Tiger Woods’ 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines ‘probably the best ever’

Tiger Woods’ 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines ‘probably the best ever’

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On Tuesday, a plaque will be unveiled adjacent to the 18th green on the South Course at Torrey Pines commemorating one of Tiger Woods’s most legendary moments. 
a crowd of people watching a baseball game: Tiger Woods - Tiger Woods' legendary triumph at Torrey Pines to be commemorated with plaque - AP
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Tiger Woods’ legendary triumph at Torrey Pines to be commemorated with plaque 
In 2008, the last time the picturesque San Diego layout hosted the US Open, Woods, so obviously nursing a painful left leg injury, converted a 12-footer on the 72nd hole to force a play-off against countryman Rocco Mediate, which he duly won. On the plaque are the words of the NBC commentator when the putt dropped: “Expect anything different?” Alas, Woods will not be at the ceremony. The 45-year-old will remain at his Florida home, where he is still recovering from the catastrophic leg injuries he suffered in a car crash in February. Woods has declined an NBC invitation to feature on the telecast. As ever, he will allow his golf to do the talking. Well, that and Dan Hicks. A veteran of six Olympics, Hicks is a household name in the US, known for his “calls” on each of Michael Phelps’s record eight golds at Beijing in 2008 as well as so many other sports, including American football and basketball. Yet from his home in Connecticut last week, he conceded that one of his commentaries stood out above all others. “No doubt about it,” Hicks, 59, said. “I have people coming up all the time telling me where they were when Tiger holed that putt. That’s when you can tell how big a moment was. And if I’m on the golf course and I miss a putt, then one of my buddies, or even some other golfer nearby, always shouts, ‘Expect anything different?’ I’m honoured to be connected to one of the seminal moments of Tiger’s career. The whole week built to those few seconds on the final green and to the 18-hole play-off the next day. It was like a soap opera. You simply could not take your eyes off Tiger.” There have been other sportscasters’ quotes on Woods that have passed into golfing folklore. Gary Koch’s “better than most” when Woods holed a 60-footer on the 17th at Sawgrass has earned icon status and so, too, has Verne Lundquist’s “Wow! In your life” when Woods chipped in on the 16th at the 2005 Masters. However, Hicks’ three words must take pride of place because they encapsulated the entire experience of watching Woods, and not just for that remarkable week either. 

We knew we never should write him off, but it was always impossible not to believe that reality and the norms of a cruel game would one day catch up with him. And this was it. This was the instant when Woods would at last confirm himself as a human being. It was 5.52pm, West Coast time, and the aura of Woods was just about to go down with that California sun. 

Nobody was aware of the intensity of Woods’s pain. His grimace had, indeed, become the enduring image of the 108th US Open as he grabbed his leg and doubled up when so many of his drives flew anywhere but on the fairway. Woods had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his knee nine weeks before and had not competed since. Yet he was adamant he was fine. 

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“I remember interviewing Tiger at the start of the week and I asked him, ‘How are you feeling? How are you really feeling?’” Hicks said. “Without hesitating, with that grin that we’ve seen a million times from Tiger, he replied, ‘Oh, I’m good, I’m good, bro’. The way he said it, I could tell that he was hiding something. I remember going back to our NBC trailer and saying, ‘You know what guys, I think there’s a little more going on here’. And when he started using this club as a crutch, that much became clear. But again, we had no idea of the extent of it until after the fact, and that’s why it was the best sporting occasion I’ve ever attended. The story just got better and better, even after it was supposedly over.” 

In the aftermath, the world discovered that only two weeks earlier a consultant had studied X-rays of the two stress fractures Woods had suffered on his shin while practising too strenuously, too soon and begged him to spend four weeks on crutches. 

“I’m playing,” the patient had said, but as he stood over that 12-footer, he accepted he was finished for the year. Yet what he could not accept was the notion of his last shot being a losing shot. As Woods’s putt set off, it began to bobble and bounce on the bumps, leaving the ground at least five times. It seemed to be veering right and 12 inches out was certain to stay above ground. But then Woods took a few steps to his left, the ball apparently followed suit and it ducked in on the high side. 

