Tiger Woods yesterday secured his 14th Major Championship, beating fellow American Rocco Mediate in a sudden-death play-off at Torrey Pines. Woods is a remarkable sportsman, and this will surely rank as one of the greatest sporting victories of all time.
The 18 hole play-off at the US Open has received fierce condemnation, not least on this website. It has regularly been dismissed as being an anti-climax, with a concrete outcome on the Sunday preferable for most. On this occasion, it was the appropriate way to decide such a fantastic tournament.
When Tiger led by three strokes after ten holes, there was a palpable worry that he would go on to annihilate Rocco, as many had expected before they teed off. Instead, the 45-year-old journeyman pro, who hadn’t won a tournament since 2002, launched a phenomenal fight-back. A remarkable run, which saw him birdie 3 holes in a row, culminated in him taking the lead by holing a sensational put on the 15th green. There had been a four shot swing in the space of five holes, and the tension from that moment was immense.
The worry for Tiger was that all his hard work over the previous four days, and in playing this extra round, was not going to give him the prize he was seeking. Mediate continued to play solid golf, meaning that Tiger was still one stroke behind with just one hole to play. Tiger Woods though, is an exceptional competitor, who manages to pull out remarkable shots at key moments. His knee was by this point causing him great pain, yet he managed a great drive on 18 into the middle of the fairway. Mediate could only lay up with his second, yet Tiger was able to find the centre of the green with his long iron. 2 putts later, he had secured the birdie that forced sudden death.
The sudden death play-off saw them head back to the 7th hole. Tiger yet again demonstrated why he is such a great champion, hitting an enormous drive down the fairway. Mediate’s tee shot found a bunker on the left hand side, a position from which he could not recover. His second went even further left, and he was forced to drop out from the stands beside the green. Woods made a solid par, leaving the 45 year old a twenty-footer to take this fantastic tournament to a 92 hole. He missed, and Woods secured his 14 Major win.
Woods assessment that it was probably his greatest tournament victory is difficult to dismiss. He has certainly had more comprehensive wins, but to triumph with such a handicap was nothing short of remarkable. Mediate’s achievement was almost as incredible. A year ago, he was struggling so badly with a back problem, his future in the game was uncertain. Just to qualify for the US Open was a feat in itself, but to go head to head in a play off with the best player in the world, is something that he will remember for a long time.