It’s not often a sporting event comes along that is truly amazing in every sense of the word — an instant classic as we in the media like to define them. Even less so is it in golf. But for five days, the 108th U.S. Open at Torrey Pines was just that — an instant classic.
It had everything. The intrigue and build-up which came with the World’s No. 1 coming off an 8-week injury hiatus to play a course where he had won six times previously as a professional, not to mention the unprecedented pairing of the World’s top three — Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott — in the first two rounds. It had the drama with classic, unforgettable shots and a tight leaderboard throughout and it also had excitement. Back and forth the tournament went with great swings of momentum. From the end of day one to the end of the 91st hole a total of six people led the championship at one point or another. The eventual winner — Woods — gave the lead back three times alone during the final round on Sunday not to mention twice more during the 18-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate; sank not one, but two birdie putts on the par-5 18th-hole to extend his chances at his 14th major.
Friday was great. Primetime with Woods, Mickelson and Scott, 50,000+ roaming the course under a perfect setting, the marine layer at Torrey. Tiger made his charge with an incredible round of 30 on his back nine, the course’s front nine. Saturday was even more magical. Count ’em, three incredible “Tiger moments” for him to add to his ever-growing highlight reel of indelible moments. The roars of the crowd and Tiger surging to a 1-shot lead on the very last hole of the day. Then Sunday. Back and forth went the triumvirate of Woods, Lee Westwood and Mediate before Mediate took a 1-shot lead into the clubhouse as Westwood and Woods approached the 18th tee.
Both hit tee shots into the bunker, then laid up before knocking wedges onto the green within 15-feet for their birdie opportunities and right into an 18-hole playoff on Monday.
Westwood would go first and with the weight of the momentous occasion (for his career) surely weighing heavily upon him, his true putt was hit just a tad too lightly and curled away before reaching the cup as did his dream of a first major championship win along with it. That left Woods who would have the last shot of the day, the entire golf world’s eye upon him to bang home a 12-footer forcing the 18-hole playoff.
And what a playoff it was.
Like a match race or a great prize fight, it was mano-a-mano, David vs. Goliath. Mediate surged to an early one-shot lead thru five holes before Goliath, that is Woods, took a commanding three-shot lead thru 10. With it seemingly over, with this playoff ready to go down just like every other with Woods involved — a dominating victory — David surged back. With three holes to go it was Rocco Mediate with a one-shot lead! They came to the 18th tee and it was Mediate with the advantage! But as resilient as ever, Tiger — sore knee and all — just would not be beaten, could not be beaten.
The 108th U.S. Open was/is the best major I’ve witnessed in some 15 years of watching golf. I hope the rest of you got to witness this classic just as I did and I surely can’t wait for the next from this great sport.