Norman big winner in Skins Game, Woods shut out


Monday, November 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


INDIO, Calif. (AP) _ It seemed like old times to Greg Norman as the Skins Game came down the stretch with everything on the line. He was striking the ball crisply, making key putts and beating the best in the world.

It would have been great in a major championship. As it was, it was only the made-for-television Skins Game.

That didn't stop Norman from pocketing a record $1 million on Sunday, though. And it didn't stop from making him feel pretty good about himself once again at the age of 46 after shutting out Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik.

``It's not that you want Tiger's scalp on the mantel,'' Norman said. ``It's just that he's the best player in the world and you want to beat the best player in the world. I know that feeling well.''

Three years since he last won a tournament of any kind, Norman had plenty to be pleased about after sinking a birdie putt on the 17th hole to thwart Parnevik and then making a routine par on the 18th to win his first $800,000.

Two extra holes later, he pocketed another $200,000, and sent Woods, Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik home empty-handed.

``Any win is a great win, whether it's a Skins Game or a regular tournament,'' said Norman, whose last win came in the 1998 Greg Norman Holden International in Australia. ``It's very satisfying to do it. Whenever you beat the caliber of players like that, it's good.''

Woods wasn't as happy, but he was philosophic after losing his chance to stop Norman by hitting his second shot into the water on the 18th hole.

``It was pretty exciting, no doubt about it,'' Woods said. ``I'm disappointed I didn't give myself a chance on the last hole. To walk away with no skins isn't exactly a good feeling.''

Norman took $630,000 out of Parnevik's pocket with his 10-footer for birdie on 17, and added a birdie on the second playoff hole to sweep all the money.

It was both the biggest single-hole payout in the 19-year history of the Skins Game, and the biggest overall win.

``Greg came and stole it from me on 17,'' Parnevik said. ``That hurt a little bit.''

Norman, after making a birdie on the 17th hole to win all the previous skins, needed to only par the 18th to become the big winner. That was because a new rule forced a player to at least tie for low score on the next hole after winning a skin.

He did it with a conservative sand shot and two putts that allowed him to cash in 17 skins worth $800,000.

``I've never had to make a par for $800,000 in my life,'' Norman said. ``It was hard trying to figure it out.''

Norman predicted after the front nine Saturday that all the skins could be in play on the 18th hole, and he was right after a back nine where six holes were played before Parnevik won his skin with a 20-footer for birdie on No. 16.

Norman' job on the 18th was made much easier after Woods and Montgomerie both put their second shots in the water on the par-5, and Parnevik hit the lip of a fairway bunker and was well short of the green.

Norman hit an iron into the right greenside bunker and was faced with a long sand shot toward a pin with water just behind it. Instead of risking it all, Norman played his shot well short of the pin, then putted to four feet before making his putt for par.

Montgomerie parred the hole out of the water, meaning the players went to extra holes to settle the final skin.

The new rule was supposed to build suspense as money grew because players couldn't follow up a winning skin on the next hole. But it wasn't needed from the sixth hole Saturday to the 15th on Sunday, a span of 10 holes where no one even won a skin.

Parnevik broke that string on the 16th hole, and Norman won it back on the next.

The course was set up so viewers could see birdies. On the stretch of five holes beginning on No. 12, there was no hole over 388 yards and two of the par-4s were within driving distance.

But there were only two birdies on those holes _ both at the 300-yard 14th _ before Parnevik sunk his 20-footer on 16 for the first skin of since the fifth hole a day earlier.

Woods, who signed a television deal to appear in four Skins Games over five years, was supposed to boost ratings and galleries with his presence. He may have, but his game was nothing more than ordinary, as he plodded along with nothing but pars on the back nine before the 18th hole.