HONOLULU, JAN. 30 -- Chi Chi Rodriguez, joking less than usual, said he learned one thing quickly as he competed in the first Senior Skins Game.
"It's amazing the pressure of this," the jovial golfer from Puerto Rico said after he was the big winner today, the opening day of the two-day event.
"Where you really feel the pressure, when the putts are the hardest, is when you know two other guys are counting on you to make it to tie the hole," Rodriguez said.
Continuing to prove that life on a golf course can begin at 50, Rodriguez won three holes and $40,000 over the first nine holes of the $360,000 event.
Arnold Palmer snapped a two-year drought in Skins competition (he has played the regular Skins Game with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller) by winning a hole worth $20,000.
Gary Player and Sam Snead were shut out on the opening day.
"Sure I'm happy to win a skin," Palmer said. "I had hoped to do it on the first hole, to get the nerves settled down."
The 75-year-old Snead, never seriously in contention to win a hole, quipped, "I played like I was 90."
The final three holes today, worth $20,000 each, were tied, making the first hole Sunday worth $80,000.
In the match-play format, the low score wins a hole, with ties thrown out and the money carried to the next hole.
The first six holes in the Senior Skins were worth $10,000 apiece, the second six holes worth $20,000 each and the final six worth $30,000 each.
The golfers play nine holes each day.
The 52-year-old Rodriguez, whose career really took off when he turned 50 and joined the Seniors Tour, won seven senior events and more than $500,000 last year.
During his 26 years on the regular tour, Rodriguez had won eight tournaments and a total of $1,037,105.
Palmer, 58, has played in all five regular Skins Game competitions before joining this foursome at Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore of Oahu for the first Senior Skins.
Palmer had gone 31 holes of regular Skins Game play without winning a hole before he pitched to within three feet of the pin on No. 4 and sank his birdie putt.
At the ninth hole, Palmer and Rodriguez made short par putts for 4s.
Palmer and Player each made routine putts on the 182-yard No. 8, building the pot to $40,000.
Rodriguez and Player halved No. 7 with birdie 4s on the 568-yard hole.
Both sank putts from about 14 feet to tie and carry the $20,000 over to the eighth hole.
Rodriguez won his third hole virtually by default, carding a par-4 with a 3-foot putt on No. 6 after the other three were unable to get down in par.
Palmer missed for par from 3 1/2 feet to open the door for Rodriguez to collect the $10,000, running his total to $40,000.
Rodriguez had won the previous hole, also worth $10,000, when he stroked his 9-iron shot within three feet of the pin. After Player made a 4-footer for par 4, Rodriguez sank his short putt.
Before Palmer won his $20,000 he had a solid chance to win the third hole. But he missed a birdie try from eight feet and tied Player with a par 4.
Rodriguez collected the first money, winning $20,000 on the second hole when he knocked in a four-footer after Player had missed from similar range.
Rodriguez set up the putt when he hit his tee shot near the pin on the par-3, 216-yard hole, entirely over water.