Woods wins sudden-death thriller at U.S. Open

By: samjack

SAN DIEGO — When Rocco Mediate left Torrey Pines, he had nothing left.

He had given the golf course, the roaring gallery on the national championship stage and the world’s best player everything he had.

It wasn’t enough.

Tiger Woods ended Mediate’s bid to become the oldest player to win the U.S Open on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Monday.

Mediate could have walked away with so much more had it not been for Woods, who despite playing on a badly hurting left knee birdied the 72nd hole to force a playoff and repeated the feat at the 90th hole to force a sudden-death playoff.

The two, who shot even-par 71s in the 18-hole playoff, went to No. 7, where Mediate failed to make par and had to settle for the title of runner-up to the man with so many titles.

“I just about got him,” Mediate, 45, said. “He had to birdie the last again; and, again, he did it.

“I can’t give any more, I really can’t. I almost got it done. I almost got it done.”

On a day in which he was in it, out of it, and back in it again, Mediate threatened to pull off one of sports’ greatest upsets. But Woods overcame to claim what he described as his “greatest major championship.”

“I think this is probably the best ever,” Woods said. “All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position, to be honest with you. It was a long week.”

After making eagle on the hole to take the lead into the fourth round, Woods arrived at the 18th tee on consecutive days knowing he needed a birdie to tie. Each time he delivered.

“Well, it’s pressure; there’s no doubt,” Woods said. “I was nervous and that’s a good thing. That means you care.”

Woods cared so much he ignored his doctor’s orders not to play golf so he could compete in the Open at one of his favorite courses.

Site of first 18 holesHe grew up about an hour north of Torrey Pines, and it is where he played his first 18-hole round. He was 10.

Now 32, Woods has won 14 majors, putting him only four championships short of Jack Nicklaus’ record. Nicklaus didn’t win his 14th major until he was 35.

Coming off a two-month layoff following knee surgery, with precious little practice, Woods wasn’t at his best this weekend. But he was better than every other golfer in the field.

Mediate made him earn it.

Mediate missed a short par putt at the ninth, and made the turn with a two-shot deficit.

What little hope he had of putting a scare into the world’s No. 1 golfer appeared lost after a bogey on the next hole. Woods doesn’t often blow three-shot leads on the back nine.

But almost before fans watching on television could switch to afternoon soap operas, Mediate was in the lead.

After Woods bogeyed 11 and 12, Mediate birdied 14 for the tie at par.

Then on No. 15, Mediate rolled in a 35-foot putt that would have gone at least half that distance to the other side had the hole not been in the way, for a one-shot lead with three to play.

“I said, ‘If I can keep hitting good shot after good shot, which I pretty much did, I’m going to win this golf tournament.’ “

Rocco close to winHe almost did, but he didn’t.

Mediate yanked his 20-foot birdie putt that would have meant victory on 18.

In sudden death, the noted hooker turned his drive over a bit too much on the 461-yard dogleg right par-4. He drew an awful lie against the lip of a fairway bunker, his approach bounded off the cart path and hit the grandstand, and his chip was about 18 feet long.

He missed the putt from there, and Woods was a three-time U.S. Open champion. Mediate was the man who almost. …

“I didn’t want it to be a walk in the park (for Woods),” Mediate said. “It could have been. I’m a little bit tired; I’m a little old.

“He’s got me by 14 years. He’s got me by a thousand yards off the tee. And I kept hanging in there, hanging in there, hanging in there.”

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