Sensing that there would be a dearth of interaction, and having seen how Fuzzy Zoeller and Lee Trevino lifted Skins Games of the past, Watson did his best to pick up the slack. Before the event, he set himself up as the beleaguered old-timer with no chance, "an old dog looking for a bone," he said. He primed the Woods-Daly pump by recounting how as a boy he had gone to see former long-drive king George Bayer play, only to be disappointed when the 6'6" Bayer hit nothing but controlled fades. "He hit this Jane Fonda—it started out left and wound up right," said Watson, who could have been describing his own political evolution. Turning to Woods and Daly, Watson said, "I'm going to feel like Linda Ronstadt or Roy Orbison. You know, Blue Bayou. You guys are going to blow it by me."
On the course Watson applied the soft needle, loudly urging Woods and Daly to hit drivers on the tightest holes, expressing doubt about Couples's read on a putt and once telling Woods to zip up his fly. Such schtick is not a part of Watson's normal routine, but had he not played out of character for the good of the telecast, this would have been the dullest Skins Game ever.
Some expected Woods, as the focus of the most attention, to liven things up, but his situation is complicated. Woods is acutely aware that his words and actions are scrutinized by his peers and the public, often critically, and is fearful of coming off as a 20-year-old with a swollen head. He has decided to show his gregarious streak only to family and friends, and allow his performance on the course to speak for itself. Woods refrained from playing to the crowd or the television audience, deferring to three players who have won 11 major championships among them. "Tiger took part, but he wasn't going to be the show," said his caddie, Mike (Fluff) Cowan. "That was because of who he was with. He's going to show Tom Watson respect because that's what's proper."
Although he was low-key, Woods was not uncomfortable. Quite the contrary, he had dreamed of playing in the Skins Game ever since he saw the first one when he was seven. "I'm having a blast," he said on Saturday. "This is like a high school match. There are only four guys playing, and it's only nine holes a day."
For Woods, whose financial future should be secure, money was not the object of his first Skins Game. Although he made a five-foot putt for birdie to keep Watson from winning $120,000 on the 12th hole, Woods said he was not aware of how much the hole was worth, just as he didn't know that his 12-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole, which lipped out, would have won him the same amount. "All I wanted to do was win the holes and beat these guys," said Woods, who isn't self-conscious about saying that he tries to win every event he enters. "My goal was basically to win all the skins."
If those who run the Skins Game have anything to say about it, he'll get plenty more chances. While they've learned that even Woods won't be able to give their timeworn event a full Ivana, the facials he might apply to future competitions could be highly rejuvenating.