Monday, June 16, 2008

Tiger Goes 91 for 14th Major!

While many golf fans yesterday were thrilled with the thought of an 18 hole Monday playoff to determine the 2008 U.S. Open Champion, many of us who watched as Tiger Woods birdie effort on 18 curled in the right edge of the cup to force today's playoff with Rocco Mediate knew that we weren't going to have the opportunity to see much of it. Yes, Monday is a workday for most of us Americans, and getting a vacation day on a Monday with zero notice is pretty much next to impossible for many (me included). And "calling in sick" of course was never an option.

My morning break from 10:45-11:00 and my 12:30-1:30 lunch would be my only opportunities to see Tiger continue to chase Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors, and Rocco try to make some history of his own. As I did some quick calculations, this meant I'd probably get to see them play the 8th or 9th hole on my break, and the 17th and 18th holes during the first half of my lunch hour. Little did I know that having that extra half hour in my lunch hour would turn out to be VERY important.

The first nine holes of the playoff were to be televised from 9-11am on ESPN, the final nine on NBC from 11am-1pm. I figured I'd bring my little portable TV into work to try to catch the NBC's coverage. Well, that turned out to be an exercise in futility as the computers in my office all but kill any VHF reception. Thankfully, I had my cellphone. With ESPN offering a constantly updated blog, I was able to keep up with the tournament almost minute to minute on my cellphone even while working.

Perhaps it was nerves, but Rocco had rough first hole, bogeying to fall one down. Both players would par the second hole. The tide turned on the par-3 third, as Tiger bogeyed and Rocco nearly holed out his tee shot, making a short birdie putt to take a one stroke lead. Both players parred the fourth hole.

Then came a remarkable stretch of 11 holes where at least one of the players made either a birdie or bogey. Rocco bogeyed the fifth to make it all square. Tiger then birdied the sixth and seventh to lead by two strokes. Tiger stumbled again on another par-3 - the 8th hole, with a bogey to lose a stroke off his lead. Rocco bogeyed the par-5 9th and the 10th holes to suddenly find himself three strokes back. It appeared to be all but over at that point.

Tiger Woods doesn't give up three stroke leads with eight holes to play very often. Rocco Mediate though was like the prize fighter who would go down, but you could never knock out. The 11th through 15th holes must have been something to see. Bogeys by Tiger on the 11th and 12th cut his lead to one. Both players birdied the par-5 13th hole. Rocco then birdied 14 to tie Tiger and then did it again on 15 to take a one stroke lead. Was this really happening? Was Tiger going to lose?

As my lunch started right at 12:30pm, I saw the players putting out on 16 for their pars. Rocco was at even par for the day, Tiger was at +1. Both players missed long birdie putts on 17 and tapped in for pars. The par-5 18th hole would again prove to be pivotal. Rocco hit first and pulled his shot into a bunker to the left of the fairway. Tiger striped his drive some 350 yards into the middle of the fairway. Rocco laid up with his approach shot, while Tiger's approach found the green about 45 feet away. Rocco's third shot is true, landing only about 15 feet away. Tiger's eagle putt was never online and ended up just under five feet from the hole. Rocco's birdie putt for the championship was left all along, rolling three feet past the hole. Tiger prowled around for seemingly forever before draining his birdie putt to tie Rocco for the lead. Rocco sank his 3-footer and with that, they were off to the 7th hole to begin a sudden death playoff. Both players had played the course in even par, 71 strokes. Yes, we were going to 91 holes and beyond!

Tiger's tee shot on the 91st hole just found the right edge of the fairway. Rocco's drive on his nemesis hole found a left fairway bunker. Rocco's second shot was hooked badly, just missing going into the bleachers. Tiger then stuck his approach a little less than 25 feet away from the pin on the right side of the green. Rocco takes a drop from his bad lie, and I mentioned to a co-worker that "it was sad that he had to lose this way"... Rocco's approach shot was about 20 feet beyond the hole. In order for the playoff to go on, either Rocco was going to have drain that putt, or Tiger would have to three-putt. It seemed that finally the 2008 Open U.S. was going to be decided. Tiger hit his putt firmly and perfectly online, but it stopped just a few inches short of the hole. He tapped in for his par, and then watched as Rocco lined up his putt to extend the match to a 92nd hole. The putt was hit firm, but read with too much break. It slid by on the high side, and with that, at 1:28 pm Pacific Time, Tiger Woods had won his 14th major. Rocco Mediate had won the hearts of millions all around the world... Seriously, how can anyone not like that guy? Three minutes later, I was back at my desk working. Blessed? You bet I was!!!... it could not have worked out more perfectly! I got to see some more history made, and boy was it amazing!!!

Congratulations to Tiger on his win, and congratulations to Rocco on such a truly inspiring performance... it wasn't too long ago that Rocco was contemplating retirement thanks to a bad back. We're all pretty thankful he didn't retire aren't we? GREAT job, Rocco! In defeat, you truly were victorious this week.

For an even more detailed breakdown of what happened today, go to the terrific website and this "blow by blow" account of Tiger vs Rocco...


1 comment:

Amy Durfy said...

Very cool John that you got to watch the winning putt at work on your break. You have TV at work?

Now that's definitely a perk! No ifs, ands or buts about it!