Note- I’m live blogging play today. That will last till the end of play or if I just get too tired to continue.
Even a lot of people who can’t stand golf, find themselves interested in the sport if Tiger Woods is leading. So I’ll share a post at the blog today that I originally wrote at Wizbang Sports last night. A good night’s sleep has allowed me to add a couple of extra thoughts to my original post.
There will be an 18 hole playoff tomorrow to determine the US Open Champion. 64-time PGA Tour winner, 13-time Major Champion, maybe the greatest golfer ever to play the game Tiger Woods versus five-time PGA Tour winner, Zero major champion tour journeyman Rocco Mediate. The playoff has the smell of a rout in the works for tomorrow, doesn’t it? I’ll get back to this later.
Just yesterday I wrote I was pulling for Rocco, but at the same time gave him little chance to win the US Open. Rocco, who comes off as a very nice person(at least he did when I followed him at a tournament 20 years ago) had people pulling for him this weekend. Fans shouting Rocco. He played good golf, better on Saturday than Sunday I think, and has put himself in position to win a major championship.
Except that Rocco is up against Tiger Woods. An injured, but formidable Tiger. I wasn’t surprised when Woods birdied 18 to force the playoff.
A playoff that shapes up much like the 1929 US Open did. Then it was Bobby Jones, arguably the greatest player to tee it up prior to 1950, against Al Espinosa a 7 time PGA winner. Because Espinosa was a devout Catholic, the tee-time was pushed back on Sunday in order for him to go to mass.
I’ll save you looking up how that playoff ended. Jones won it by 23 shots, 141-164. In those days a 36-hole playoff took place to determine who the Open champ was if a there was a tie after 72 holes.
Which reminds me, the USGA should finally eliminate the 18-hole playoff format they use to determine the US Open champ. A four-hole playoff like used at The British Open is a fair test, besides the USGA has dumped the 18-hole format for their other events.
Note- I always thought it dumb that once the 18-hole playoff was over, and if there was still a tie, the USGA suddenly thought sudden death was acceptable for a major championship. If it isn’t acceptable at the end of 72 holes, why should it be at the end of 90?
I looked at other playoffs that may compare to Woods vs. Mediate. On the men’s side of the equation, you have 1990 where Hale Irwin faced Mike Donald and 1994 where Ernie Els faced Loren Roberts. Irwin and Els are three-time major winners, Donald and Roberts were journeyman.
A better comparison may be the 2006 US Women’s Open where Annika Sorenstam faced off against Pat Hurst in a 18 hole playoff. Annika and Pat’s win totals 67 to 5, is almost the same as Tiger and Mediate’s 64 to 5. Annika was the #1 player in the world, maybe the best woman to play the game ever. Hurst is a career journeywoman(but unlike Mediate, Hurst has a major to her credit. The 1998 Kraft Nabisco)
Annika won the playoff in 2006 70-74.
So what do I predict tomorrow.
First what’s that 13 I mention in the title of the post.
Tiger has 13 majors
Tiger has almost 13 wins to every one of Rocco’s.(12.8 to be exact. I think that’s close enough to be called 13 to 1).
The Par 5 13th hole was pivotal in this weekend’s play. Tiger making an eagle three on Saturday compared to Rocco’s bogey six. Then on Sunday, Tiger bogied the 13th, opening the door for Rocco Mediate to win the tournament in regulation which he nearly did.
Now for my prediction- Most people will say Rocco Mediate hasn’t a prayer just like Al Espinosa did when faced with Bobby Jones. Tiger has a bum knee, and Rocco is playing well. I think the playoff will be close with Tiger coming out on top 71-73.
One last thing- I’m surprised tomorrow’s playoff isn’t in prime time also like play had been over the weekend. Instead Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate will begin their playoff at 9 a.m.
Also note Tiger is 10-1 in playoffs according to the 2007 PGA media guide book(I don’t have 2008’s) and Mediate is 2-0. Tiger has won the San Diego Open, also played at Torrey Pines, in a playoff. That was in 2006.
Tiger’s only defeat in a playoff happened up the road at the Nissan LA Open in 1998 to Billy Mayfair.
Added Monday thoughts– Some people are comparing today’s matchup to the 1955 US Open where Ben Hogan faced off against Jack Fleck. Hogan is one of the greatest golfers to play the game and Fleck was journeyman, so that is also a good comparison to today.
Also I want to make note that Tiger is seeking his third US Open. Only five players have won the tournament three times or more.(Where as about a dozen players have won it 2 times. Among those are Lee Trevino, Lee Janzen, Curtis Strange, Billy Casper, Cary Middlecoff, Julius Boros, Andy North, Retief Goosen, and the late Payne Stewart. Quite a diverse group) They are Willie Anderson, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Hale Irwin. The first four golfers won the US Open four times, where as Irwin is a three-time Open champ.
