10 years ago today: Tiger Woods wins 14th major with U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 15: Tiger Woods reacts to his birdie putt on the 18th green to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate during the final round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 15, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Donald Miralle/Getty Images

10 years ago today: Tiger Woods wins 14th major with U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines

PGA Tour

10 years ago today: Tiger Woods wins 14th major with U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines

Tiger Woods missed the cut at the 118th U.S. Open Friday after he finished the first 36 holes at 10 over par across the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club course in Southampton, N.Y.

It was 10 years ago today, June 16, 2008, that Woods won his 14th and most-recent major championship – the 108th U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. It came in the first sudden-death hole over Rocco Mediate following an 18-hole Monday playoff in which they each shot a 71. (The semi-iconic image above was taken Sunday after Woods forced the playoff.)

The win gave Woods his third U.S. Open title. It was also his 65th PGA Tour victory, moving him to third on the all-time PGA win list. Woods earned $1.35 million for the victory.

It would be his final tournament of 2008 as he would have reconstructive surgery on his left knee on June 24 of that year and would not compete again until 2009.

Here is how it was covered the June 21, 2008 issue of Golfweek:

• • •

SAN DIEGO – One guy grimaced and hobbled all week. The other talked and fidgeted. In an extended drama fit for the big screen, this was a win for the limper over the gabber.

At a U.S. Open that introduced marine layer and June Gloom to golf lexicon, chatty Rocco Mediate laughed his way around seaside Torrey Pines and provided the sunshine. That’s what he does. Tiger Woods frowned often while fighting his surgically repaired left knee all week and gave us history, complete with his escape-artist best the last two days. That’s what he does. Pain never felt so good.

“Probably the greatest tournament I’ve ever had,” Woods said after winning with a par to Mediate’s bogey on the first sudden-death hole after each shot par 71 in the 18-hole Monday playoff. “I think this is the best just because of all the things I’ve had to deal with.”

Tiger Woods holds his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Woods had reconstructive surgery on his left knee Tuesday, June 24, 2008, in Utah to repair a torn ligament. Woods went on to win in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.

Tiger Woods holds his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. (Golfweek File)

This one – the 14th in Woods’ major championship collection, four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record – was both familiar and different. Torrey remains Woods’ personal playground, for he now has won seven professional titles amid these scenic cliffs, five times running. If Riviera is Hogan’s Alley, then this is Tiger’s Terrain.

That’s not all he shares with Ben Hogan. Like the legendary Hawk, he now has won a National Open on one leg. He wasn’t battered by a bus, as the blacksmith’s son was 16 months before hobbling to 1950 success at Merion, but he did spot the field one healthy leg joint, not to mention three double bogeys on the first hole alone.

So the questions are: What chance does Woods’ so-called competition have once the leg heals? And considering he defied his doctor’s advice not to play and now will take time off to heal, will his next start be at the July 17-20 British Open or even later?

“I’m not good at listening to doctor’s orders too well,” said Woods, 32, now winner of all four majors at least three times apiece. “But I won this week.”

Woods teed off on the longest (7,643 yards) and fairest (read: generous fairways and playable rough) Open course without having walked 18 holes since his April 15 knee surgery. He grimaced and bent over often after hitting shots, particularly good ones, but his form was at times similar to preoperation, when he won nine of 12 worldwide starts and came close on the three misses.

“I hung in there with The Man,” said Mediate, who two days running forced Woods to birdie 18 to extend the Open, from 12 feet on Sunday and 4 on Monday. “He’s so hard to beat. He’s unreal.”

Hogan beat George Fazio and Lloyd Mangrum in that Merion playoff. Woods, No. 1 in the world, beat the 45-year-old Mediate, a lowly No. 158 but winner of more than $13 million on the PGA Tour. Woods now has won 34 Tour titles since Mediate won the last of his five in 2002 at Greensboro.

If Hogan is known for the 1-iron at Merion, Woods forever will be remembered for a couple of those Smithsonian-worthy Tiger moments here: a pair of late Saturday eagles on a combined 100 feet of putts, and a bumpy, 12-foot, downhill slider on the 72nd hole that forced the playoff at 1-under-par 283. Both came after he dusted the driverless fan favorite, Phil Mickelson, 140 to 146, in the marquee homeboy matchup the first two days, punctuated by Woods’ last-nine 30 on Friday. (To be fair, Adam Scott also was in the threesome but invisible except perhaps to age-twentysomething women.)

On Saturday, Woods put on one of the best shows in golf history, the kind you will remember the rest of your life. On the electric meter, this was in the same league as the 1986 Masters, where an old Jack Nicklaus played like the Nicklaus of old. And Woods’ exclamation points all came in the span of six holes.

Adam Scott (from left), Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Adam Scott (from left), Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the 2008 U.S. Open. (Golfweek File)

He holed a 60-footer for eagle at the 13th, where he got line-of-sight relief near a hot-dog stand in the right rough, and a 40-footer for eagle at 18 to get to 3 under for the outright lead. That was important considering he was 13-0 in majors when leading after 54 holes.

Woods winced and bent over after each of his two full swings at 18. Both eagle putts were downhill and broke about 10 feet. That’s stronger than 100 feet of rancher rope. Players normally don’t make two birdies in six holes on the back nine of an Open course, much less two eagles. In between, he birdied 17 on a hot pitch shot that would’ve gone 8-10 feet by had it not hopped in after one bounce.

Woods was on the outdoor interview stand after his eagle madness when Mediate rolled into the mass of journalists and made like a reporter. “Mr. Woods,” he called out, “are you out of your mind?”

