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Tom Watson wins Champions Skins Game

Tom Watson wanted to talk more about his childhood hero than himself after winning the Wendy's Champions Skins Game.

"Arnold (Palmer) was the star of the two days," Watson said. "He made everyone dream of Arnold's charges again. I think we're all part of Arnie's Army. He can still do it."

Watson won the two-day event, taking the final five skins Saturday and $260,000 with a par on the third hole of a playoff.

Palmer, who failed to win a skin the past two years, was second with five skins and $140,000, Jack Nicklaus made $60,000 with his three skins and defending champion Lee Trevino was shut out.

Palmer began the day in third place with $50,000. He had a chance to win in regulation, but barely missed his 7-foot birdie putt to the right, sending it into a playoff.

"It was a little indecision in my mind and that was what cost me," Palmer said. "I was a little undecided as to what the putt might do going down there."

The leader after the first nine holes with $70,000, Watson finished the two-day event with $400,000 and 10 skins.


The 2003 Champions Tour Player of the Year tapped in for par and won when Trevino three-putted from 25 feet for bogey.

"It ended on a down note, but you balance that out with the quality of play for the other 20 holes," Watson said. "It was not a storybook ending."

Watson, 54, was the youngest of the foursome and the longest hitter, hit the green with his approach shot on the third extra hole then two-putted from 35 feet for the win.

"There's no lack of will to win out there with any of the four," Watson said. "I had the advantage because of my youth and as far as I could hit the ball. In the end, I guess that prevailed."

Watson has won 39 times on the PGA TOUR, including eight majors. He won the Senior British Open and the JELD-WEN Tradition last year, two majors on the Champions Tour.

Palmer, 74, and Nicklaus were eliminated on the first extra hole after failing to birdie. It was the 16th Skins appearance for Palmer, who won the event in 1990, 1992 and 1993. Nicklaus, the 1991 winner, entered for the 14th time.

Using a cross-handed putting grip for the second day, Palmer holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 167-yard No. 11 to take three skins and $90,000. That pushed his winnings to $140,000 and gave him his first lead -- $70,000 lead over Watson.

Watson threatened to regain the lead on the next hole by sinking a winding 25-foot birdie putt. But Palmer calmly rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt to halve the hole.

It was Palmer's fifth birdie in seven holes.

"I putted the ball very well, except for the last putt," he said. "The thing that's disappointing is, I can't generate a little club-head speed with the driver."

Watson tied Palmer for the lead by sinking a 10-foot eagle putt on the 530-yard 13th hole. The birdie, set up by a fairway wood shot from 255 yards, earned Watson earned two skins and $70,000.

On the final hole in regulation, Watson missed an 8-foot birdie putt, setting the stage for Palmer. But Palmer couldn't sink his birdie putt.

Nicklaus, sixth last week in the season-opening MasterCard Championship after turning 64, began the day in second place with $60,000.

Trevino, 64, was visibly bothered by a left hip he injured a few weeks ago when he fell in a bunker in Texas.

"My hip was really bothering me," he said. "I wasn't able to get through the ball. Despite all of that, I still had a chance to win on the last hole, how crazy is that?"

Last year, Trevino holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to finish with six skins and $240,000, preventing Hale Irwin from claiming his fourth straight title.

This year's quartet has combined to win 258 events on the PGA and Champions Tours, including 39 majors and more than $51 million.

The first six holes were worth $20,000, Nos. 7-12 $30,000, the next five $40,000 and No. 18 $100,000.

Conditions at the course were ideal and windless for the second day. The 6,835-yard Wailea Gold Course on Maui island runs along the base of the dormant volcano Haleakala and has 93 white-sand bunkers.


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