"People don't turn on the TV to watch Stephen Ames."

turkey_cartoon.jpgGolf World's John Hawkins kicks off what figures to be an onslaught of Skins Game R.I.P. columns by covering a few key points while leaving out another.

That said, get a load of this year's menu: Couples, the Sultan of Silly Season, will serve as the headliner despite not playing a competitive round since the Masters. He'll be joined by Zach Johnson, who won that green jacket but remains instantly unrecognizable in almost every airport he enters; Ames, who is back because he claimed nine skins last year; and Brett Wetterich, who got in because none of the nine guys ahead of him on the 2006 money list had any interest in participating. After all, it is the first official weekend of the holiday shopping season.
In 2004 the winner of the Players Championship began receiving an automatic berth in the Skins Game, a compromise of the product that defeats the event's purpose. "The spirit of this thing has been lost in these qualifications," says a knowledgeable observer. "Originally, the idea was to have four guys yuk it up, have some fun and, by the way, there's a million dollars on the table."

So without Woods, Mickelson and perhaps a half-dozen others, the off-season's grandest stage has become an ATM for the undeserving. People don't turn on the TV to watch Stephen Ames. In fact, the only decent ratings in the last 10 years were achieved in 2001, when Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie teamed up with Tiger and Jesper Parnveik.

Jesper Parnevik played the Skins Game? Wow...how quickly I completely forget. 

Perhaps Woods saw this thing moving in the wrong direction when he agreed to play in those Battle of Bighorn matches back in 1999. His commitment to a one-on-one, 18-hole duel on the last Monday night in August gave him a reason to skip the Skins but still flex his prime-time muscle. David Duval and Sergio Garcia were Tiger's first two foes, but when the format was expanded to four players and the concept failed to produce any final-hole heroics, made-for-TV golf had taken another step backward.

Not said in the piece is event organizer's ability to pick the most drab (but high paying) golf courses possible, and their absolute refusal to increase the purse to dollar figures that would actually mean something in today's game.