Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tiger's Agony and Ecstasy

As much as I try to avoid using the word "quintessential," I think today we may have witnessed the quintessential U.S. Open round. Final day, pressure unlike that which most of these golfers have faced in their lifetimes, and a course that the USGA overseers have ensured will forgive nothing. Survival is the name of the game.

It was far less dramatic than yesterday, primarily because Tiger just couldn't pull it all together. And that just about says it all - the best player in the world, wounded from an injury, for whatever reason lacking the mental focus that sustains him 9 days out of ten, still manages to make the playoff. By making a putt on the 72nd hole. Needless to say, such is the stuff that legends are made.

So now Tiger will face, in this corner, Rocco "Rocky" Mediate, who now stands a good chance to play Jack Fleck against Tiger's Ben Hogan. That's not entirely fair to Mediate, who after all has had a good career, but I think it is a fair representation of the odds against him tomorrow.

The amazing thing about Tiger's round today is that he did just about everything imaginable to give it away - the most striking thing was not the physical issues, but rather the mental lapses. His play of the 13th hole was inexplicable; that was where he had a chance to wrap everything up, and through a bad choice almost gave everything away. But I have a feeling that he will be looking at some film tonight, and probably will be making some very different choices tomorrow.

But you've got to love Rocco - no one in the world thinks he has a chance tomorrow, so he is quite likely to go into the playoff with the perfect mind set - a la Lee Trevino vs. Jack Nicklaus in 1971. If Rocco pulls a fake snake out of his bag on the first tee, then make the bet right then.

Good stuff.

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