KOHALA COAST, HAWAII, JAN. 27 -- A mental lapse by Gary Player helped Jack Nicklaus go on to the biggest payday of his unparalleled career.

"I've always prided myself on course management," Player said today after struggling through a three-hole playoff with Nicklaus in the Senior Skins Game. The five-man starting field had played the entire back nine with no skin won, three $25,000 holes and six $35,000 holes being carried over.

"But this time," Player said, "I made a mistake. I blanked out. I don't know what it was. I just wasn't thinking."

Player had Nicklaus on the rocks, literally, but let him get away. Nicklaus turned his escape on the second playoff hole and an eagle putt of perhaps 40 feet on the third into a $285,000 bonanza at the Mauna Lani Resort. With his $25,000 Saturday take, he collected $310,000.

"By far the biggest payday I've ever had," said Nicklaus.

The big check compares, for example, with the $113,285 he collected as the PGA Tour's leading money winner in 1964. It was larger, in fact, than his season total in seven of the eight years he led the tour in winnings.

Lee Trevino won $125,000 and Arnold Palmer $15,000, both from Saturday's nine holes. Player and Chi Chi Rodriguez were shut out.

Today's purse all was pocketed on that dramatic eagle putt, but the event turned as Nicklaus scrambled for par on the second extra hole, the par-5 No. 18, after he and Player birdied the first extra hole to eliminate the others.

Nicklaus, trying to stay away from a bunker on the left, hit into the lava rocks on the right.

"When he got it into the rocks," Player said, "I thought, 'I can win it with a {par} 5.' And I played it for a 5. That was my mistake."

Player got the 5 he was playing for, but so did Nicklaus. After a penalty drop from the rocks, he hit a 243-yard, 3-wood third shot over the lava, around a palm tree and onto the left fringe of the green, 40 feet from the hole. He two-putted for par.

They went back to the tee on the par-5 No. 10. On their second shots, Player reached the front fringe with a fairway wood and Nicklaus hit a 2-iron to the back left fringe. Player missed his long eagle putt to the right.

As Nicklaus hit his putt, he began yelping, "It's going! It's going!" and when it took the break and began to fall, he said, "It's in!"