Couples shows off golden touch Six skins worth record $130,000

PALM DESERT, CALIF. — PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Fred Couples said he was a "little bit nervous" before the start of his first competition in the 10th annual Skins Game.

After nine holes were concluded yesterday at Bighorn Golf Club, the other three players -- Greg Norman, Payne Stewart and Tom Kite -- were looking at Couples as if he had picked their pockets.


Couples, the Masters champion, won six skins and $130,000 -- a first-day record in the event. Stewart won one skin for $30,000 and Norman got one for $20,000. Kite, the U.S. Open champion, was shut out.

It has been a rewarding month for Couples, 33. He has earned $682,000 while competing in the Tour Championship, the


Kapalua tournament in Hawaii, the World Cup in Madrid, Spain, the Shark Shootout and the Skins Game.

"A lot of good stuff has been happening," Couples said.

And he has opportunity to make even more money on the final nine holes today.

Norman and Couples had each won one skin worth $20,000 apiece on the first and second holes.

Then, with players tying on the next three holes, the sixth hole was worth $80,000.

There is a 100-foot drop from the tee to the fairway on the sixth hole, a 505-yard par 4, and it's regarded as one of the most difficult on the course.

Couples hit a 5-iron second shot about 200 yards to 10 feet of the hole, where he made his birdie putt.

Kite and Stewart missed birdie putts of 35 and 20 feet, respectively. Norman was not in contention as his tee shot hit the cart path and bounded into a canyon.


After a drop, Norman hit a 6-iron off the concrete path and later said, "I was expecting some sparks." He wound up with a bogey.

Couples went on to get another skin worth $30,000 at the par-3, 222-yard eighth hole. He hit a 6-iron to the green with the ball spinning back to one foot of the cup. He got his tap-in birdie after Norman and Kite missed long birdie putts.

It was suggested to Kite that he was the most consistent of the four players.

"See what it got me," he said. "I play consistent golf, but these guys are consistent. I normally make a few more birdies than I did today. I made one birdie on 5 [which was matched by Norman].

"I probably hit every green in regulation, but I didn't hit it very close and, if you don't get it close, then you're not going to get many opportunities for birdies. I'll just have to perform better tomorrow."

Stewart, the defending Skins champion, who won a record $260,000 on one hole last year at PGA West, got his only skin on the par-4, 402-yard seventh hole. The last to putt, Stewart made a birdie from 10 feet.


"I was fortunate on that hole to have a free run at it," Stewart said. "You're not to get that many opportunities unless you play as well as Fred did today."

Norman got his only skin on the first hole, a par 5, when he made a two-putt birdie.

Skins winnings

First-day earnings yesterday in the Skins Game ("skins" won in parentheses):

Player.. .. .. .. .. ..Earnings

Fred Couples (6).. .. .$130,000


Payne Stewart (1).. .. .$30,000

Greg Norman (1).. .. .. $20,000

Tom Kite (0).. .. .. .. .. ..$0