Woods & Kuehne win Battle of the Bridges
Hank Kuehne salvaged an embarrassing night off the tee with two birdie putts that got his team back in the match, and Tiger Woods took over from there.
Woods blistered a 5-iron within 25 feet for an eagle at the par-5 16th that capped a great comeback and gave him and Kuehne a 2-and-1 victory Monday night in the Battle at the Bridges.
The made-for-TV exhibition was supposed to be about power, and John Daly did not disappoint by winning three of the four long-drive contests. But it ultimately came down to the most reliable club in anyone's bag -- the putter.
Daly and Masters champion Phil Mickelson led 2-up for most of the match until Woods started the rally with a birdie on the 13th, and Kuehne finally got in the game with birdies putts of 8 and 12 feet on the next two holes to give them a 1-up lead and send them to a victory.
``After the front nine, I needed something,'' Kuehne said. ``Because that was pretty ugly.''
Until those birdies, Kuehne had the dubious distinction of being the longest hitter on the PGA Tour and producing the shortest drive in these exbibitions -- a 180-yard duck hook, the worst drive of a bad night off the tee.
``I was looking for a big rock to crawl under,'' Kuehne said.
Ultimately, it didn't matter.
He and Woods went 5-under over a four-hole stretch starting on the 13th, and the match ended under the lights on the par-3 17th when Daly and Mickelson narrowly missed birdie putts to keep the match alive.
``It's unfortunate, but boy, did they play well on the back nine,'' Mickelson said.
Woods and Kuehne each split $1 million, while Mickelson and Daly split $400,000. Woods is now 4-2 in the Monday Night Golf exhibitions that began in 1999.
Kuehne statistically is the longest hitter in golf, but he was no match against Daly on the four holes that featured a long-drive contest. Daly hit a 319-yard drive on No. 3 -- Woods was a yard longer, but in the rough, so it didn't count. His biggest blast was 345 yards on the par-5 seventh, that was 30 yards beyond Woods.
Daly also won with a 341-yard drive on No. 14, and Mickelson captured the last contest on the par-5 16th after the other three guys missed the fairway. His winning drive was a mere 268 yards.
He and Daly won $300,000, 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.
In prime time for the first time, Kuehne looked out of place. He three-putted from just off the third green, badly missing a 6-footer for par, to give Mickelson and Daly the hole and square the match.
And it only got worse. The only fairway Kuehne hit on the front nine came on the 357-yard fourth -- and that was because Woods hit into the water going for the green, so Kuehne had to hit iron.
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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