Sunday, February 1, 2004

Wie wows old stars at Champions Skins

Mickelson one back of pair after 54 holes in Phoenix

The Associated Press

WAILEA, Hawaii - Michelle Wie got Jack Nicklaus' attention Saturday in the Champions Skins Game pro-am. Standing from the champions tees on the first hole, Nicklaus asked Wie, 14, which tees she wanted to hit from.

"Back here," she replied.

"You want to play back here?" Nicklaus said. "You want to embarrass me that much?"

Wie consistently outdistanced Nicklaus, who is 50 years her senior. But Nicklaus showcased his accuracy and iron game that earned him 73 PGA Tour titles, including 18 major championships.

"He outdrove me twice," Wie said. The other three amateur men in Nicklaus' group played from the forward tees.

Hundreds followed the group, while only a few dozen people watched the other groups.

"I like to watch the other guys, but I'm here to see Michelle," said John Murphy, 62, of Connersville, Ind. "I think she's fabulous. I think she's going to be one of the best golfers there ever was."

Wie said she was honored to play with Nicklaus.

"Just to see what he has done and see he can still play, is amazing," she said. "He hits the ball really good."

Wie said Nicklaus gave her various tips, but the biggest lesson was: "He told me that a lot of people are is going to give me advice, but I should just trust myself."

Before the pro-am, which was played in a scramble format, Wie was collecting autographs of Nicklaus and the other three World Golf Hall of Fame players.

"I have grandchildren older than she is," Arnold Palmer said.

Wie wasn't just the youngest, she was also the tallest of Nicklaus, Palmer, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. "I saw you on Happy Gilmore," she told Trevino.

WATSON WINS SKINS: Watson won the Champions Skins Game, taking the final five skins and $260,000 with a par on the third hole of a playoff.

Watson, the leader after the first nine holes with $70,000, finished the two-day event with $400,000 and 10 skins.

The 2003 Champions Tour player of the year tapped in for par and won when Trevino, the defending champion, three-putted from 25 feet for bogey.

Palmer, who failed to win a skin the past two years, was second with $140,000, Nicklaus made $60,000 and Trevino was shut out.

FBR OPEN: Chris DiMarco shot his way into a share of the third-round lead in Scottsdale, Ariz., shooting a 7-under 64 to join Jonathan Kaye at 14-under 199.

Kaye carded a 66, making all five of his birdies on the back nine, and second-round leader Phil Mickelson was one shot back after a 68.

The leaderboard for the final round will be packed with crowd favorites - DiMarco (2002), Mickelson (1996) and Vijay Singh (1995, 2003) are former Phoenix Open champions - and international stars such as Mike Weir, Bernhard Langer and Sergio Garcia.

Langer (66), Justin Leonard (66), Weir (68) and Ricky Barnes (68) were three shots off the pace, with Singh, Garcia, Northern Kentuckian Steve Flesch, Fredrik Jacobson and first-round leader Scott Verplank at 203.

JOHNNIE WALKER: Thomas Bjorn shot a 2-under-par 70 for a one-stroke lead over Miguel Angel Jimenez after three rounds at Bangkok. Bjorn had just one bogey, on the 13th hole, and was at 14-under 202 with one round left. Jimenez shot a 67 for a 203.

Defending champion Ernie Els missed an easy putt on the final hole and finished with a 69, leaving him at 206. Simon Yates shot a 67 and shared third at 204 with Richard Green, who had a 68.

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