U.S. Open: It’s Tiger’s title
By Tim Dahlberg
SAN DIEGO ó Tiger Woods was celebrating so wildly on the 18th green Sunday you’d think he had just won the U.S. Open.
It won’t become official until sometime early this afternoon when they inscribe his name on the U.S. Open trophy for the third time, pat Rocco Mediate on the back and wish both him and his belt buckle well. Mediate’s name will go somewhere, too, alongside those like Bob May who have their one chance and are never heard of again.
One bumpy putt that traveled about 12 feet before somehow deciding to fall in the right side of the hole took care of that, touching off one of the better double fist-pump, look-to-the-sky gyrations you’ll ever see from the baddest golfer on the planet. Woods was so into it that caddie Stevie Williams had to come across the green to help him finish it off properly, and the two engaged in a weird and thankfully brief dance together.
The huge crowd celebrated, too, because they understood that although Mediate had done everything he could, the way of the world of golf is that once Woods does something like this, it isn’t wise to bet against him closing it out. For most it was their only chance to have such fun, because they’ll be back at their jobs Monday when Woods and Mediate play one last 18 for the Open title.
The USGA insists on sticking to its quaint notion that anything less than an 18-hole playoff is bad for national morale, even while every other tournament has long abandoned the concept. So instead of an immediate playoff to settle it once and for all, Mediate will have to sleep another night before his one chance at glory is finally stripped from him and he is sent on his way.
He would have been a good champion, though an unlikely one, had the final putt by Woods lipped out instead of falling in. The crowd enjoyed their fling with Mediate over the course of a weekend at Torrey Pines, urging him on as he played his way around with a smile on his face and a belt buckle around his waist that looked like it had been stripped from the hood of a Mercedes.
Turns out he has Woods’ stamp of approval, too.
“Rocco’s a great guy,” Woods said. “There’s not one person who can say they don’t like Rocco.”
That doesn’t mean Woods will be making much small talk with Mediate as he methodically disposes of him in the playoff. Mediate might be the nicest guy around, but to Woods it won’t matter who is teeing it up against him because his victims always look alike.
“We’ll talk,” Woods said. “But we’ll also understand we’re try to win a U.S. Open. And we’ll have our moments where we’ll go our separate ways and be focused for each and every shot.”
Mediate, on the other hand, seems almost giddy to finally be playing against Woods with the Open on the line. And why not, because it will likely be a nice parting gift to give the 45-year-old journeyman something to tell his grandchildren about.
“I have nothing to lose. I can’t believe I’m in this situation. I can’t wait to go see what I’ve got against the man,” Mediate said.