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No Skinsflints Around Here, For Sure
Dan Jenkins
December 05, 1983
When golf's greatest foursome met for a $360,000 game of skins, they had a bonny Desert Highlands fling
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December 05, 1983

No Skinsflints Around Here, For Sure

When golf's greatest foursome met for a $360,000 game of skins, they had a bonny Desert Highlands fling

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They all halved the 8th hole with pars, and Nicklaus and Watson halved the 9th with birdies. Tom was destined to make four birdies during the 18 holes, but three of them wouldn't get him a dime.

"All of the timing in my career hasn't been perfect." Watson said with a smile.

Sunday's nine holes began with halves by Watson and Player on 10 and 11, where Palmer found his second shot up against a small cactus bush, a sight that must have given hope to every duck-hook specialist watching on TV or in the invited gallery of about 1,000.

Arnold at first tried to fasten his bag cover around his bright green Ultrasuede rear end to keep from getting thorned when he addressed the ball, but this didn't work. He settled on a backward lefthanded one-iron. "Got it out of there pretty good." Palmer said, meaning he "advanced" it somewhat.

Luckily for him, the hole was halved, so the stakes at the par-3 12th had quintupled to $100,000. Here Palmer hit one of his few greens in regulation, and he was "his" distance away, about 40 feet. Then in true "Go get 'em, Arnie" fashion, he hit the putt, trying, in his words, "to keep it just outside the right edge." The ball struck the cup, zipped around the edge and dived into the darkness for the $100,000. Dance act, part II.

Nicklaus had a birdie putt of about 20 feet that would have tied Palmer on the hole, and he took his time with it.

"After all these years," Nicklaus said to Palmer after Arnold had rolled in the monster. Then he added, "I know you like to play fast, but you don't mind if I look this over, do you?"

When Jack's putt barely stayed out, Arnold was the happiest he'd been in 20 years. Palmer at that point had $140,000 for having sunk two long putts in 12 holes. He was so happy, he said later, "I forgot to hit another golf shot." Indeed, Palmer's next shot was a duck hook off the 13th tee. Ben Crenshaw, doing television commentary, said, "I can explain that shot. Arnold just moved his wallet to his other pocket. What happened was the result of right-side overload."

The next three holes were halved. At 16, a carry-over worth $120,000. Nicklaus nearly holed a 90-footer for birdie, and was left with four feet for par. Watson hit an 80-foot wedge shot to within four inches, and Player, just off the green to the right, chipped to within about eight inches. Player and Watson holed their short putts and Nicklaus picked up. Much later, however, after the game was over and nearly everyone had departed the premises, Dave Anderson, the columnist for The New York Times, happened to walk outside the press tent for a moment and came upon the group of Watson, Nicklaus, Player and Joseph P. Dey Jr., the former United States Golf Association director who had refereed the round. Anderson reported that Watson confronted Player, accusing him of improving his lie by pulling out a rooted leaf which was resting on his ball before he hit that wedge. Anderson overheard Watson saying, "I'm accusing you, Gary.... You can't do that.... I'm tired of this.... I wasn't watching you, but I saw it."

Neither Nicklaus nor Watson would comment later, but Player told Anderson, "Tom thought that I'd moved a leaf that I shouldn't have, but I told him I didn't and he accepted that. And that's the way we left it."

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