Nicklaus and Irwin were the latest entrants to that lofty group of Open champs. The Golden Bear is arguably the greatest golfer ever. Tiger Woods would tell you that. Nicklaus won the US Open in 1962, 1967, 1972, and 1980 and had at least as many close calls in addition.
While Hale Irwin isn’t in the class of Nicklaus, he was one of the greatest Open players ever. He won the tournament in 1974, 1979, and 1990. Hale also came close in the 75, and 1984 US Opens.
When Nicklaus and Irwin were first faced with winning their 3rd US Open, both of them came up short.
Jack finished 2nd at the 1968 US Open(The year after winning his second Open title in 1967), but that week in golf Lee Trevino was about unstoppable. A better chance for Nicklaus presented itself at the 1971 US Open. There Nicklaus went into a Monday 18-hole playoff. His opponent, none other than lee Trevino.
Trevino beat Nicklaus 68-71. Jack would have to wait one more year to win his third US Open title.
In the 1984 US Open Hale Irwin was tied for the lead going into the final round. Hale was seeking his third US Open title on the very same golf course he had won his first Open title on in 1974, Winged Foot. What happened?
Hale shot a final round 79 to sink to 6th place. It would be six more years before Irwin would redeem himself from that final round collapse.
More recently Retief Goosen after winning the 2004 US Open, led the next year’s Open going into the final round. Retief shot a final round 81.
BTW Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan at the 1955 US Open played at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, derailing Hogan’s hopes to become the only five-time US Open champ. May I also mention that the only other playoff in a California US Open saw the favorite beaten by a lesser golfer. That was the 1966 US Open(Also at Olympic) when Arnold Palmer lost to Billy Casper. Casper was hardly Jack Fleck(or Rocco Mediate) like, A two-time US Open winner, one-time Masters Champ who won over 50 career titles. Arnold Palmer was ‘The King’ in addition to having more wins and majors than Casper.
I still think Tiger will end up winning today, but thought that bit of US Open history to be interesting.
12:18 update– Rocco bogies the first hole to give Tiger a one-shot lead. Then after their tee shots on hole 2, ESPN ran tape of a pre-round interview of Mediate. One problem- They had no audio. Wake up ESPN!
12:20 update– The announcers note the lack of sound during the interview, but say it was great. Will they show it again with sound some time during the broadcast?
12:35 update– Tiger and Rocco each par the 2nd hole. On the par 3 3rd, Tiger’s tee shot comes up in the bunker short and buries. Rocco almost makes a hole in one.
Rocco birdies the 3rd, Tiger makes a bogey. Mediate is now one up and ESPN’s announcers don’t even mention it.
12:49 update– Both players par the 4th hole. Rocco is wearing the same colors as Tiger.(Red and Black) Those are Woods’ Sunday colors, maybe Rocco hopes they bring him good luck.
1:04 update– Rocco bogies the 5th hole. The playoff is all square now. After leaving his par putt on line but short, Mediate smiled as he walked off the green. No club throwing like Woods did at 18 yesterday.(Tiger actually threw his club twice after his 2nd shot)
1:10 update- Tiger and Rocco both drive in the fairway on the sixth hole. Rocco has only hit two of the first five fairways.
If Tiger’s knee is bothering him, he isn’t showing it. I’d have to guess Tiger took a painkiller before play began today. Would that still be acceptable if the PGA Tour had a drug policy in place?
1:20 update– Tiger birdies the 6th hole, Rocco makes par. Woods is 1 up.
1:28 update– Woods and Mediate both hit their second shots onto the 7th hole’s green and have lengthy birdie putts.
Torrey Pines is the only US Open course I’ve ever seen in person. While I was stationed in San Diego in 1985-87 I went to watch the San Diego Open in both 1986 and 87. The 87 tournament was when the infamous Craig Stadler ‘towel incident’ happened. The walrus being disqualified for using a towel to kneel on when hitting a ball near a tree.
1:33 update– Tiger birdies the 7th hole and is now 2 up.
1:44 update– A Woods bogey on the 8th makes the playoff a one-stroke affair now. The next hole is a par 5. That should be to Tiger’s advantage.
Tomorrow is me and Leonita’s 19th church wedding anniversary. You mean there is a woman crazy enough to live with me that long?
1:46 update– Tiger grimaces after his tee shot on the 9th hole. The knee pain is back.
