was lucky to keep the ball on the green."

Woods hasn't had much luck with cameras this year. There was a bitter exchange with a photographer on the first hole of the British Open, and an early click cost Woods a chance of going bogey-free over 72 holes when he won the World Golf Championship in Ireland.

This time, caddie Steve Williams took the man's camera and dropped it in the lake.

Woods still had a birdie putt to force a playoff, but the ball slid by on the right.

"I appreciate the generosity of the other three players," Mickelson said.

O'Meara was simply happy to be there. He got into the Conagra Foods Skins Game primarily through his endorsement contract with Toyota, one of the tournament's sponsors.

And the 45-year-old O'Meara made the most of it.

He doesn't hit it as long as the other three, not by a mile. But he's one of the best putters in golf, and the Skins Game rewards good timing as much as anything.

O'Meara twice claimed three skins on par 3s, both times tapping in from 2 feet. He also won a single skin worth $50,000 on No. 12 with a wedge into 4 inches.

"I don't have the length like Tiger and Phil. That was very evident out there," O'Meara said. "But it's still nerve-racking to stand over a putt worth $200,000."

That was the turning point of the Skins Game.

Everyone made par on No. 13 -- the only hole Sunday on which no one made birdie -- and O'Meara made a 3-foot birdie on the 14th to make the next hole worth three skins and $210,000, enough for the winner to take a commanding lead.

O'Meara hit 6-iron from 165 yards into about 2 feet, and won the three skins when Couples missed a 10-foot birdie putt.

Couples missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th -- he had seven birdie putts inside 15 feet on Sunday -- that could have turned the 18th hole into winner-take-all.

"It's a letdown for a second, and then you know that No. 18 is worth a lot of money," Couples said. "Whether it's for $50,000 or $200,000, the idea is to win a skin."

The goal is to win the most skins, which O'Meara did with a few timely shots. It was particularly gratifying, even for a silly season event, because O'Meara had not won anything in four years -- and because of the field.

"They're not going to lie down for you," O'Meara said. "And you know Tiger. He does not like losing at anything."

Divots: O'Meara made nine birdies over two days, tying the Skins Game record set by Couples in 1999. ... Woods' eagle on the 10th hole marked the first time in Skins Game history that an eagle won back-to-back holes. Couples finished the first day by making an eagle on No. 9 ... Each player is donating 20 percent of his earnings to charity.


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