As Tiger threw his head back and enacted his double fist-pump, Mediate, watching in the scorers’ hut, shook his head and smiled. “Unbelievable,” he said. “I knew he’d make it.” Hicks recalled: “Those Monday 18-hole play-offs could be anticlimactic, but 25,000 turned out and as Tiger said, ‘Rocco put up a hell of a fight’, before succumbing on the first extra hole. It was a phenomenal atmosphere. Everybody was still on a high from Sunday night. We didn’t see Woods for a while after that.” 

Indeed, it was eight months until he reappeared, and the anticipation was huge of how quickly he would catch and pass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors. But then the indestructible halo slipped when YE Yang overhauled his 54-hole lead at the 2009 US PGA Championship and then, a few months later, the halo was smashed to smithereens when the sex scandal emerged. Woods’s major drought lasted for 11 years until his resurrection at the 2019 Masters. 

Now, the irony is that he genuinely is on one leg and could no more walk 91 yards than 91 holes. “I’m sure we will be showing that putt over and over now that we will back at the South Course – it will never get old,” Hicks said. “We will miss Tiger, for sure, but Phil Mickelson could complete the career grand slam, so there is plenty of opportunity for another great story. It’s fair to say, however, that Tiger has set that Torrey bar pretty high.”

Tiger Woods’ 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines ‘probably the best ever’


Tiger Woods celebrates 12-foot birdie putt on 18th hole in 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines that forced Monday playoff.
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As Open returns to San Diego, look back at how golf great played through painful leg injuries to beat Rocco Mediate in 19-hole playoff and earn 14th major championship

Two images stand out above all others from Tiger Woods’ 2008 U.S. Open championship at Torrey Pines.

Neither one has anything to do Woods beating Rocco Mediate on the 19th hole of a Monday playoff.

Both have everything to do with Woods’ victory.

Ecstasy and agony.

There is the iconic photo of Woods on the 18th green at Torrey South, pumping both fists and roaring along with the crowd after sinking the 12-foot putt that forced the playoff.

Five years later, the USGA published a coffee table book titled “Great Moments of the U.S. Open.” That scene was chosen for the cover.

The other memorable photo(s) from 2008 show Woods grimacing — and at times using his club as a cane — whenever he received a pain signal from his ailing left knee.

Tiger Woods holds on to his left knee after teeing off on second hole during fourth round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
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In this June 15, 2008 file photo, Tiger Woods holds on to his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Woods announced two days after the tournament that he played with two stress fractures in his left leg and a torn ACL that required reconstructive surgery.

The stirring victory delivered the 14th major championship for Woods, who still had his sights set on Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major titles. At 32, Tiger was slightly behind the pace of the Golden Bear, who was 30 when he won his 14th major.

Few would have believed then that more than a decade would pass before Woods won another major, a 2019 Masters that provided a different kind of drama.

Woods called the title at Torrey “probably the best ever.”

In doing what he did, nothing seemed impossible for the world’s greatest golfer.

As impressive as Woods’ on-course play was that week, it gained legendary status once people realized what Woods endured to walk the course for five straight days.

He had arthroscopic surgery in April to repair cartilage damage just after a second-place finish in the Masters. That kept him off the course until the U.S. Open.

In fact, Woods had not walked 18 holes since Sunday at the Masters. He used a cart in a practice round at Torrey Pines a week before the Open.

The knee was the main topic of conversation at Torrey, where Woods returned four months after winning the Farmers Insurance Open for the fourth straight year (and sixth time in nine years).

Reporters asked about the knee from all angles. Tiger, never one to pull back the curtain, mostly replied with clipped responses.

Asked about his post-practice round routine, Woods said: “I work out. I lift, do my cardio, like I always do. Ice, yes. Stretch, yep. So it’s the same.”

The same? Not by any stretch.

A PGA.com story on the 10th anniversary of Woods’ victory revealed what was going on behind the scenes in the days and weeks leading up to the Open.

Hank Haney, Tiger’s swing coach for four years, visited the golfer at his Florida home a month before the Open and watched Woods bend over in pain after getting up from the dinner table.

“I remember thinking, ‘That’s not a good sign,’ ” Haney said.

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Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, explained the situation to Mike Davis of the USGA.

“He said, ‘Hardly anyone knows about this, please don’t say anything to the USGA,’ ” Davis said. “I didn’t tell anyone, but I remember looking at Mark and saying, ‘So he’s going to play on a broken leg?’ ”

There was a practice round in Newport Beach’s Big Canyon where Woods failed to break 50 over nine holes while wearing a knee brace.

