Nicklaus sharper for skins success

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Jack Nicklaus rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole to win four skins worth $48,000 (£27,500) and take the first-day lead at the Canadian Skins Game in Whistler, British Columbia, on Monday.

The Canadian Stephen Ames collected two skins worth $28,000, while John Daly won one skin worth $12,000. Vijay Singh missed two short birdie putts and was shut out.

Nicklaus is using the two-day event as a warm-up for his final British Open at St Andrews next week, saying that the competitive environment would force him to focus on his game. "I knew if I had Stephen, Vijay and John, it would be pretty good competition. I hope they give me some tomorrow," Nicklaus said with a smile.

Playing the front nine of the Nicklaus North Golf Course he designed in 1995, the 65-year-old Nicklaus did not miss a fairway but was well behind his playing partners off the tee at the 459-yard, par-four fourth. But his five-iron from 194 yards stopped 10 feet from the pin, inside Singh and Daly, who hit their drives 75 yards farther. After Daly and Singh missed birdie putts from 20-25 feet, Nicklaus calmly made his putt and drew a roar from the gallery for winning four skins after the first three holes were carried over.

"I'd like to just play when I'm 65," Singh said, joking. "Jack's beating us at 65."

Daly claimed a skin at the 416-yard, par-four fifth, making an eight-foot birdie putt after Ames had missed on the same line.

Singh, who missed a birdie putt inside five feet on the opening hole, had another chance to win a skin at the par-three sixth when he hit his tee shot within four feet. But his putt caught the lip of the cup and spun out. "You still have to put the ball in the hole," Singh said. "I played well, I was fired up out there. I think Jack is fired up, too."

* China launched its first professional tour, the China Golf Tour, yesterday. The tour, organised by the China Golf Association, will hold four events this year - each with a US$100,000 prize-money pool - and expand by two events each year so that there will be at least 10 events in 2008.