Big hitters square off in made-for-TV event

Hank Kuehne and Tiger Woods will meet John Daly and Phil Mickelson.
RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. (AP) -- Ever since its creation five years ago to put Tiger Woods on prime time, Monday Night Golf has been the ultimate hit-and-giggle affair.
This might be more like hit-and-gasp.
The "Battle at the Bridges" is all about power, bringing together four of the biggest hitters in golf for an 18-hole match that will focus on their mighty swings and prodigious length off the tee.
Woods might be hitting first from the fairway, but there is no disgrace in that. His partner is Hank Kuehne, who set a PGA Tour record last year by averaging 321.4 yards off the tee.
Their opponents are Masters champion Phil Mickelson and John Daly, who won eight consecutive driving distance titles on tour until Kuehne came along.
Perhaps it's only fitting that ABC Sports has hired Fred Couples to work as an analyst at the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in northern San Diego County. Couples was known as "Boom Boom" in his early days on tour.
"It's always a blast to play in that event," Woods said. "JD is playing extremely well. I think it just makes it that much more difficult for Hank and I to beat Phil and JD."
ABC Sports will broadcast it live tonight at 8, with ESPN picking up the first hour of the match.
Top players
Woods and Mickelson are the more accomplished players, with a combined 63 victories on tour. Woods has eight majors, while Lefty picked up his first one this year at Augusta National.
Still, the attention figures to be on Kuehne and Daly, two of the biggest bashers in golf.
"I've played with Hank a lot, but we don't really pay attention to how long we hit it," Daly said. "What matters is your score. In the Skins Game in Canada, we hooked up and went back and forth a few times. He hit it 5 yards past me, I hit it 5 yards past him. We really don't think about it that much."
The better-ball match is all about making birdies and shooting the lowest score, but there is a twist this year. Four holes have been designated for a long-drive competition, with each of them worth $75,000.
"Normally, I'd be ecstatic about a long-drive championship," Mickelson said. "But against Hank Kuehne, John Daly and Tiger Woods, I'm less than thrilled -- except that my partner, John Daly, is one of the longest guys in the game and probably holds his own."
Along with the 18-hole match and the long drive contest, the third way of keeping score -- and perhaps the most important -- is the television ratings.
The national rating climbed as high as 7.6 in the second year of these hit-and-giggle affairs, when Sergio Garcia beat Woods on the 18th hole at Bighorn in 2000.
Since the exhibition switched to a team format the following year, however, ratings have steadily declined. It dropped to 4.6 last year, when Mickelson and Garcia beat Woods and Ernie Els.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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