Tiger’s Open win a truly Ruthian performance

Bobby Curran
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Friday - June 20, 2008
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Rarely is a legend appreciated in his own time, but Tiger Woods is impossible to ignore. Coming back from arthroscopic surgery shortly after the Masters in April, Woods headed out to Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open - without a competitive round under his belt, not having played a full 18 holes even in practice. Almost all the experts opined that nobody could challenge for a major championship under those circumstances, but if anyone could it would be Tiger.

Woods limped and hacked his way onto the back nine Saturday four shots back but then put on one of the most amazing displays in major tournament golf history. With an unbelievable shot from the rough to the 13th green, Woods proceeded to pour in a 70-foot downhill putt for eagle that brought a cheer so loud you’d have thought you were at a football game.

On the 17th, Woods was in the greenside rough and holed his chip for birdie. On 18, two more beautiful shots set up a long eagle putt which he nailed to more thunderous applause. In six holes he demonstrated his warrior spirit and his ability to produce magic.

Despite some poor shots and shaky decisions on Sunday, Woods buried a 12-foot putt for birdie on the last hole to force an 18-hole play off Monday with an unlikely opponent. Rocco Mediate, the affable 45-year-old, had five lifetime PGA Tour wins with nary a major victory. Mediate gave Tiger all he could, forcing Tiger to make birdie on 18 to throw the championship into sudden death. And then on the first hole, Woods made par for the win - exhausted, in pain, yet finding a way. Can there be any doubt this is the greatest golfer who ever lived?

“You’d have to say he’s the best ever,” says Matt Hall, Turtle Bay director of golf and Aloha Section PGA president. “Considering how much the fields have improved since Nicklaus’ prime, and the way he wins these tournaments, Tiger is the guy.”

The savvy and concentration that Woods brings to the course makes him the mentally toughest golfer on the tour. Add to that the strength and physical condition that makes him one of the longest hitters, then consider that he’s the best clutch putter golf has ever seen, and you pretty much have it. At the age of 32, the only question about Woods holding every golf record has to do with his health. Will his thrice surgically repaired left knee allow him to play another 10 or 12 years? If so, the win totals could be really scary. It’s not impossible to imagine him winning each major at least five times and maybe 100 tournaments overall.

I have a friend who laments that he never got to watch Babe Ruth. But, I tell him, you’re getting a chance to watch Tiger Woods. I’m not sure that any person in any sport could claim to be his equal.

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