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O'Meara Wins Record Skins

If he could, Mark O'Meara would never let 1998 end.

The Masters and British Open champion, who earned a career-high $1.78 million on the PGA Tour and won his first two majors, picked up a record $430,000 with a victory in the Skins Game on Sunday.

O'Meara clinched his first Skins title on the 16th hole of regulation, knocking in a 3-foot birdie putt worth two skins and $140,000. That pushed his two-day total to eight skins and $430,000 -- bettering the $370,000 Fuzzy Zoeller won in 1986.

"This year has been a tremendous year for me," said O'Meara, who will play two more non-PGA Tour events in South Africa and Australia before year's end. "To win the Skins Game caps off so positively everything else that has happened to me this year."

O'Meara's luck ran out when the Skins Game went to a playoff for the fifth consecutive year. He dropped out of contention for the largest skin ($270,000) with a bogey on the first playoff hole at Rancho La Quinta Country Club.

"I still would've liked to keep going and play for that super skin," said O'Meara, who had a two-day, 18-hole total of 1-over 72.

Instead, he plopped down cross-legged on the ninth green and waited as Tom Lehman, Fred Couples and Greg Norman continued a Skins record six-hole playoff.

Defending champion Lehman birdied the par-4, 400-yard 10th hole with a 4-foot putt to win two skins and $270,000 over Couples, whose birdie attempt curved around the cup.

"It seemed like it took forever," Lehman said. "I didn't think too much about the fact there was a lot of money on the line. I didn't want to lose the playoff."

Lehman finished second with seven skins and $420,000, also bettering Zoeller's record. Couples was third with three skins and $150,000. Norman, playing his second event since missing seven months because of shoulder surgery, was blanked both days.

Norman was eliminated on the third playoff hole. His second shot on No. 9 landed in water to the right of the green. He took a drop and hit his fourth shot within 30 feet of the hole, but missed the par putt.

That left Lehman and Couples in a match-play duel.

Couples, the career Skins leader with $1.34 million and 41 skins, missed four birdie putts that would have won the playoff. The first three putts slid by the hole, and the fourth, a 12-footer on No. 10, curved high around the cup.

"It's a big mind game," Lehman said. "Freddie had four putts to win and couldn't get it in the hole. That kind of thing wears on you."

Lehman sank his 4-footer to tie Couples' single-hole money reord. Couples also won $270,000 in 1995 on the fifth extra hole.

Lehman completed a two-day, 18-hole total of 63 on the par-71 course. He was 1-under in the playoff. He shot a 61 in winning last year.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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