A Long Hitter A Long Journey

By Associated PressAugust 12, 2003, 4:00 pm
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It didn't take long for Hank Kuehne to live up to his reputation.
The biggest hitter in golf took on the longest hole at Oak Hill -- the 598-yard 13th -- with ease during a practice round. He ripped his driver some 350 yards, then followed that with a 2-iron into the middle of the green.
'I'm pretty much one of only a couple -- if not the only person in the field -- that can actually get there in two,' Kuehne said Monday at the PGA Championship. 'I have to try to take advantage of my strengths.'
That strength is not difficult to figure out.
Just watch the gallery gasp whenever the 27-year-old Kuehne takes a behemoth cut. Just look at how PGA Tour players stop what they're doing when Kuehne removes the head cover of his driver on the practice range.
Look at the statistics.
Kuehne not only leads the PGA Tour in driving distance at 319.8 yards, his drives measure more than 300 yards an astounding 86.5 percent of the time; the tour average in that category is 24.5 percent.
Still, Kuehne says he's not solely about power.
He already has heard some people writing off his chances at Oak Hill, primarily because the fairways are tight and the rough is the thickest at a major in at least five years.
'I think everybody just thinks because I hit it far, I don't hit it straight,' Kuehne said. 'I hit it a lot straighter than anybody really gives me credit for. People look at statistics and don't really know that much about the players and how they play.'
People know this much about Kuehne -- as long as he is off the tee, it took him a longer time to get back to Oak Hill.
Kuehne, a recovering alcoholic, reached the pinnacle of his career five years ago when he beat Tom McKnight to win the 1998 U.S. Amateur.
'I would have told you that you were crazy if I thought it would take me this long to get out here,' Kuehne said. 'One of the things that I've learned through everything I've been through ... is you can't take anything for granted.'
Kuehne has been through plenty.
Hooked on alcohol in his teens, Kuehne was driving drunk in 1995 when he ran a stop sign and had an accident in which he broke his ribs.
After winning the U.S. Amateur and turning pro, he injured his shoulder, which kept him from reaching his potential, and left him without any status going into this year.
Kuehne finally turned it around with a runner-up finish in Houston, and has made enough money to secure his PGA Tour card for next year. Next up was getting to the PGA Championship, knowing it was held at Oak Hill.
'After I made enough money to have status, it was one of my immediate goals to try to figure out how I could get into the PGA,' he said.
Not to worry. The PGA of America offered him an invitation to the final major of the year, and his first as a professional.
He played the 1999 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open as the amateur champion, and played a practice round at Augusta National with Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. He was crushing drives back then, but Kuehne wasn't sure where they were going.
Now, he's closer to figuring that part out.
It should help this week, where rain continues to drench Oak Hill, making it play every bit of its 7,134 yards.
But experience?
This isn't the same Oak Hill where Kuehne won his U.S. Amateur.
'I remember it was a lot faster, a lot firmer,' Kuehne said. 'I think with the new tee boxes and everything else, I'll probably hit 12 drivers out there. I hit a lot of irons in the Amateur, but it all depends.'
The pivotal hole for him in 1998 was a massive drive on No. 17, followed by a wedge onto the green to 20 feet for a two-putt par and a 2-and-1 victory.
The 17th is now playing 495 yards.
'I thought about the line I took in the last hole of the match, and I actually hit on the same line today,' he said. 'Only difference is it's 50 yards farther than it was back then. It just got in the fairway. I didn't hit a wedge in like I did back then.'
Still, he has good vibes at Oak Hill.
He showed up Sunday to register and hit a few balls, and driving into Oak Hill brought back fond memories.
'It seemed like it was yesterday that I was here,' he said.
Playing in his first major as a pro, he knows it was much longer.
Related Links:
  • TheGolfChannel.com Bio: Hank Kuehne
  • 2003 PGA Championship Home
  • More News from the 2003 PGA Championship
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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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    Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

    SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

    Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

    Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

    With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

    ''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

    Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    ''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

    Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

    Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

    He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    "I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.