Golf: Couples rewrites the records with Skins Game win

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The Independent Online
FRED COUPLES survived a wild trip in the 1999 Skins Game, playing shots out of rocks, sand and even a flowering shrub. A model of inconsistency, Couples still managed to rewrite a string of records as he took the tournament title for the third time and won $635,000 (pounds 405,000) in the 18-hole event.

In the Skins Game format, prize money is at stake on each hole. A player wins the money if he wins the hole (the "skin") outright. But if two or more players tie a hole, all are considered tied and the money is carried over to the next hole, with the money building until one player wins a hole.

Couples' take was a Skins Game record, and he won $410,000 of that on one hole, also a tournament best, with a scrambling birdie on the 18th. The finishing hole was typical of Couples' play over the two days, when he was either hitting into trouble or knocking in birdie putts.

"I had nine birdies, and I bet I still only shot par," said Couples, alluding to the fact that individual scores are not kept.

Despite already being the Skins Game career-leading money-winner, Couples only joined the foursome as a replacement for the late Payne Stewart, killed in an October plane crash. Couples has had abundant fortune in skins games, winning $1,975,000 (pounds 1.26m) in seven appearances, the equivalent of just seven rounds of golf.

"Freddy is `Mr Skins', or even better, Fred `Skins' Couples," said Mark O'Meara, who was the champion in 1998 and finished second this time with $245,000.

Sergio Garcia, the 19-year-old Spaniard who is the only teenager ever to play in the Skins Game, won $120,000 while David Duval did not win a cent for the second time in as many appearances.

Skins Game competitors donate 20 per cent of the money they win to charity, but Couples chose to give 30 per cent of his earnings to the Payne Stewart Memorial Fund. Garcia gave 20 per cent of his winnings to the same fund, and O'Meara split his donation between the Stewart Fund and a charity to honour the late Winnie Palmer, wife of Arnold Palmer.

Kim Haas finished six inches short on her 10-foot putt in her attempt to win $1m (pounds 637,000) in Sunday's Gillette Putting Challenge at Palm Harbour, Florida. Haas and the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation each received $25,000. Haas was selected in August, and made a 10-footer worth $25,000 to qualify for this attempt. "I'm disappointed I left it short, but it's been a lot of fun," said the 36-year-old mother of three from Dubuque, Iowa.