Thursday, July 3, 2008
Behind The Scoreboard
Tiger down, but not out
This column is not to remind you just who won the U.S. Open recently at tough Torrey Pines, rather it is to underscore the type of golf that filled the galleries every day from beginning to end. The gate tally stated that there were 42,500 tickets sold for the majors event; speculation is that more than 45,000 showed up to pace the fairways.
That was not the only speculation. Many fans were there to see how the main attraction, Tiger Woods, would handle his post knee surgery debut and fend off the number two golfer in the world, Phil Mickelson.
The knee drew so much attention that each time the crouching Tiger stalked the links to warm up prior to the match, over three dozen cameras stalked him. They recorded every move, stroke and putt, trying to record any Achilles’ heel the injured knee might turn up.
There were other factors which added to the pre-contest hype. For the first time the Open would be planned to cut into prime time venues on the tube. It would be vying for the attention that is usually accorded to the Super Bowl, NBA championship playoffs and the baseball World Series.
And perhaps the biggest factor – the pairing of Mickelson, Adam Scott and Woods. Scott is rated as the number three golfer in the land, however, he wasn’t listed in the Associated Press’ Top 20 Contenders.
The golfer who did make the list was Argentinian Angel Cabrera at position five. He won his first major last year when he conquered tough opposition of Woods and Jim Furyk as he one stroked them at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. But he found out early that this would not be déjà vu. Furyk did not rise to major contender role and Cabrera himself faded.
But there was a new name which had been hidden in the shadows of the majors for decades. At one time he had been rated at number 158, then 78 and 48 when the Buick Open began on Thursday.
At 45, Rocco Mediate had come of age in the majors. He contested Woods to try to become the oldest golfer to win the U.S. Open. He held Woods at bay for two rounds, each time looking for the stroke that would deny Tiger his 14th crown, four shy of the all-time record held by Jack Nicklaus.
Each day when he felt that he had the cup in his grasp, he always alluded to the fact that Tiger was still stalking. But on the second day it had become painfully clear that the crouching Tiger was now a limping one. Twice he saw Woods stick an iron in his bubble.
Then on the 90th hole he saw Woods send it to sudden death. The seventh tee proved lucky for Tiger as he bested Mediate by one stroke.
At the very end, it became a mutual admiration society with two members, Woods and Mediate, praising each other.
It was disclosed later that Tiger had caused a stress facture while favoring the injured knee.
He would have to miss the remainder of this year’s tour. Golfers entering the Buick Open breathed a sigh of relief but at the same time lamented the fact that they would be in the Buick at Grand Blanc without the best in the land.
One remarked that Tiger was down but not out. It’s a sure bet that Rocco would “amen” that statement.
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