TIGER WOODS CLINCHED his third U.S. Open title today in a 19-hole playoff with journeyman Rocco Mediate. Could we have honestly expected any other result?
It’s like watching a movie. You know how it’s going to end. Well, you think you know. But there’s Rocco representing every journeyman who ever dreamed of winning the U.S. Open. And the guy is playing his heart out. And you think maybe this will be the time it slips from Tiger’s grasp. No one can keep doing this, can they?
Yes, if his name is Tiger Woods.
I didn’t see the playoff, but in 10 years I’ll probably be telling people I was there. Seriously, I had to drive from L.A. to San Francisco this morning. I couldn't stop thinking about the playoff, though. So I called my dad from Coalinga.
“Rocco is hanging tough,” he told me. “He almost aced the third hole.”
In Santa Clara, I called again.
“Tiger is hitting the ball in bad spots, but his putter is keeping him in it, 12 putts in 10 holes,” he said. “Rocco has made up three shots. They’re tied with four holes to play.”
Then I heard the final result I was expecting on the radio news. Tiger won. Of course. Tiger always gets it done. Always.
But Rocco Mediate, in his own way, was just as impressive as Tiger. Let me explain.
We’ve come to expect the impossible from Tiger. Eagle the last hole to take the lead. Birdie the last hole to force a playoff. Hit shots everywhere and somehow find a way to win in the most desperate circumstances. Whatever it takes.
But how often have we seen a worthy, head-to-head competitor for Woods in the majors? Hardly ever.
The easygoing Rocco played an amazing tournament and didn’t wilt in a toe-to-toe confrontation with the ultimate intimidator. We all knew Rocco was a good guy, but who knew he had so much heart?
I haven’t had a chance to fully digest this major championship, but it must go down as one of the greatest ever. With the bum knee there was a Hoganesque quality to Tiger’s long 91-hole march for the U.S. Open trophy.
Tiger will disappear for a while now to rest the left knee and may skip the British. If he does, it may be necessary to post a flyer:
LOST: One-legged golfer, missing at last major. Answers to Tiger. And U.S. Open champion.
−The Armchair Golfer