Lehman gets big scalps in Skins

 

Tom Lehman became the first rookie in six years to win the Skins Game yesterday, earning a record $300,000 at the $600,000 event at the Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California.

Lehman, who led after Saturday's front nine with five skins and $130,000, became the first rookie to win since Payne Stewart in 1991. His earnings set a Skins Game record for a first-year participant, surpassing Raymond Floyd's record of $290,000 set in 1988.

"The last time I putted this well was probably last year's TOUR Championship and the British Open," said Lehman. "When the speed feels right, I know it's there. When you have the right speed, they just drop in the hole."

Mark O'Meara, playing in his home state, finished with a flair as he sank a $120,000 birdie putt on the 16th hole and a $100,000 birdie putt on the first play-off hole. He had not won a skin since Saturday's fourth hole but finished with five skins and $240,000.

Masters champion Tiger Woods, the only player in the four-man field with Skins Game experience, did not win any skins on the back nine yesterday, finishing with three skins and $60,000. David Duval, who replaced two-time defending champion Fred Couples earlier this week, failed to pick up a skin over the 18 holes.

Lehman, the 1996 PGA Tour Player of the Year, hit a six iron to within eight feet on the par-3, 168-yard 11th hole and sank an eight-foot birdie putt worth two skins and $60,000. O'Meara's birdie attempt hit the pin and bounced six inches away from the hole. Woods hit a seven iron to within six feet but missed his birdie attempt.

On the par-5, 576-yard 12th, Lehman hit a 3-wood in the rough just short of the green, chipped to five feet with a sand wedge and drained a four-foot birdie putt worth 30,000. Woods hit a 3wood right of the green, pitched to 12 feet and lipped his birdie putt on the right side.

Lehman sank his third straight birdie putt on the par-3, 212-yard 13th, hitting a 4-iron to within eight feet before making the putt for one skin and 40,000. Woods hit a 5-iron to eight feet and missed right.

Lehman's final birdie came on the par five, 584-yard 17th, pitching to seven feet and making the $40,000 birdie putt to clinch the title. Woods hit a three wood to the left of the green, chipped to five feet but missed the putt left.