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Fred Couples still king of the "Silly Season"

Fred Couples already has made $450,000 in two events since the PGA Tour season officially ended, representing 58 percent of his earnings this year. And while he finished second to Stephen Ames in the Skins Game, he continues to show why he's the king of the silly season.

Couples' runner-up finish at Trilogy was worth $385,000, pushing his career earnings in the Skins Game alone to $3.9 million. For those keeping score, that's more money than Arnold Palmer made in his 50 years on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

Is the end near?

"I've had my run," Couples said. "I got lucky to be in this year. Maybe they'll let me come back next year. I don't know how many years I've been here, but it's been a long, long, long time."

So long, in fact, that he was able to add some perspective on a silly-season event that has lost its punch.

The Skins Game began in 1983 with Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson, who combined to win 198 times on the PGA Tour, including 42 majors.

"This is a little different group than those guys, to say the least," Couples said.

Ames, Couples, John Daly and Fred Funk have combined to win 29 times, including three majors.

But while it was lacking in star quality, and some wish the Skins Game would go away, it still drew a larger television audience than some regular PGA Tour events in the fall. The overnight rating for the first round on Saturday was 2.3, the same as the national rating in 2005 when Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam joined Funk and Couples.

The Sunday overnight was 1.6, compared with a national rating of 2.7 last year.

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour is putting together the final touches on the "challenge season" for 2007. And while there won't be any significant changes, the tour wants to make sure the silly season is structured like regular tournaments.

"They had three criteria," said television producer Terry Jastrow, who runs the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge. "Did it forward the image of the PGA Tour? Did it have a meaningful charity component? Did the players like it?"

The Target World Challenge, the bonanza of the silly season with a $5.75 million purse, is the only stroke-play event over 72 holes. It's the only one assured of getting Tiger Woods, who is the tournament host (the event benefits the Tiger Woods Learning Center).

But that doesn't guarantee big ratings.

Target last year drew a 1.6 on Saturday and Sunday, the same overnight rating as the Skins Game on Sunday.



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