Game No. 3—Tiger Woods vs. Rocco Mediate—2008 US Open Playoff
With the end of the decade nearing, Sportmeisters Derek and Ryan have decided to present their top 10 games of the past decade. Today’s discussion is on the third best game from 2000-2009. What follows is a transcript of their discussion.
Sportmeister Derek: Ryan, today we are here to discuss something that will be debated for the next few weeks. With 2010 on the horizon, we are naming our top 10 games of the decade.
Sportmeister Ryan: Absolutely Derek, these games will bring an enormous amount of discussion, as it did in just us figuring out our list. Let’s jump into golf, looking at the 2008 U.S. Open as our third best game.
SD: Let’s look back at the 2008 PGA Tour. Tiger Woods had started the year off on fire—with wins at The Buick Invitational, The Dubai Desert Classic (he was down by four strokes and made six birdies on the back nine holes to win by one stroke), The Accenture Match Play Championship, and The Arnold Palmer Invitational.
SR: Going back to 2007, that had given Tiger five straight PGA victories, as well as 65 career victories. His run would end at the WGC-CA Championship, where he finished fifth after three straight wins there.
SD: He was heavily favored to take the Masters, but came up just short as he took second place, three strokes behind winner Trevor Immelman.
SR: Tiger struggled most of the tournament with his putter, but still mounted a decent run to finish behind Immelman.
SD: Two days later, Tiger underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee for the third time. Many argued whether or not he would return for the U.S. Open, but he did, in what would become his last tournament of 2008.
SR: Woods missed two months while recuperating, and many wondered if he would have even mounted a serious run. Knee surgery can take a toll when you’re walking 18 holes every day for four days.
SD: Switching gear, Rocco Mediate was 45-years-old, ranked 158th in the world, barely qualifying for the U.S. Open, and needing a sudden death playoff to clinch.
SR: Prior to the U.S. Open, Rocco’s best finish was a fourth place 2001 U.S. Open finish, and he had three career top 10 finishes in golf’s four majors. His last win came in the 2002 Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic.
SD: Mediate dealt with chronic back issues, at one point becoming a reporter for the Golf Channel. I don’t think many people had him pegged to take down Tiger.
SR: At the U.S. Open, Tiger got paired with Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, marking the three best players in the world playing together. No competition there.
SD: Tiger and Rocco played like polar opposites to start: Tiger ended day one tied for 19th, shooting +1 72, while Rocco tied for second with a -2 69.
SR: The beauty about Tiger is he always comes back, even if he was in dead last, he was always a threat to make a run.
SD: Tiger would bounce back on the second day, shooting a -3 68, putting him at -2 overall. Rocco shot even par 71, keeping him at -2 and tying the two players up.
SR: Day three would see Tiger play some interesting ball, with a double bogey, two eagles (combined putt – 100 feet), and a number of birdies and bogeys.
SD: All in all, even though he put himself back five strokes with six holes to play at one point, Tiger finished -1 70, giving him the lead at -3 under heading into the final day.
SR: Rocco finished +1 72, putting him -1 for the US Open, two strokes behind Woods. But one has to realize, with Tiger in the lead, the tournament is all but wrapped up, right?
SD: Not necessarily, Ryan. For the third time, Tiger started off with a double bogey, and throughout the final round, it was noticeable he was favoring that left knee.
SR: Superman not always invincible? This had to have given his opponents some motivation that they could win.
SD: Throughout the day, Tiger, Rocco, and co-leader Lee Westwood would trade back and forth, with one player never grabbing the outright lead.
SR: Rocco finished first, heading into the clubhouse with an overall score of -1, giving him a one stroke lead over Tiger and Westwood, who were on the 18th hole.
SD: Throughout all the pain, Tiger managed a birdie on the 18th hole, forcing the tie and the playoff.
SR: Unlike some tournaments, the U.S. Open has both players play an entire 18-hole playoff the next day. With Tiger in pain, and Rocco the unknown upstart, anything was possible.
SD: Through the first five holes, both players were tied, with Rocco having one birdie and two bogeys, and Tiger bogeying one hole.
SR: Much like day four, neither player was taking the lead outright.
SD: Woods followed with two birdies and a bogey, and following Rocco’s two bogeys on holes nine and 10, it looked like the end was near.
SR: Tiger had the three stroke lead heading into the back nine, and even with the slimmest of margins, Tiger can put it away. However, this was an injured Tiger, not the same shutdown golfer we had all seen. To top it off, the fans were getting behind Rocco.
SD: After 12 holes, and two more Tiger bogeys, Woods lead would slip to one, +2 to +3. Rocco followed with three straight birdies, and, despite a Tiger birdie on hole 13, Rocco took the lead on the 15th hole, even to +1.
SR: Rocco would keep the lead to the 18th hole, making par on all four holes, and Tiger, being Tiger, summoned up all the strength he had to birdie the 18th hole once again, forcing a Sudden Death Playoff. Derek, does it get any better? Five straight days of 18-hole golf, and we’re playing even more!
SD: One more hole, Ryan, that’s all it took. Rocco finally slipped, hitting his tee shot into the bunker and never recovering, settling for a bogey on hole seven.
SR: As we say, the greats find a way to win when the pressure is on. Tiger knew he had his chance, and wasn’t about to blow it.
SD: Tiger would par the hole, winning the U.S. Open, which would be his last PGA Major Championship to this day.
SR: Derek, you couldn’t walk anywhere without seeing this match on. Everyone was watching it. One of the most talked about golf matches ever.
SD: With everything going on for Tiger Woods, it’s hard to say if we’ll see another performance like that again, but despite injuries, including a torn ACL, Tiger pressed on, and crowned himself another champion.
SR: David vs. Goliath in Rocco vs. Tiger, but today, Goliath won, and the favorite walked away with the trophy.
SD: This match had it all and that is why we have named it our third best game of the decade. Stay tuned for the rest of our Top 10 coming up in the next few weeks. Any questions or concerns, feel free to email us at Derek@Sportmeisters.com or Ryan@Sportmeisters.com .