1-up on the Bear, Tiger wins Amateur

August 29, 1994|By Jeff Rude | Jeff Rude,Dallas Morning News

PONTE VERDA BEACH, FLA. — PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Trip Kuehne of Dallas birdied seven of the first 13 holes and was six holes up. His longest birdie putt was 4 feet. For 36 holes, he was 4 under par. For most of the 94th U.S. Amateur final, his game was a model of excellence.

"Super golf," the Oklahoma State junior said. "I'm proud of myself. It's the best I've played in a long, long time. I feel I hit only one bad shot."

Yet, by day's end, that was not good enough. By then, the 22-year-old admittedly was dejected, too. His eyes welled up, on the verge of tears. His dream of providing a second U.S. championship trophy for his family's mantel had fallen victim to the scrambling wizardry of Eldrick "Tiger" Woods.

Woods, 18, the three-time U.S. Junior champion (1991-93) from Cypress, Calif., birdied three of the last eight holes, including Nos. 16-17, and overtook Kuehne for a 2-up victory in the U.S. Amateur's 36-hole wrap-up. Woods thereby became the youngest Amateur champion in history, a year younger than five 19-year-old winners, including a pudgy, burr-haired Jack Nicklaus in 1959.

Woods also is the first black to win the world's most prestigious amateur championship, and his rally yesterday is the greatest comeback in the event's history, according to the U.S. Golf Association.

"It's an amazing feeling to come back from 6 down to a great player and hang in there and play some of my best golf down the stretch," Woods said at the TPC at Sawgrass, annual site of the Players Championship in March. "It's indescribable."

Woods was 6 down after 13 holes and 5 down after 24 holes but "stayed positive." Then he won four of the next five holes, Nos. 7 and 9-11, on a 35-foot birdie putt, two pars and a tap-in birdie. The soon-to-be freshman at Stanford remained 1 down until the par-5 16th, where he made a 5-foot birdie putt and pulled even for the first time since the first hole. Woods got a major break at 16, when his second shot hit a tree left and fell safely 60 yards from the pin.

"It seemed liked divine intervention down the stretch," said Ernie Kuehne, Trip's father and, for the week, caddie.

Woods then went ahead on the famous 132-yard "island" 17th. Facing a right-to-left wind, he hit a wedge at a pin tucked right and ended up 2 feet from water's edge, on the fringe 14 feet from the hole. "Go for it," he said of his outlook. Woods made that right-to-left putt for his first lead of the day and broke into an emotional, fist-pumping celebration. He also shot at the pin in the morning round and lipped out a 9-foot birdie putt.

"His gamble paid off," said Kuehne. "He tried to hit the ball in the water both times. You don't see many pros hit it right of the pin. Those were two gutsy shots, and he got a little lucky. That's how you win tournaments. My hat's off to him."

Woods won 18 with a conceded 2 1/2 -foot par putt after Kuehne three-putted for bogey from 40 feet. The runner-up's first putt, from the fringe, went 5 feet past the cup. Woods engaged in a long, teary hug with his father, Earl, a former Green Beret in Vietnam.

"I had to dig down deep and do it, and that's what I did on the back nine," Woods said after his second remarkable comeback of the week, the first coming in the second round when he was three holes down to Buddy Alexander with five holes left.

Woods, who has a 19-1 match-play record this year, shot the equivalent of 69-68137, 7 under par, to Kuehne's 4-under 66-74140. Kuehne was 4 up after 18 holes, but after the break, Woods shot the equivalent of 35-33 to Kuehne's 36-38.

Had he won, Kuehne would've followed 17-year-old sister Kelli, winner of the U.S. Junior this summer, as a national champion.

DALY SQUARES OFF

John Daly, who previously was suspended from the PGA Tour and has spent time in rehab for alcohol abuse, was in trouble again yesterday at the World Series of Golf. Daly wrestled with Bob Roth, 62, after an argument. Roth, whose son Jeffrey was in the prior twosome, was upset that Daly twice had hit balls into the group. (Article, 7C)

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