Two months removed from knee surgery, Woods gritted his teeth through 91 of the most grueling holes that the PGA can put together and won his third US Open and 14th major golf championship in the process. Playing visibly hurt, using his clubs as canes and grabbing his injured knee after long drives, Woods just barely broke par with a one under performance through the first 72 holes.
However, Woods’ gutsy performance along with his three eagles, an “accidental” chip in at the 17th on Saturday and a miracle birdie at Sunday’s 18th were only enough to get him dead even with the 158th ranked player in the world, Rocco Mediate. Dubbed by many as “the people’s champion,” Mediate’s consistent play and constant fight had many golf fans, casual and not, pulling for him against the best in the world.
“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,” said Mediate, who doesn’t look like anything more than a weekend golfer, at the post-game press conference.
Mediate doesn’t drive that far, and he doesn’t win that often. He still has to wear his player badge so as not to be stopped by security on his way out to the course. Still, at 45 he had the chance to become the oldest golfer ever to win a U.S. Open, and the only player to take down Tiger at a major when Woods held a 54 hole lead.
Down by a single stroke at the 18th hole on both Sunday and Monday afternoon, Tiger sank dramatic birdie putts to extend the contest. In the end, chants of “Rocco!” and the best golf of his life weren’t enough to take down Woods, as Mediate simply ran out of gas on the 19th hole of Monday’s legendary playoff.
Now, as Woods continues his trek towards his 18th and would be record 19th major championship, him and his knee will need more time to rehab before July’s British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Scotland.
“I think I need to shut it down for a little bit here. It’s a bit sore, and I need to take a little bit of a break,” he commented post-game.
While winning the tournament may have been Woods’ ultimate goal, just hitting the fairway on the 1st hole may have been his greatest triumph. After four days missing far left and farther right, Woods laced one straight down the middle on Monday. With his hands in the air he knew it was on.
Despite Mediate’s fight, we all knew it was over.