Monday, June 16, 2008

The US Open

I usually don't watch too much golf on television, and haven't played myself in years. Watching the Sunday round of the USGA US Open yesterday had all of the elements of a classic sports film, all but the clear ending. Rocco Mediate, a minor golfer at best who has never won a major, is one stroke out of the lead going into the final round after Tiger Woods nails an incredibly difficult putt on 18 to eagle the hole and jump ahead by one stroke on Saturday. Rocco's first question - is he going to be paired with Tiger on Sunday? Sadly, no, but he did get his wish.

What made this the sports event to watch is that Tiger had knee surgery recently and is only playing because it's the Open and he has his eye on history - he has a lot of winning to do to catch Jack Nicklaus. Which is a damned shame, because were I Tiger I would have blown the last putt on 18 on Sunday, a relatively easy putt compared to the previous day, to allow Rocco (a 45-year-old man, who would be the oldest golfer to win the Open) to take home the prize. Admittedly, I'm rooting for my age bracket over everything else, and I love an underdog (would have been hard to follow the Seahawks all these years if I didn't), but I don't see a downside if Tiger wins either, wincing in pain every time he tees off and torques his knee. 

It's a good thing there was all of this incredible tension going into the last round, because it seemed that everyone forgot how to putt. I can't count the number of really close putts there were all day long. Perhaps the tension overall got to people, but it's rare I see that many double-bogies coming out of the top seeded players (both Woods and his partner tallied one). Maybe Torrey Pines is just that kind of golf course, like St. Andrews, where under par means you've achieved the golfing world's equivalent of Nirvana. The religious state, not the band. Rocco himself missed a lot of very makeable putts to put himself into the position of playing Tiger Woods today for yet another 18 holes.

I can only imagine that both of these men will need a three-week vacation at Club Sedated after this. Tiger for his knee, Rocco for the sheer adrenaline of being in this position for the first time in his life. Even if he loses, though, I see no shame. To take on the premier golfer of his generation, perhaps of all time, even if he is gimpy, would be the dream of just about any golfer on the planet. And he beat the other 100 golfers who showed up, even though he had to qualify to get in. And he's the same age as me. So go get 'em, Rocco, and enjoy the moment while you can. Every other golfer on the course wishes they were in your shoes, and every one of them is rooting for you. Tiger, you've won enough for now. Let Rocco have his day.

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