Monday, June 16, 2008


I'm really not much of a golf guy.

Typically, I check out the majors, especially the Masters and the British. I was drawn to the U.S. Open this year - to an extent - because the later television times made it easier for me to watch.

In retrospect, I couldn't be happier.

Tiger Woods won, which is about as surprising as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. He's 32 years old and has already won 14 majors, putting him three years ahead of Jack Nicklaus' record pace for major championships.

It was the way Woods won, however, that has sports fans talking now, and probably talking more about golf in the near future than they have in a long time.

This was a special event, and it was completely out of the blue in every way.

Woods' balky knee was not cooperating throughout the tournament, but he battled through it. He had his moments, with an uncharacteristic four double-bogeys. He also stepped up his game when he needed to most, most notably the back-nine 30 on Saturday, and the birdie on 18 Sunday to force the playoff with Rocco Mediate.

Mediate proved to be the perfect foe for Woods, and he did it by simply never giving up. Woods had a three-shot lead at one point in Monday's playoff, but Mediate birdied three straight holes to quickly pull even. He took a one-shot lead to the 18th tee, but an errant tee shot forced him to play conservatively. As a result, Mediate settled for par, and Woods was able to birdie to force a sudden-death playoff.

It was great drama, with Woods barely missing a long putt on 15, and Mediate making a couple huge putts as he forged his comeback. Both golfers had a dramatic mix of great shots and bad misses. They both spent time on the beach, and both found the high grass.

For a non-golf fan like myself, this was superb theater. I know not to expect this every time there is a major, and I know not to expect this every time Woods is playing with a lead late in a tournament or when he's involved in a playoff. That's part of my problem with golf, but it's also part of my problem with sports. The overhyped tournaments, events, and matchups often disappoint.

Fair or not, golf has less margin for error. It's simply not as exciting a sport, and there's less to draw you in when it's not dramatic, as it was today.

When Woods got par on the first hole of sudden death to finally beat Mediate, there was a look of relief in his eyes. He told NBC's Bob Costas that he really didn't feel like playing anymore, and he hinted that he could miss some time. The British Open is about a month away, and we got no commitment from Woods on whether he would make the hop across the pond.

In closing, kudos to the NBC crew for superb work throughout the weekend. They kept everyone interested, and I feel they were fair to all the storylines of the tournament, instead of focusing too much on Tiger and his knee.

The scene at the end with Tiger and his daughter was awesome. I'll bet it's the first time Dan Hicks has ever used the word "binky" during a sports broadcast.

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