“I was still trying to figure out how in the hell I was going to try and play with a knee brace,” Woods said in the PGA.com story. “Because my knee was moving all over the place.”

Woods said he threw the knee brace out the window on the drive down to Torrey Pines.

After being told by doctors that he shouldn’t play, Woods now had those in his inner circle wondering how he could play.

“I was determined, though, to do everything and anything in my power to play in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which is a course that is close to where I grew up and holds many special memories for me,” Woods said in the statement two days after his victory. “Although I will miss the rest of the 2008 season, I’m thrilled with the fact that last week was such a special tournament.”

The stress fractures in Woods’ leg were believed to have been caused by working out too hard during rehab.

He was trying to strengthen the muscles around his left knee, which he said was injured in the summer of 2017 while jogging.

It was not revealed publicly then, but Woods had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

The ACL is one of four ligaments in the knee, providing rotational stability during movement.

It is essential for athletes involved in sports that require cutting and jumping. It’s absence can be problematic even for day-to-day activities — like reaching for a can of soup off a kitchen shelf.

The pain is excruciating when the knee pops out of place.

“Somebody who has an ACL deficiency and stress fractures who is going to be walking a golf course for three or four days, that is a monumental accomplishment,” said Dr. Steve Shoemaker, a San Diego orthopedic surgeon for the past 32 years. “Just to do that is more than impressive. … It is one of those epic tales of grit and determination.”

While fans and media had no idea the extent of Woods’ injury, they could see on several occasions how much he was hurting.

After the second round, Woods said: “I just keep telling myself that if it grabs me and if I get that shooting pain, I get it, but it’s always after impact. So go ahead and just make the proper swing if I can.”

And after his victory: “I don’t know how I did it.”

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ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 23: Tiger Woods of the United States poses with the trophy after winning the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 23, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.

‘Big Three’ paired for first two rounds

The USGA likes to create a buzz even before the first ball is struck, and it did so in 2008 when it grouped the three top-ranked players in the world — Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott — in the first two rounds.

Scott also came into the tournament with a health issue, a broken bone near the pinkie in his right hand.

Scott said the injury occurred in mid-May when a friend slammed a car door on his hand.

A crowd estimated at more than 3,000 circled the rope line on the first hole to watch the threesome tee off on the par-4 first hole in the opening round.

Woods started with a double bogey, something he would do three times over four days (he played the first hole in 7 over for the tournament).

He also doubled the 14th hole. Three birdies on the front prevented things from being worse as Woods carded a 1-over 72 in the first round.

Mickelson managed an even-par 71 while Scott shot 73.

Co-leaders Kevin Streelman and Justin Hicks, who both shot 68, weren’t exactly household names. Streelman was a 29-year-old PGA Tour rookie and Hicks a 33-year-old Nationwide Tour player.

One behind them with a 69 was Mediate, a 45-year-old everyman from Pennsylvania who was ranked No. 158. A year earlier, his career in doubt with a bad back, Mediate was doing broadcast work for Golf Channel.

Asked about his knee after the first round, Woods said: “It’s a little sore right now.”

Not sore enough to prevent him from quipping: “I can walk 18 holes. I don’t need a cart yet.”

Woods started to show some magic in the second round. Five birdies gave him a 30 on the front nine (he started on No. 10) for a 68 that left him one shot behind the 36-hole leader, Australia’s Stuart Appleby.

Mediate, who shot 71 on the second day, and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson were one back with Woods.

Heading into the weekend, Woods was asked if he could get through 18 more holes with the pain.

“I’ll be fine,” he said.

Difficulty moving, then magic

They call Saturday moving day. At times, it seemed Woods could barely move.

He winced in pain after his tee shot at No. 2, doubling over before using his driver as a cane to walk off the tee box.

Woods found himself five strokes back through 12 holes. It provided no preview of the magic that was just moments away.

At the 13th hole, Woods made a 60-foot eagle putt.

At the 17th, he hit a one-bounce chip-in for birdie.

And on the 18th, Woods made another eagle, this one a 30-footer that weaved its way to the hole. Woods stood there, like a hitter admiring his homer at the plate, and slowly pumped his raised right fist as some 5,000 spectators seated around the green roared their approval.

Tiger Woods celebrates an eagle on the 18th green in the 3rd round at U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on Saturday, June 14, 2008.
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“The stuff he does, it’s unreal,” Mediate said.

