Originally created 01/25/03

Irwin looks for his fourth Skins victory



WAILEA, Hawaii -- With victories in his last three trips to the Championship Skins Game, there's no doubt that Hale Irwin is the one to beat Saturday.

But Irwin, 57, isn't counting out his three more senior opponents - Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino - whom he calls "golf's greatest players.

"I would say that certainly one thing that has made Nicklaus, Palmer and Trevino so successful is the fact that they are uncompromising in their efforts," Irwin said. "They all have great charisma, enviable playing records, and without a doubt, are three of the greatest men to ever play the game.

"It's an honor to be on the same course with them," said Irwin, the 2002 Champions Tour Player of the Year.

Last year, Irwin dominated the Skins Game, setting four records and winning the last 11 skins after a slow start. It was the beginning of a superb season that saw him win four senior tour events and a record $3,028,304.

"As far as goals, it would be to try to maintain the momentum I had at the end of last year," he said. "I don't like to go too far out on that limb at this time of year with predictions and goals."

However, Irwin's modesty doesn't change his record.

"Hale has been the dominant player on the Champions Tour for a number of years and I don't see that changing this year," Palmer said.

The Skins Game reunites the 73-year-old Palmer and the 63-year-old Nicklaus. This is the 15th Skins appearance in 16 years for Palmer, who missed the 1997 event because of his battle with prostate cancer.

Nicklaus, who won seven skins worth $150,000 last year, is playing for the 13th time.

"Arnold and I have had countless battles over the years, and there is not a single time where we don't go out there and have a great deal of fun," Nicklaus said. "At the same time, we want to beat each other."

While Irwin plans to play his regular 25-event season, Trevino said he'll play about 15.

"I've been trying to retire," he said. "As far as how I'm going to play, it probably won't be very good. My confidence comes from practice and I don't do that very much anymore. I have other priorities now."

Palmer and Nicklaus still aren't sure how many tournaments they'll participate in.

"I hope to be able to play a few holes (Saturday), beyond that, I don't have a clue," Nicklaus said.

The $600,000 Skins Game is being played at Wailea Golf Club's scenic Gold Course that isn't overly difficult. However, the players could face rain and gusty winds.



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