SAN DIEGO – With arms folded over his chest, Rocco Mediate looked at a small, square television to see if his life was about to change forever.
Mediate stood in a low-slung nondescript field behind the 18th hole grandstand at Torrey Pines Golf Course, a space so tight that he nodded his head to avoid the wires hanging from the ceiling. He could not see the 18th green, where, minutes earlier, he had leveled in the fourth round of the 2008 United States Open to take a one-stroke lead.
Mediate, who was ranked 158th in the world at the time, was trying to become the oldest person to win the competition at 45. As soon as the image of Tiger Woods appeared on TV, he began to crack down on the bare concrete floor, terrified.
woods, playing without an anterior cruciate ligament With a stress fracture in his left knee and his left tibia, he had a 12-foot birdie putt to tie the mediate and send the championship to an 18-hole playoff the next day.
Usually rumblings as Woods stroked his put, the mediat was silent, the ball taking hops across the rough surface, traveling on a hopscotch rhythm that seemed sure to send the putt offline. But the golf ball tickled the edge of the hole and fell inside.
“Of course he made it,” said Mediat with a sigh, turning to two nearby reporters. “That’s Tiger Woods.”
Half grin and half sigh, he looked away and said: “That’s Tiger Woods. Of course.”
Except it won’t be that easy. What felt like the end of Mediat’s time in the spotlight became the beginning. And instead what felt like a renewal of victory for Woods was the high-water mark of 14 major titles from his 11-year sprint. Soon, for Woods, nothing will be the same again.
The US Open returned to Torrey Pines for the first time since that tournament, when Woods finally Conquered mediation after 19 extra holes In Monday’s playoffs, the last of its kind, the 2008 championship is an honored golf gift—when Woods, a shimmering Goliath at the peak of his powers and a rumored David nicknamed “The Rock,” nearly outwitted his fearsome opponent.
memory, the last major title for Woods until he won the 2019 mastersThis year is particularly poignant as Woods cannot play in the competition after suffering a serious leg injury. February car accident. still in rehabilitation, Woods recently said His main goal was to walk on his own.
But Woods was at his best 13 years ago, and so was Mediate, and the two are forever linked.
“Great fight,” Woods, looking weary, said arbitrarily as the two hugged on the final green. “Best in my major championships.”
Mediat, who was disappointed but happy, replied: “It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing golf with anyone, let’s go against the greatest golfer in the world.”
Five days earlier, the tournament had begun with Woods’ caddy, Steve Williams, asking him to withdraw.
Fourteen holes into his first round, Woods, whose broken knee had prevented him from walking or playing golf for the past six weeks, was par one over and throwing away shots. “You have many more years to win the Major,” Williams told Woods. Woods cursed and said: “I am winning the tournament.”
Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson played the first two rounds of the 2008 championship with Woods and suspected that there was more to him wrong than the “pain” in his knee that Woods blamed for his layoff.
“Tiger seemed more uncomfortable than I ever saw him,” Scott said in an interview this month. “But I don’t know if the crowd noticed. They were going crazy with Tiger and Phil, two kids from California who were playing at a public golf course in their home state. It was too much mayhem there.”
After nine holes in the second round, Woods had slipped to the equal of three overs and was in danger of missing the cut, but he ran to birdie five of the next nine holes, shooting a superb 30 on the other nine.
“He flipped the switch and I remembered, ‘Here’s Tiger doing something special — something Tiger-esque — again,'” Scott said.
Pairing with Robert Carlson in the third round, Woods often lingered in pain after T-shots and continued to slide down the leaderboard. On the par-5 13th tee, his drive so far was perfect, it came to rest near portable toilets that were too far from the fairway.
“Tiger was skipping every tee and hitting big slices, because that’s how he kept from putting too much weight on his injured left knee,” Carlson said in an interview this month.
Woods’ recovery flew over the back of the green, 65 feet from a steep pitch hole. On the same devilish green that day, Mickelson had three-putts and three consecutive wedge shots off the green for a quadruple-bogey 9.
Woods covered a 65-foot run for the eagle. “The tiger-mania was full at the time,” Carlson said. “It was an impossible putt. Impossible.”
The 15th hole was a dogleg left, and required a right-to-left draw from the tee, not the purposeful piece hitting Woods. Woods will have to put a lot of weight on his damaged left knee. He told Carlson and his caddies that they should get out of the tee without him after his swing.
“Tiger hit this spectacular, piercing draw in the middle of the fairway, but he doubled down after that, leaning on his club,” Carlson said. “He was hyperventilating. He knew the swing was going to hurt like crazy, but he committed to it anyway.”
“We all walked off the tee as quickly as he asked and when we got to the fairway, we looked back and he was still on the tee.”
A lucky chip in the 17th hole for consecutive pars and birdies—the ball hit the flagstick about a foot off the ground and fell into the hole—created a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18th green that Woods converted. 70’s round. The bounce propelled him three under par in the tournament, two strokes ahead of Mediat, who finished third.
Walking down the 18th hole, Carlson asked Williams if he thought Woods would be able to play in Sunday’s final round. “Stevie said he thought it was 50-50,” Carlson said.
Woods made it on Sunday but three overs were equal for the first two holes. Mediat scored 71 runs and took the lead with one stroke. To remain in contention, Woods defended an even level and hit a brilliant third shot from the rough into the par-5 final hole to set up a birdie effort that would send the championship into the playoffs after 72 holes.
Over the past 13 years, Mediat has seen replays of puts hundreds of times. “Nobody else makes that putt,” he said. “No one.”
Scott is often asked by young golfers what it was like playing with Woods during his prime. He cited a fourth-round last putt at Torrey Pines in 2008.
“Young people don’t understand why we all say he was so much better than everyone else,” Scott said. “That putt, while it isn’t the longest it has ever been, is pretty much what happened in 10 years.”
The next day, in the 18-hole playoff, it was Mediate who trailed by three strokes after 10 holes, but was cheered by a crowd. his every man status.
“Go get ’em, rock,” fans cried after their tee shots.
Mediate, a good PGA Tour player for more than two decades, returned with three consecutive birdies and a one-stroke lead. As he had done the previous day, Woods birdied in the 18th hole, while Mediat equalized to send the playoff into the extra hole of a sudden death.
At the time, PGA Tour pro Kevin Stillman was on a plane carrying golfers and their families to Connecticut, where the Travelers Championship will be played that week. In the air, everyone watched the playoffs on television, and Jett landed as Woods and Mediate, headed for a 19th hole. There were courtesan cars on the tarmac waiting to take the players to their hotels. No one got off the plane.
There is midnight in every Cinderella story and a bunker was found in the mediate’s tee shot at par-4 No. His approach shot missed the green, and a pitch from the rough was well short of the hole. Woods leveled regularly, and Mediate missed a long par put.
Woods turned to Mediatt to shake his hand, and Mediatt hugged Woods.
Two days later, Woods announced that he would have end of season surgery on his left leg. He returned in 2009 and took six Tour event victories but failed to win a major championship for the first year since 2004. And they will have a bad year. The day after Thanksgiving, Woods car accident that revealed about them serial matrimonial infidelity. For the next nine years, Woods, who won 14 of the 50 majors he played from 1997 to 2009, entered 24 majors and no one won.
Meditt, who had seen Woods’ fourth-round final putt in 2008, wondered whether he was about to score a life-changing victory, turning himself in from his loss at the US Open.
“I still get questions about it every day,” said Mediat. “And my wife would go, ‘What?’ And I say it’s like this – they’re asking me questions about something they saw that meant something to them. It wasn’t like the Open, it was the United States Open. And this one It was a hell of a fight.”