The late-round theatrics gave Woods a 1-under 70 for a three-day total of 210 and one stroke lead.

England’s Lee Westwood and Mediate were a shot back entering the final round.

Woods had never lost a 54-hole lead while winning 13 previous major championships.

Mediate, the guy with the ever-present smile, peace sign belt buckle and easy-going manner played the moment for everything it was worth. And more.

He even tossed a question at Woods following a post-round media scrum.

“I jumped back in with all the other media and I said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Woods,’ and he was walking off, I said, ‘Are you out of your mind what you’re doing out there? Come on.’ ”

The birdie heard round the world

Westwood moved into the lead when Woods double-bogeyed the first hole — for the third time in four days.

Tiger added a bogey on the second hole and was one back at the turn only because of a birdie at No. 9.

Westwood then backed up with three bogeys in four holes on the back nine, and it was Woods and Mediate trading off in the lead.

Mediate, playing one group ahead of Woods, parred the final hole to take a one-shot lead into the clubhouse.

Woods needed a birdie on the par-5 hole to force a playoff.

His tee shot went left into a fairway bunker, then his second shot went too far right and landed in the dreaded rough.

With 101 yards to the hole, Woods, with counsel from caddie Steve Williams, chose a 60-degree club for his third shot.

“It turned out perfect,” said Woods, whose shot landed pin high, 12 feet from the hole.

Mediate, watching on a monitor, told an NBC reporter on course: “I want Tiger to make that putt.”

“I want to win the U.S. Open, but I want him to make that putt. I want him tomorrow.”

After lining up his putt, Woods briefly backed off when a seagull cast his shadow on the Tiger’s ball while flying over the green.

“The putt was probably about 2 1/2 balls outside right,” Woods said. “The green wasn’t very smooth, so I just kept telling myself, just make a pure stroke. If it bounces in or bounces out, at least I can still hold my head up high and say I made a pure stroke. … I hit it exactly where I wanted to, and it went in.”

That’s when the crowd erupted while Woods pumped his fists and let out a primal scream.

“Expect anything different?” NBC golf anchor Dan Hicks exclaimed on the TV broadcast. “Rocco, you’ve got Tiger for 18 holes tomorrow.”

Make that 19.


The playoff

“Oh, my God,” Mediate said, “I get to play for the National Open against the best player on earth, that maybe has ever played. How much more could you ask for?”

Mediate was outwardly upbeat and playful, as he had been all weekend.

“You better watch yourself tomorrow, pal,” he said during the post-round press conference. “See, he’s a little nervous right now. He’s nervous. It’s going to be a blast, guys. I’m happy to be here. And we’ll give you a show, I’m sure.”

A crowd estimated at 25,000 came out for the Monday playoff.

What they watched was another back and forth battle.

There were three lead changes on the front nine, although Woods led by three shots with eight holes remaining when Mediate let short birdie putts get away on the ninth and 10th holes.

Then it was Tiger’s turn to let Mediate back in when Woods bogeyed the 11th and 12th holes.

Mediate then went birdie, birdie, birdie on the 13th through 15th holes for a one-shot lead that he carried with him to the 18th tee.

Chants of “Let’s go, Roc-co!” were heard in the grandstands around the 18th green, where fans had filled to overflowing 2-3 hours earlier while awaiting the players’ arrival.

A year later, when Mediate returned to Torrey Pines for the 2009 Farmers Insurance Open, a volunteer suggested that Rocco had as many fans at the playoff as Woods.

“I had more,” Mediate said.

Maybe so, but once more it was Woods who supplied the drama at 18.

Woods reached the green in two shots, giving him a 45-foot eagle opportunity. That slid by the hole, but a 4-foot birdie putt extended the tournament to sudden death after both men shot even-par 71s.

Mediate could have won on 18 had he made a 15-foot birdie putt.

Given all the drama over the previous 90 holes, the finish was anticlimactic by comparison.

Hole No. 7, a par-4 dogleg right, was used for the first playoff hole.

Mediate had struggled there throughout the week, and he did so again.

He failed to reach the green in two. Mediate’s third shot left him with a 25-foot par putt that was too much to ask, and he made bogey.

Tiger’s two-putt par secured the victory.

“I didn’t want it to be a walk in the park (for Woods),” said Mediate, who was bidding to become the oldest U.S. Open winner. “It could have been. I’m a little bit tired today; I’m a little old. He’s got me by (13) years. He’s got me by a thousand yards off the tee.

