If someone missed the U.S. Open and asked you explain it to them, how would you even begin to describe all that happened in the four, make that five, days? You couldn’t even begin to describe everything that happened on Monday (the back-and-forth playoff)… or Sunday (Tiger’s collapse and then biggest 12-foot putt of his career to force a playoff)… or Saturday (Tiger’s amazing eagles and chip-in’s)… or Friday (Tiger’s 30 on the back nine). It’s going to become an over used phrase but it’s so true, this was the greatest U.S. Open ever, maybe the greatest major ever. And that’s especially true for the Tiger Generation. Sure there was the chip at Augusta two years ago and a playoff win. There was Sergio, pre-easily hated, at the PGA way back when. And there was the Bob May playoff also at the PGA (really, Bob May?) Then there was Tiger’s first Masters and his amazing 15 (I think) stroke win at Pebble Beach in 2000. But none had what the 2008 U.S. Open had.
I didn’t want to talk about the U.S. Open since you’ve seen all the highlight and heard all the analysis and there will be so much you can read online today. But this is too good not to talk about.
Quick, who finished second in the 1978 U.S. Open? In ‘88? In ‘98? Hell, who finished second last year? My point is you don’t know (unless you are the sports knowledge loser like Schwab, who no one likes). But everyone will remember Rocco Mediate. You don’t forget a guy named Rocky. Then to see what he did to Tiger Woods. Wow. The Rocky underdog story almost had a new chapter. If you think about it, it’s just like the first Rocky. Rocky was a no named boxer, too old and too injured to defeat the champ. He gets his shot and pushes the champ to the limits. During the fight, he shows an amazing amount of heart, even if his skill isn’t anywhere close to that of the champs. By the end of the fight, he’s won over the crowd, earned the respect of the champ but falls just short of winning. That was Rocco this week. You don’t forget a fighter like that.
As cliché as it is, Rocco had fun this week. You could tell. He talked to the crowd, he talked to his playing partners, he flipped is clubs, he asked his caddie a question and then picked a club before he answered, he said “I like it” about every shot (before he hit it) and he wore a Sunday Tiger outfit on Monday that forced Tiger to remove his vest. That’s funny. Unlike Justin Rose who worn red at the PGA a few years back when playing with Tiger in the final group to play mind games with the best mind game player, Rocco did it for fun. He laughed about it and so did Tiger.
The 2008 U.S. Open will be remembered as much for Tiger’s amazing shots, limping around the course and winning his 14th grand slam as it will for the guy who finished second. I feel bad for all of us who didn’t get to watch the 18-hole playoff. I was forced to read a live blog to follow the action here at work. And you know what, I was still excited, still nervous as I violently hit the refresh key every five seconds. I can only imagine what it was like to watch it, or better yet, be there.
I said yesterday that I didn’t like the 18-hole playoff. While it might not be the best way to settle a championship, yesterday it sure it was. I thought instead of a sudden death, they should have played another 18 holes today. If a 18-hole playoff is your tie-breaker, then stick with it. Going to a sudden death would be like the NBA going to a one-minute overtime after the first five-minute one. I think everyone could have used a little more Rocco-Tiger.
At the end of Rocky I, Apollo says there isn’t going to be a rematch. Rocky says he doesn’t want one. Apollo then changed his mind to prove he is better then the lucky, no named guy only to get beat. I doubt there ever is a rematch between Rocco and Tiger in a major and If there is, I doubt Rocco pulls a Rocky. But Rocco doesn’t need to win a rematch to be a champion. He will forever be a crowd favorite and remembered as the guy who got more cheers and more support than the best, most popular golfer in the world. Rocco became a champ by finishing second in the greatest U.S. Open ever played.