Tiger Nails Last-Gasp Putt to Take Mediate Into Play-Off

“I’ll never be as good as Tiger Woods. I don’t want to be as good as Tiger Woods.” These are the words of Rocco Mediate, several years ago, when Woods was enjoying one of the best periods of his career.

For much of Sunday’s fourth round of the US Open at Torrey Pines, Mediate was actually slightly better than Woods. And far from not wanting to be, he seemed to be enjoying it very much.

But then again, not many people get to be better than Tiger for long. And on the final putt of the 72 holes of regulation, Woods got even.

After a round wary of a dodgy left knee and sometimes wincing after a big swing, Woods sunk a masterful 12-foot birdie on the 18th that gave him a 73 for the round. But more importantly, it gave him a one-under 283 for the tournament and another life.

Woods, playing for the first time since knee surgery two months ago, and Mediate, who closed with an even-par 71, will face each other in an 18-hole play-off on Monday to decide the 2008 US Open champion.

The 45-year-old PGA Tour veteran Mediate had threatened to do what no other golfer had ever done before, reel in Woods in a major. Tiger had a one-stroke overnight lead, having never given up a final-round advantage in a major before.

Going into the 72nd hole, that record was under pressure. But after two ordinary shots that saw him 100 yards from the hole and in some rough, Woods flied out to 12 feet and then sank the putt as Mediate watched nervously from the clubhouse.

“Unbelievable. I knew he would make it,” Mediate said as soon as Woods started his double fist-pumping celebrations.

England’s Lee Westwood, meanwhile, saw his play-off chances disappear on the final hole when he missed a 15-foot birdie putt that would have extended his playing time as well.

Instead, Torrey Pines welcomes back only Woods and Mediate on Monday, two endearing yet contrasting characters on the Tour.

Mediate has never won a major in his career and his laid back, talkative, smiling persona was a great foil for Tiger’s intense approach to the game. It certainly made for intriguing television that went beyond just golfing skills.

As he nursed his one-stroke lead down the stretch, Mediate would be talking to the TV crew, responding to gallery wisecracks and enjoying the moment as if he was a care-free rookie.

Even in the clubhouse, while watching Tiger, he was amenable to an interview, talking about his feelings during the last few holes.

Woods, however, was a study of concentration. He was serious, measured and focused. None of it seemed to help him, golf-wise, until that final putt. Fans are normally used to seeing Woods enact his traditional single-handed fist pump when he wins a major.

This time it was a screaming, double-handed celebration. And that was only to get into the play-off. What’s is he going to do if he wins it, for his 14th major title?

Well, first he has to overcome Mediate, who showed that he has lost none of his admiration for Woods, even as he takes him on as an equal in the play-off. Of his expectations on Monday, Mediate said in an AP article:

“Battle royale. The thing that is most amazing is the man I’m going to play tomorrow has won 13 of these. It’s amazing how much it takes. I gave all I had today and I can’t complain.”

Mediate may still feel he is not as good as Tiger, or never will be. But he still has the chance, for even a moment, to prove himself wrong.

3 Responses to “Tiger Nails Last-Gasp Putt to Take Mediate Into Play-Off”

  1. John says:

    When you are as good or brilliant as Tiger Woods, you expect only your best on the course. I’m sure his tantrums are valid but Tiger has his bar set a lot higher than any other golfer. And when you are the best you only expect perfection.

    I suppose if our future golfers were to play nearly as well as TW, even when injured, we could allow them to throw some tantrums.

  2. Maddie says:

    Go Tiger! I can’t wait to see you lift that cup again!

  3. Mark Taylor says:

    Does anybody else find Woods’ demeanour irritating? Every time he doesn’t hit the perfect shot we see him carrying on like a pork chop – disgusted look, slumped shoulders, a grunt or 2. And to top it off in the last round did I see him hurl his club into a bunker? In general his body language conveys to me that he is someone not in charge of his emotions yet he can put it behind him and sink unbelievable puts under intense pressure. My biggest beef with all of this is the message it sends to junior golfers – the tantrums and temper displays from a lot of them doesn’t need the example set for them by Woods.

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