Paul Casey beats Jhonattan Vegas in skins game shootout

Through 18 holes, defending champion Jhonattan Vegas never trailed at the Telus World Skins Game in Halifax. But England's Paul Casey needed just one shot to bring Vegas — and the house — down in a $100,000, closest-to-the-pin shootout to capture the two-day event.
Paul Casey, shown here competing at the British Open a couple of weeks ago, finished with eight skins and $185,000 thanks to a brilliant stroke in the shootout on Tuesday. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Through 18 holes, defending champion Jhonattan Vegas never trailed at the Telus World Skins Game in Halifax.

But a single shot from England's Paul Casey shot brought Vegas — and the house — down, winning a $100,000, closest-to-the-pin chip off to capture the charity event at Glen Arbour Golf Course on Tuesday.

After only one skin and $15,000 on Monday, Casey finished with eight skins and $185,000 thanks to a brilliant strike in the chip off.

Vegas, who led after the opening day and throughout regulation play, finished second with five skins and $85,000. He was shut out on the back nine and never lost the lead until Casey swiped the final four skins in the tiebreaker.

"We all do this for a living, but you get to the point where you realize this is not about (winning) golf, it's about being able to play golf with four of my good mates and help [charities]," Casey said.

Sweden's Carl Pettersson (three skins, $60,000), Calgary's Stephen Ames (one skin, $15,000) and American Lucas Glover (one skin, $15,000) rounded out the field.

While Casey came on late, Vegas stole the show in blazing conditions.

The powerful Venezuelan flexed his muscle throughout, driving the green on the par-4, No. 15 hole to create distance from the field until a two-putt for birdie forced a carryover.

Unfazed, he drove the green on the next par-4, and then went too hard on the eagle putt to settle for another carryover.

"Those [big drives] don't mean anything," Vegas said of his strength. "I couldn't make the eagle putts."

After the final four holes carried over, every player remained in contention for the title, resulting in a unique, 125-yard tiebreaker.

Ames found humour in the dramatic finale.

"It was all planned for the [television] cameras," he joked. "And we wanted Casey to win."

For his part, Casey was happy with the bizarre climax — especially given the outcome.

"I loved it," he said with a smile. "I don't see an issue with it at all."

Organizers allowed LPGA Tour veteran Lori Kane of Charlottetown to take a swing during the closest to the pin shootout, drawing applause from the gallery.

Earlier, Casey made a playful appeal to take things seriously on the back nine before play resumed. But his relaxed playing partners shrugged off the suggestion with easy grins and chatter.

After Casey rolled in a long range birdie putt to win two skins and $45,000 on No. 13, he was met with a happy hug from Ames — an unusual show of support on the golf course.

Casey then scored an eagle on No. 14 to snag another $25,000 and suffered the cold shoulder as a result.

After being shut out on the opening day, Sweden's Carl Pettersson quickly stole three skins and $60,000 with a short birdie putt on the par-3, No. 11 hole. Moments later, he was yelling "fore!" after a wild tee shot on No. 12 sent the gallery scrambling, proving that skins events can be an all-or-nothing ride for some golfers.

This was the 20th anniversary of the event, and the first to visit Nova Scotia.

The golfers raised more than $70,000 for the IWK Health Centre Foundation in Halifax with eagles and birdies over the two days.