A few minutes later, Mediate shook his head when processing the improbable. “What the heck, what is he doing?” he said. “What are you doing? Stop it.”

Sunday, Woods excelled in another checkmate situation, as he did at the 2000 PGA Championship against Bob May. Miss and go home. Make and play it off. The moment was so tense that Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA Championship Committee, stood behind the green and said, “I can’t watch.”

“I knew he was going to make that putt,” Mediate said. “That’s what he does. But I made him do that.”

Jill McGill, a 12-year LPGA veteran, marveled from her volunteer post at the 18th scoreboard after Woods prolonged the Open with yet more will. “I never believed mind over matter could move inanimate objects, but I’m thinking that dude could do it,” McGill said. “I think his autopsy will show some magnetic force inside. I’m thinking if you’re at one end of a table and he’s at the other, he could probably raise your glass to your mouth. And not spill any red wine.”

So the first two rounds were about two guys. The third day was about two eagles. The fourth round was about one putt. The playoff was about an improbable David-and-Goliath duel and another eleventh-hour escape. The constant was Woods, the protagonist in all of that, every limp of the way.

Even with replay, there were too many fist pumps and undercuts to count. His only weaknesses, other than one famous appendage, appeared to be botching the occasional pitch shot, spinning out with his left foot and, of course, not having a club for a 267-yard shot into the wind from the short tee at 14.

“He obviously was struggling with his knee and wasn’t on his game,” said third-place Lee Westwood, a Round 4 witness. “The impressive thing is that when he struggles, he still finds a way to get around. That’s what great players do.”

Woods not only spotted the field one healthy knee, he played with a first-hole handicap. He played his opening holes at 7 over par the first four rounds – making double bogeys on No. 1 three times after errant drives into the rough, as well as a bogey at No. 10 on Friday. If he plays No. 1, Torrey’s third-most difficult hole for the week, in 4-4-3 like two-time Open champion Retief Goosen those three double days, Woods wins by seven.

Tiger Woods battled a knee injury during his win at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open — in a storied Monday playoff against Rocco Mediate for his 14th major. (Golfweek File)

Woods didn’t elaborate much about all things left knee, such as degree of pain, medical treatment, swing compensation and long-term prognosis. He usually sidestepped inquiries or answered with measured brevity. Like what his doctor told him: “Don’t play golf.” Or: “It’s sore.” Or: “It’s just pain.” Or: “It’s different.” Or: “You just have to hang in there and grind it out.” Or: “I pushed my knee hard.”

But he said after the fourth round that because the knee was getting progressively worse, he took painkillers that helped. He didn’t specify whether he popped the pills after those painful doubles at No. 1.

Woods, who backed away from shots far more than normal, entered the final round at 3 under, one ahead of Lee Westwood and two ahead of Mediate. But like Thursday and Saturday, he drove into the left rough at No. 1, an intended fade turning into a double-crossed hook. This time, he took three shots to get out. He called his second shot easy, but the grass closed his clubface and the ball hit a tree. A pitchout to the fairway also hit a tree and his ball stayed in heavy rough, from where he gouged out short of the green. Suddenly he went from one ahead to one behind.

So add that 448-yard patch of land to the short list of entries under the header of Woods’ kryptonite, right next to Ed Fiori, Riviera, Nick O’Hern and The Players Championship.

“I don’t know what it is,” Woods said. “I usually play it well. I’ve never struggled on that hole before.”

But just when you figured Mediate’s best chance in a playoff would be sudden-death off No. 1, Woods opened the extra session with a par from the fairway while Mediate bogeyed from a greenside bunker, missing a 6-footer. Woods also excelled there Friday, making a birdie that started a second-nine 30 punctuated by birdies from 18-20 feet on four of the first five holes.

Mediate, of course, is the one-man laugh track who pumped joy into the Open. Between shots, he always seemed to be searching for someone to talk with. He looked like a guy in a corporate outing whistling for the drink cart. He’s the latest chatty, fortysomething Tour cult figure, picking up where Players Championship runner-up Paul Goydos left off.

But Mediate played wonderful golf, particularly for someone whose career has been in jeopardy more than once because of back injuries, the latest lingering from the 2006 Masters to February 2007. Mr. Happy finished regulation ranked among the top 16 in fairways and greens hit, total putts and birdies. He smiled his way into the playoff, saying he had nothing to lose, and he played like it on the back nine.

Woods was at even par and led by three strokes after 10 holes, but a four-shot swing on Nos. 11-15 gave Mediate a one-stroke advantage he took to 18 again. Woods bogeyed 11 and 12 after finding bunkers, then Mediate birdied the next three on putts of 4, 1 and 35 feet. The latter was particularly impressive, for it gave Woods his own treatment. Woods had hit what he called his best shot of the week, a 184-yard 7-iron to 6 feet from a far-right bunker off the ninth fairway.

But Woods missed and needed to two-putt for birdie from 50 feet at 18, where he arrived one stroke down for the third day in a row. He did so by making a must-have 4-foot comebacker. Then he won at the first sudden-death hole, No. 7, with a two-putt par. Mediate’s fantasy ended when he drove into a poor lie in the left bunker, pulled an approach by a grandstand, chipped to 18 feet from the drop area and missed the putt.

“They wanted a show and got one,” Mediate said. “I’m three behind after 10 holes and thought it would be over soon, but I just hung in there. I was nervous as a cat, but I handled it. I can’t really complain. I think I had him a little scared. . . . Again, timing. Again, he did it. It’s amazing.”

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