Having golf’s best players in one of its most breathtaking settings in a go-for-broke format has long been great theater. This year’s LG Skins Game, Nov. 29-30 at Indian Wells Golf Resort’s Celebrity Course, should be long on banter, too.
Each hole in the LG Skins Game has a set value. If a player records the best score on a given hole, he wins the "skin" for that hole and that hole’s prize money. If two players tie for the lowest score on a hole, the skin carries over and the next hole is worth the prize money from the previous hole and the next hole; all four players are eligible to win the next hole and both skins. If ties continue, the skins build up. In his victory in 2007, Ames won $650,000 with a birdie on the 18th hole that was good for eight skins.
The inaugural Skins Game in 1984 in Scottsdale, Ariz., boasted Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson, and Player. That’s like watching Jordan, Bird, and Magic play Horse — for big money. Let’s just say there’s always some pride at stake. Since the Skins Game moved to the Coachella Valley in 1986, six courses have hosted. The Celebrity Course in Indian Wells features spectacular mountain views, streams, and split-level lakes connected by waterfalls — the perfect complement for leftover turkey.
K.J. Choi made seven top-10 finishes through 25 events in 2008. He has a PGA victory in each of the last four years and seven career PGA wins. The first Korean to earn his PGA Tour card, Choi played in the Presidents Cup in 2003 and 2007.
Phil Mickelson makes his third Skins Game appearance. The three-time major champ had two PGA Tour wins in 2008 at press time. A San Diego native, he likes playing close to home — and proves it with multiple wins in Southern California, including in the Coachella Valley. The Skins format should let Lefty play high-risk golf; the results often dazzle the gallery.
Rocco Mediate never met a microphone he didn’t like. Expect constant, witty chatter from the Pennsylvania native. Buddies with Phil, he’s now close friends with half the planet after nearly taking down Tiger Woods in a 19-hole playoff at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. The five-time PGA Tour winner should be the life of this party. “That’s why they invited me,” he jokes.
Stephen Ames has 1.2 million reasons — his earning from the last two LG Skins Games — to come back and defend. Ames tied for seventh place at the 2008 British Open and has three career PGA wins. “I’m especially excited about the tremendous field lined up for this year,” Ames says. “The fans are in for a treat.”