Shark has bite with eagle

TODD SAELHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

VERNON, B.C. -- Fittingly, it was The Great Shark who made the most of Predator Ridge Golf Resort.

But even he couldn't sink his teeth deep into the aptly named course, which ate up the legendary Greg Norman and a star-studded field hunting for skins yesterday in the 2008 Telus Skins Game.

With $150,000 in prize money in their sights, Norman, Mike Weir, Freddy Couples, Camilo Villegas and Colin Montgomerie cardedjust one eagle and six birdies between them on Day 1 of the annual celebrity golf event.

And it was the one eagle that hooked the Shark most of the first-round treasure -- $100,000 on a six-skin carryover at Predator Ridge's par-5 eighth hole.

"The pins weren't easy to get at," said Norman, after the fivesome finished play on the 3,512-yard Osprey nine of the magnificent track just south of Vernon, B.C. "The holes were in very small areas of the greens -- they were tough to get to, although we had 90- to 120-yard (approach) shots.

"I made the one shot to get in close on No. 8 and was lucky to take advantage of it."

Actually, it was a great putt from 18-ft. out to pocket a carryover nobody could cash over the previous six holes.

In fact, there was only one birdie registered by the all-star fivesome over the first six holes. That was Couples' bomb, a 60-ft. putt on No. 2 for the only other money prize, a two-set skin.

"It's a happy-go-lucky event," said Norman of the laid-back round filled with fun, humour and unique interaction with the fans at Predator Ridge. "But we're still here to win and have to make our shots and make our putts. We're not trying to mishit it.

"We all need to hit it a little closer (today)."

Fittingly, the man nicknamed Mr. Skins was snaking in the most putts, including a few to take away outright skin wins by his playing partners.

Couples collected the first set of skins at the 401-yard No. 2. He knocked in a nifty 60-ft. putt, then watched Weir and Norman miss from a fraction of that distance on respective chip and putt attempts.

The American nearly cashed in the next set -- a four-hole carryover -- when his 65-footer lipped out on the 247-yard sixth hole. Couples instead settled for a tap-in par, tying Weir who pushed the hole with his own par putt to save the set of four skins and add a fifth to it.

"I was lucky to get a skin," said Couples. "The one putt on the par-5 (eighth hole) didn't win it for me. But it's nice to get the putter going well."

Not that everyone didn't have their chance to cash in.

Weir, who was shut out along with Villegas and Montgomerie, missed his chance when he pushed a four-ft. birdie putt left of the hole on the 408-yard No. 3.

On the 412-yard seventh hole, Montgomerie's approach shot from 145 yards out hit the fringe, bounced onto the green and rolled just inches left of the cup. But Villegas spoiled Monte's revenge, rolling in his own birdie on the par 4 to push with the Scotsman and carry over the skin -- yet again -- for a fifth time.

That brought the field to the only par-5 on the front nine, a 578-yard monster that favoured big-hitters like Couples and Villegas. But they couldn't stick their approach shots -- and Weir punched his drive into the trees -- so the door opened for Norman to sink his eagle.


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