Beware the wounded Tiger (Woods)

It was an amazing U.S. Open this past weekend, with Tiger Woods making a putt on the final hole on Sunday to put himself into an 18 hole playoff on Monday with Rocco Mediate.

But it was the story that made the tournament.

Mediate, a 45 year old veteran who hasn’t won on the PGA tour since 2002 took Woods to the wire on the Monday playoff where the world’s number one again came back from a one stoke deficit to take the game into sudden death. Woods then won his 14th major on the 19th hole.

If Mediate had won he would have been the oldest player to ever win the U.S. Open and the person to break Tiger’s streak of never losing a tournament when he enjoyed a 54 hole lead.

The other side of the equation was that Woods was in obvious discomfort playing with a post-surgery knee that was giving him considerable pain.

Wood’s performance showed that his winning ways come as much or more from the muscles in his mind. Fighting an errant driver, he simply toughed it out, making his patented brilliant recovery shots from the wild country and making the clutch putts when he needed them to survive.

Mediate had his opportunities to win but wasn’t able to take advantage of his opportunities and you can only give Woods so many second chances before he closes the gate.

I found it tough to root for either player against the other.

A win for Mediate would have been an amazing cap to a 23 years career, especially one that has seen him battle serious back problems to the detriment of his game. He would have made a great champion – outgoing and friendly. One of my favourite pictures was Mediate walking down the fairway chatting with one of the officials with his arm around the guy’s shoulder. The total opposite of the intense and focused Woods.

On the other hand, watching Tiger play through injury and pain was truly inspirational. He is an amazing athlete. He literally willed himself to win the U.S. Open on a very tough course. You can never count him out. There was nothing ho-hum in his reaction when he dropped the winning putt either. The win was emotionally important to him and to his caddy Steve Williams.

It was a great tournament and put the lie to the statement that golf is a boring game to watch.

The only unfortunate part of the outcome is that it is rarely remembered who came in second and Mediate’s performance deserves better than that.

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