Tiger Woods outlasts Rocco Mediate on 19th hole sudden death to close his greatest championship ever

mulligan, 17 June 2008, Comments Off on Tiger Woods outlasts Rocco Mediate on 19th hole sudden death to close his greatest championship ever
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Tiger Woods called it his greatest championship ever. I guess I would have to respectfully disagree. Tiger’s entire body of work is filled with masterpieces, and this one is just another compelling chapter written by the greatest golfer to ever play the game. I agree, though, what we just witnessed this past week may have been the most dramatic of all of Tiger’s victories.

The drama was intensified by the story–or, rather, stories–that unfolded this U.S. Open Championship. They were all, in a way, improbable. First, there was hometown hero Phil Mickelson playing on his home course looking like he was playing the course for the first time and blundering badly with his strategy, not to mention swing. Improbable, but perhaps understandable given the pressure that Lefty must have felt. The guy withered again under the pressure. Like he said, the last time he quadruple bogeyed 13 was when he was 8 years old! So much for the “dream pairing” of Woods and Mickelson. The USGA should’ve learned from the debacle at the Ryder Cup!

Tiger Woods, of course, was the exact opposite of Phil: Tiger didn’t wither under the pressure, he reveled in it. Pressure is what stokes Tiger’s fire. You could visibly see it on his face when he essentially faced elimination on the last hole on Sunday needing to make a 15 footer for birdie to force a playoff and again on Monday, only with a shorter birdie putt. That Tiger was in this position at all was improbable, though, because the guy was coming off knee surgery — his third on the same knee — and had not played a tournament in months. Tiger Woods is the only golfer in the world who would be able to pull of something as miraculous as winning a major without having played in months following surgery. I mean, c’mon, most of the players don’t even have a realistic chance of winning a major if they are healthy and playing their best.

Finally, the most improbable story this U.S. Open has to be the play of 45-year-old Rocco Mediate, a guy who’s won only 5 tourneys on the PGA tour and who is ranked 150 in the world and only made it to the U.S. Open by winning a playoff during a qualifier at Ohio State. If this were a movie, Rocco would be named “Rocky.” Rocco played valiantly through 72 holes, almost winning, and then through 18 playoff holes, again almost winning against the best player in the world. But the streak ended for Rocco when he hit a poor drive on the 1st hole of sudden death. Poof, in an instant, Rocco’s best — and perhaps only realistic — chance to win a major ends. Even before it was over, we were all familiar with the ending. Only a few people have really pushed Tiger to the limit in a major — Bob May and Chris DiMarco and a young Sergio Garcia — while most of the previous 13 majors Tiger Woods has won he has done so by imposing his will. (Hal Sutton once outdueled Tiger Woods, but that was at the TPC.) Every major Tiger has won, he’s had the lead or share of it going into Sunday. The ending never gets tiresome, though, because how can brilliance ever get boring?

Click here for extended highlights of entire playoff


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