Battle at the Bridges
When Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the greats of golf teed it up in prime time.
When ABC Sports decided to make golf a prime time event, The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe won a starring role. The world watched as four of the highest-ranked golfers each of three years “battled” it out on the private club’s emerald fairways carved out of the golden coastal hills north of San Diego.
Club members were among a limited number of guests allowed to follow the competitors, who walked the course except where the distance was too great for television commercial breaks. Beamed throughout the U.S. and in 25 countries, club members were thrilled to see images of The Bridges travel the globe.
After debuting in 1999 as the only golf tournament in history to be televised in prime time, Monday Night Golf moved from Palm Desert to Rancho Santa Fe in 2003 with a line-up that included the world’s top-rated golfers: No. 1, Tiger Woods; No. 2, Ernie Els; No. 3, Phil Mickelson; and No 8, Sergio Garcia.
“If you took a poll of the four PGA TOUR players that you'd most want to see in one foursome, it would be these four guys,” said former president of ABC Sports, Howard Katz in April, 2003. “Put them together on one of America's most picturesque golf courses in a team-, match-play format, and I think we've got the makings of one great and entertaining night of prime time golf."
The Battle at The Bridges became a popular member of ABC’s Monday night sports franchise from 2003-2005. During all three years of the made-for-TV, two-man, better-ball match play, The Battle featured one of Rancho Santa Fe’s own, the great Phil Mickelson.
“I’m very proud to be a member here,” said Phil at The Bridges’ post-match press conference on August 2, 2004.
Paired that year with the comeback kid, John Daly, Phil continued: "I thought a little local knowledge might come into play. But it seems like they were making the putts on the back nine and we weren't. But John and I had a lot of fun playing together. We were all laughs and giggles on the front nine -- real cheery -- and then we got quiet real quick."
That 2004 match finished under the lights, with Tiger and Hank Kuehne defeating Phil and John. But Phil’s overall record of 2-1 ultimately triumphed as best of The Battles at The Bridges.
Here's how they finished from 2003-2005:
• 2003: Tiger Woods & Ernie Els vs. Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia [winners]
• 2004: Tiger Woods & Hank Kuehne [winners] vs. Phil Mickelson & John Daly
• 2005: Tiger Woods & John Daly vs. Phil Mickelson & Retief Goosen [winners]
The Battle of Bridges came with a $1.7 million annual purse; $1.2 million split by the winners, and $500,000 split by the losers. Every year, a total of $300,000 was contributed to charity, with the players designating a portion of their winnings to the non-profits of their choice.
Mementos from The Battle at The Bridges are on display in The Bridges clubhouse, highlighting a unique series of events in the long history of golf.