1:56 update– Broadcast switches to NBC now. Just as Rocco is lining up a birdie putt on 9. Tiger has made a bit of a mess of the par five and has a five-foot par putt left.
2:07 update- Slight delay for a pineapple cup and bathroom break.
Ouch! Rocco three-putts the 9th and a bogey is a result. Tiger is again two shots up.
One difference between NBC and ESPN is the presence of Bob Costas. Does that knucklehead despise viewers as much as his words tend to make me think in this old post of mine.
2:13 update– Tiger makes a long putt for parr but more importantly a chunked chip results in a bogey for Rocco. After 10 holes Tiger is now 3 up. I think Woods is unstoppable now.
2:24 update– Tiger makes bogey on a par 3 for the third time today. His lead is down to two after 11 holes.
Thanks to DJ for pointing out a mistake in my last update.
2:38 update– A poor drive by Tiger on 12 results in his second straight bogey. His lead is down to one.
The next hole is the par 5 13th. A hole that was pivotal in opposite directions over the weekend. Will it be again today?
2:45 update– It will take some time for the 13th hole to be completed. I’ll touch on a few playoff related subjects in the interim.
In the event Tiger and Rocco are tied after 18 holes, they will go to sudden death. Sounds ridiulous doesn’t it? First 18 holes, then sudden death? The USGA should dump the 18 hole playoff for a 3 or 4 hole affair like are used in other majors.
Some Open history. Till 1965, the US Open would be finished on Saturdays with a final day of 36 holes. The heat was so brutal at the 1964 US Open, the USGA dumped the 36 hole one day finale for a Sunday finish.
Till some point in the thirties, the US Open used to utilize a 36-hole playoff. If players were tied after 72 holes, then a 36 hole playoff, they’d have to play again another 36 holes. 36 holes of golf three consecutive days. This actually happened at the 1931 US Open.
2:53 update– Tiger and Rocco both birdie the 13th hole. Still a one-shot advantage for Woods.
3:05 update– Rocco’s second consecutive birdie pulls him even with Tiger with just 4 holes to play. Go Rocco!
3:19 Update- Tiger misses the 15th fairway by 20 yards and then hits it 12 feet from the hole. Unbelievable.
Then Rocco makes a 20-foot putt for birdie. Three birdies in a row by the world’s 157th ranked player. Unbelievable. Now the pressure is on Tiger. Tiger misses. Rocco Mediate leads by 1 with three holes to go.
3:28 update- NBC and ESPN keep repeating Rocco, who is 2-0 in playoffs, beat a major champion in each case. Which is sort of true, but Steve Elkington’s 1995 PGA Championship title came AFTER the 1993 Greensboro Open.
3:32 update– Woods and Mediate both par the 16th. Tiger’s birdie putt coming up an inch or two short of the hole.
3:50 update– Adobe forces me to reboot my laptop, so I’m using my desktop. Why can’t the makers of this software make it perform in a way it doesn’t tie a computer’s memory into knots?
Both players making par on 17 leave Rocco Mediate leading Tiger Woods by one shot with one hole to play.
3:55 update– The 18th at Torrey Pines is a reachable(at least for Tiger) par five. Tiger’s tee shot is in the fairway but Rocco found a bunker. Just like he did yesterday.
My gut tells me Tiger birdies the hole and we then go to sudden death.
3:59 update– Rocco lays up in the middle of the 18th fairway. BTW my laptop is operating again.
Tiger’s approach is on the green at 18. He’ll be putting for eagle.
– Rocco hit his 3rd shot to 20-25 feet and hole high. He’ll be putting for a birdie.
My gut feeling about sudden death is looking more and more to be true.
4:05 update– Tiger misses his eagle putt. Now Rocco has a putt to win the US Open.
4:06 update– Rocco misses his birdie putt.
4:10 update– Tiger birdies 18, Rocco makes par. It is sudden deah now for the US Open Championship.
US Open history update– Playoffs that have gone to sudden death for the championship
1990- Mike Donald and Hale Irwin. Irwin won it on the 1st extra hole
1994- Ernie Els and Loren Roberts. Els birdied the 2nd extra hole to win.
1998 Women’s US Open- Se Ri Pak birdies the 2nd sudden death hole to beat Jenny Chiusporin.
The playoff starts on the 7th hole.
4:16 update– Tiger’s tee shot is in the fairway, Rocco found the fairway bunker Oh boy…..
4:21 update– Rocco misses the green way left, Tiger puts his 2nd shot on the front of the green. Definite advantage for Tiger Woods.
4:29 update- Tiger pars, Rocco makes bogey. Tiger Woods wins his 3rd US Open and 14th major championship. What a show.