Woods, Kuehne rally to win Bridges

Posted: Tuesday, August 03, 2004

RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. Even before the lights came on, Hank Kuehne looked lost on a prime-time stage.

The longest hitter in golf hit the shortest drive in the 6-year history of Monday Night Golf. And that's saying plenty considering Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam once played in this made-for-TV event.

''I was looking for a big rock to crawl under,'' Kuehne said of a drop-kick, duck-hook drive on the ninth hole that went 180 yards and didn't even reach the fairway.

Under the portable lights, however, Kuehne shined.

An exhibition that was supposed to be about power came down to the shortest club in the bag, and Kuehne salvaged his embarrassing night with two clutch birdies before turning the show over to Tiger Woods.

He and Woods won four straight holes a birdie and an eagle by Woods sandwiched around two birdies by Kuehne to rally against Masters champion Phil Mickelson and John Daly, winning 2 and 1.

''It's unfortunate,'' Mickelson said. ''But boy, did they play well on the back nine.''

Woods and Kuehne split $1 million for winning, while Mickelson and Daly split $400,000. Woods is now 4-2 in the Monday Night Golf events that began in 1999.

Mickelson and Daly got a small consolation by sweeping the four long-drive holes. Daly won with drives of 319 yards, 345 yards and 341 yards, and Lefty got the last one when the other three guys missed the fairway. His winning drive was a whopping 268 yards.

He and Daly won $300,000 for the long drives, half of which goes to the charity of their choice.

''It's a joke how far he can hit it,'' Woods said of Daly. ''He makes it look so easy. Watch the balance he has. For a guy who hits it that far, he's always in balance.''

For a while, the joke was on Kuehne.

Winless on the PGA Tour, rarely in this kind of spotlight, his nerves were obvious on the front nine, and it reached a low point with his drive on No. 9.

''Obviously, I was extremely nervous and out of my comfort zone,'' Kuehne said. ''It all came to a head at that beautiful ninth hole. That was honestly, probably the worst shot I've ever hit in competition.''

The exclusive gallery at the Bridges members and guests only got an early glimpse of the power on the practice range, which was reconfigued to keep the four players from taking out windows in the pricey houses behind the back end of the range.

The landing area was turned sideways, and green islands of grass in the brown foothills were the targets. The farthest one was 325 yards. Daly, then Woods, took turns crushing drives that sailed over the yardage marker.

Kuehne looked nervous as he tried to figure out which driver to use. He bashed his tee shots over a fence along the right side of the range, and they never came back.

Once the match started, not much changed.

Kuehne only hit one fairway on the front nine that was with an iron, after Woods tried to drive the green on the 357-yard sixth hole and went into the water.

It was two against one, and Woods did his best to keep them in the game with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9, and keeping his ball in play as Kuehne took a wild ride through the Bridges of Rancho Santa Fe.

Daly gave his side a 1-up lead with a 15-foot birdie on the par-3 fourth, and they won the next hole when Mickelson holed a 12-footer to save par. Woods hit into the lip of a bunker off the tee, while Kuehne missed the fairway by some 40 yards to the right, into the water.

Daly-Mickelson had the tee for 10 straight holes until Woods started the comeback with a 6-foot birdie on the 13th, and then Kuehne finally showed up.

''Hank made a big putt to keep us going, and we had momentum in our favor,'' Woods said.

Mickelson narrowly missed a birdie on the 11th that would have given his team a 3-up lead, and he and Daly were robbed as Woods and Kuehne made their rally.

Daly's chip on the 14th hit the pin and bounced away. Mickelson had an 18-foot putt that rimmed all the way around the cup. Kuehne was the last to putt, and it was a big relief when the ball disappeared for birdie.

''The key thing for us was Tiger making that putt (on No. 13) to get our toe in the door,'' Kuehne said. ''As the match went on, I started to feel more comfortable. I started to play like myself a little bit, instead of that guy on No. 9.''

For the second straight year, the temporary lights installed on the final four holes were put to good use. ABC Sports held up the players early in the match, and it cost the network. Four hours into the match, the players had finished only 14 holes.

Kuehne gave his side a 1-up lead their first since Woods made a birdie on No. 2 at the 15th, and Woods put it away by blistering a 5-iron into 25 feet for eagle on the 16th and a 2-up advantage. Mickelson and Daly both narrowly missed birdie putts on 17 that would have extended the match.

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