In less than 24 hours, Tiger Woods went from not-human, to human, to not-human again. How else can you explain the final 24 holes of his U.S. Open? That span included a pair of eagles, a double-bogey/bogey start to round 4 and a finishing birdie when it looked like he was finally going to lose to Rocco Mediate.
What he did at the end of Saturday’s round will forever go down as the greatest six holes in major championship history (or, at least, until he does something as spectacular at Royal Birkdale in next month’s British Open). What he did at the start of today’s final round looked like the makings of a Big Brown-like collapse. And then, just when it appeared his magic wand was going to run out of power, he willed home a 15-footer amid the poa annua infested 18th green to force an 18-hole playoff on Monday.
As soon as the ball dove in the hole for birdie, Rocco Mediate summed up the effort by saying what we all were already thinking: “I knew he was going to make it…” (Note: I actually didn’t think Tiger would make that putt. Those poa greens get very bumpy late in the day and as the replay showed, the ball bumped and hopped the entire way to the hole — “plinko” as Tiger called it afterwards.)
In review, Woods really didn’t deserve to win. And, of course, he hasn’t yet won. But, he’s very fortunate to even be in a Monday playoff, given his obviously-not-ready-for-prime-time-left knee and the fact that he looks like he’s playing in the 2nd flight of the club championship at Mountain Branch virtually every time he plays the first hole. It’s rare that a player goes double bogey, birdie, double bogey, double bogey on the same hole in a major and still winds up with a chance to win.
Mediate, meanwhile, has only himself to blame for having to reappear on Monday for the Tiger buzz-saw-matinee. He nerve-swiped that 4-footer for birdie at #13 and then couldn’t find the fairway at #18 when all he needed was a 270 yard drive in the short stuff and a wood into the middle of the green to set-up a 2-putt birdie and the trophy. As much as Tiger’s uneven play makes it hard to say he deserved to win today, Mediate’s inability to close the deal makes it just as hard to say he was the hard-luck loser. It’s a 527-yard hole. Make birdie and win the national open. If you can’t, maybe you SHOULD finish in second place after all.
So, Woods again does the impossible. He makes birdie from the rough, to a front flag, on late-day poa riddled greens…and makes the putt in a “make it or go home” scenario.
I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I sent Nestor a text and said, “Mediate is your winner…Tiger’s not making this putt” just as he was lining up his ball.
Of course he’s making it. He always does.
I play golf and I can’t explain it. I wish I had more to offer, but the fact is the man just knows how to win. Or, at the very least, he knows how to avoid losing, as he did today with that miraculous birdie at the final hole. Tomorrow, I assume, he’ll show that he knows how to win.
From Big Brown to Secretariat, all in the span of about 16 holes.
From apparent loser to probable winner in the span of 16 hours.
That is, unless Rocco pulls off a miracle tomorrow at Torrey Pines.
And why not? That place sure had some miracles whirling around over the last four days.