Most of the prize money remained up for grabs because the other five holes were tied on the first day. When the foursome tees off on No. 10 Sunday, that hole alone will be worth $270,000, and $900,000 of the $1 million purse will be at stake.
Couples' shot out of the sand was the highlight on a day when none of the four played especially well, at times making the relatively short, new course at Indian Wells Golf Resort resemble a grueling U.S. Open layout.
Players are more aggressive in skins competition, not bothering to lay up shots in front of the green because they realize a par usually won't win a hole. That strategy sometimes leads to more shots straying into the rough or sailing beyond the pin.
"It was a little different scene out there for all of us, bombing drivers," Couples said. "In a regular tournament, you'd be doing different things. I changed some shots and hit some really pathetic shots."
When his bunker shot dropped on what seemed almost its final turn, Couples raised his arms in celebration, then added a brief end zone-type hip wiggle in the sand.
As Couples walked onto the green, some fresh bounce in his step, Johnson bowed to him a couple of times, honoring the player known as "King of the Skins."
The first six holes are worth $25,000, and Nos. 7-12 $50,000 apiece. The 13th through 17th carry a prize of $70,000 and No. 18 is worth $200,000.
A player takes a skin by winning a hole. If the hole is tied by any of the players, the money carries over and all four remain in the hunt. If there is a tie on the 18th, the players who tied enter a playoff.
Couples got a bonus along with the $75,000 he won on No. 4. Title sponsor LG had offered $50,000 in products for an eagle on either of the two par 5s on the course.