Champions Tour event to fill void

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Fred Couples turned 50 in October, and he could not have picked a better Champions Tour event to make his debut.

The "King of the Skins" will be playing in the Champions Skins Game in Hawaii on Jan. 16-17, joining a Hall of Fame cast that includes Jack Nicklaus , Tom Watson , Gary Player , Ben Crenshaw and Nick Price .

While the original Skins Game held over Thanksgiving weekend has been canceled, the 50-and-older version lives on in paradise at Royal Kaanapali. The total purse is $770,000, and it features two-man teams playing alternate shot.

Couples turned the Skins Game into an annuity. He played 14 times and earned $4.183 million. In 585 official events on the PGA Tour, he made $21.319 million.

"I could not think of a better way for me, personally, to start on the Champions Tour than to play in this format and have the chance to hang out with this group of players," said Couples, who will be paired with Nick Price .

Fuzzy Zoeller and Ben Crenshaw will try to become the first team to repeat in the Champions Skins Game, and Zoeller will be going for his third consecutive title; he played with Peter Jacobsen in 2007.

Nicklaus and Watson will be teammates again, and the fourth team is Gary Player and Loren Roberts .

AWOL AT THE LPGA: Ever since the "Tour Championship" was introduced into golf's vernacular in 1991, the very name of the tournament suggests an elite field.

That wasn't the case last week on the LPGA Tour.

For starters, organizers decided to expand the season finale to 120 players. If not for rain that forced a 54-hole tournament, there would have been a cut to 70 players after the second round, and to the top 30 after the third round. By turning it into a full field, the LPGA Tour at least was giving some players an additional start.

However, it was difficult to ignore the number of players who didn't show up -- not only players who were among the top 120, but 16 alternates. The LPGA Tour does not disclose why a player withdraws, so it's unclear how many were because of injury or travel plans.

Even so, the tour had to go down to No. 156 on its money list to fill the field in Houston.

CAREER MONEY: As many as seven players could be taking an exemption from the career money list to keep their PGA Tour cards.

Brad Faxon (No. 37) and Corey Pavin (No. 48) already have notified the tour they will take a one-time exemption for being among the top 50 in career earnings.

The tour is waiting to hear from two players who already have used a one-time exemption from the top 25 in career money and still have the top 50 option -- 50-year-old Tom Lehman (No. 21) and Chris DiMarco (No. 22). Stuart Appleby (No. 15) expects to decide in the next few weeks.


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