“I kept hitting good shot after good shot, and so did he. … He is who he is. There’s nothing else to say.”

Woods was given a most welcome cart ride back to the 18th green for the trophy presentation, where he also was greeted by his daughter Sam, who was two days shy of her first birthday.

Tiger Woods holds his daughter Sam on the 18th hole after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
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He had been asked over the weekend what he would like to say to Sam years later, when she was old enough to hear the story about the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

“I got a ‘W’ ” Woods said.

And he has the scars to prove it.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods in May 2019.jpg
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Woods at the White House in May 2019
Personal information
Full name Eldrick Tont Woods
Nickname Tiger
Born December 30, 1975 (age 45)
Cypress, California
Height 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)[1]
Weight 185 lb (84 kg)[1]
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United States
Residence Jupiter Island, Florida

(m. 2004; div. 2010)

Children 2
College Stanford University
(two years)
Turned professional 1996
Current tour(s) PGA Tour (joined 1996)
Professional wins 109[2]
Highest ranking 1 (June 15, 1997)[3]
(683 weeks)
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 82 (Tied 1st all time)
European Tour 41 (3rd all time)[notes 1][4]
Japan Golf Tour 3
Asian Tour 2
PGA Tour of Australasia 3
Other 16
Best results in major championships
(wins: 15)
Masters Tournament Won: 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019
PGA Championship Won: 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007
U.S. Open Won: 2000, 2002, 2008
The Open Championship Won: 2000, 2005, 2006
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 2021 (member page)
PGA Tour
Rookie of the Year
PGA Player of the Year 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013
PGA Tour
Player of the Year
1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013
PGA Tour
leading money winner
1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013
Vardon Trophy 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013
Byron Nelson Award 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
FedEx Cup Champion 2007, 2009
Presidential Medal of Freedom 2019

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Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods (born December 30, 1975) is an American professional golfer. He is tied for first in PGA Tour wins, ranks second in men’s major championships, and holds numerous golf records.[5] Woods is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time and one of the most famous athletes in the world. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Following an outstanding junior, college, and amateur golf career, Woods turned professional in 1996 at the age of 20. By the end of April 1997, he won three PGA Tour events in addition to his first major, the 1997 Masters, which he won by 12 strokes in a record-breaking performance. He reached number one in the world rankings for the first time in June 1997, less than a year after turning pro. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, Woods was the dominant force in golf. He was the top-ranked golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 (264 consecutive weeks) and again from June 2005 to October 2010 (281 consecutive weeks). During this time, he won 13 of golf’s major championships.

The next decade of Woods’ career was marked by comebacks from personal problems and injuries. He took a self-imposed hiatus from professional golf from December 2009 to early April 2010 in an attempt to resolve marital issues with his wife at the time, Elin. Woods admitted to multiple infidelities, and the couple eventually divorced. Woods fell to number 58 in the world rankings in November 2011 before ascending again to the number-one ranking between March 2013 and May 2014. However, injuries led him to undergo four back surgeries between 2014 and 2017. Woods competed in only one tournament between August 2015 and January 2018, and he dropped off the list of the world’s top 1,000 golfers. On his return to regular competition, Woods made steady progress to the top of the game, winning his first tournament in five years at the Tour Championship in September 2018 and his first major in 11 years at the 2019 Masters.

Woods has held numerous golf records. He has been the number one player in the world for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any golfer in history. He has been awarded PGA Player of the Year a record 11 times and has won the Byron Nelson Award for lowest adjusted scoring average a record eight times. Woods has the record of leading the money list in ten different seasons. He has won 15 professional major golf championships (trailing only Jack Nicklaus, who leads with 18) and 82 PGA Tour events (tied for first all time with Sam Snead).[14] Woods leads all active golfers in career major wins and career PGA Tour wins. Woods is the fifth (after Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus) player to achieve the career Grand Slam, and the youngest to do so. He is also the second golfer (after Nicklaus) to achieve a career Grand Slam three times.

Woods has won 18 World Golf Championships. He was also part of the American winning team for the 1999 Ryder Cup. In May 2019, Woods was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump, the fourth golfer to receive the honor.

On February 23, 2021, Woods was hospitalized in serious but stable condition after a single-car collision and underwent emergency surgery to repair compound fractures sustained in each leg in addition to a shattered ankle.

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