by Ken Klavon USGA
Probably the last submission. Just waiting to edit the story from one of our writers. I think at this point I may just walk into the Pacific Ocean and collapse. I don't mean that literally, but I will walk out to the ocean and sit and stare for a few minutes. For the last five years I looked forward to this Open because of its stunning beauty. I want to capture it one more time in my mind's eye.
One of the best parts of the job is that my travels take me to some really breath-taking places, and I feel fortunate in that regard. But it always seems to go by too fast.
I will say this and not because it's so fresh: this goes down as the best U.S. Open I've covered. I think in one of my first blogs I mentioned, 'Don't bet against Tiger.' I did yesterday in another blog. Counted him out. Knee too sore. Proved me wrong again.
Finally, thanks to all of you who took the time to tune in. And for the warm comments. We'll see you next year, or in a couple weeks at the U.S. Women's Open. Take care.
OK, Rocco's media center interview has been posted. This is typically a longer interview where the players sit down and offers more analysis. At the end of it, the media applauded. Only on the rare occasion have I ever been part of a sporting event that had the media showing an outward thanks. Shows the kind of guy Rocco is.
Tiger's media center interview is there too. For those of you wondering who in the world Rand Jerris is, he's actually Dr. Rand Jerris. He is the director of the USGA Museum who serves as an emcee at various championships.
It's official. Tiger just said this was the best ever victory. He did throw in another "probably" but he understands the historical context. It ties him with nine USGA championships with Bob Jones and he was wobbling all week from that knee. "There were a lot of doubt, a lot of questions this week," he said.
If we back up one moment, Rocco had a marveous media center interview. He said Tiger's not normal. He should know. To put it into perspective, poor Rocco was victimized by Tiger on successive days on No. 18.
Now, Tiger's recent brief interview transcript. He'll be coming into the media center, naturally.
OK, here's what Rocco had to say afterward. A longer transcript is coming.
And the winner speaks. Tiger, looking exhausted, made his way up to the 18th green for the trophy presentation. He was handed his daughter, Sam, held her for a few minutes and then had a hard time giving her back to mom. She started to cry.
Anyway, Rocco and Tiger stood together arm in arm behind the presentation table.
"Today, today was just unreal honestly," said Woods. "There was so much ebb and flowing going on. Ninety holes wasn't enough. Rocco was in control, then I thought I was in control. ... I was just trying to get the ball on the green. I was putting so well.
"I'm glad I'm done. I don't really feel like playing anymore. The atmosphere kept me going.
"This is probably the greatest tournament I've ever had."
Bittersweet moment. Rocco looks disappointed but he handled it like the pro he is.
"He's so hard to beat," said Mediate. "He's unreal. Obviously I would have liked to have won. They wanted a great show; they got one."
Rocco is on the green. Tiger has a solid 20 feet maybe a few feet more. He's crouching. Now over putt. For the win. Stopped 6 inches short. Tiger dropped to his knees. Not from pain. From the emotion of the shot. Rocco laughs at Tiger's reaction. Rocco conferring with caddie. Rocco 18-footer. Oh, just misses right. Tiger hugs Williams. Bear hug. He's your 2008 U.S. Open champion.
Tiger on the green. Ball on front of green about 20 feet from hole. Rocco's in trouble. Has to take a drop. Picks up ball and fakes like he's going to throw it on the green. Funny, funny moment. At least his sense of humor is still intact.
Not a good lie for Rocco. He goes way left, the ball running against the grandstand. Rocco has a defeated look, but stranger things have happened.
Tiger takes a power swing. Ball is on the right side of the fairway. Rocco stretches and hits driver. He does not like it. It's in a left fairway bunker.
For you historians out there, this is only the third sudden death in U.S. Open history. The first sudden death hole is on the par-4 seventh. The eighth and 18th are the other two sudden death holes.
Tiger circles putt. He's getting a glimpse from every angle. Steve Williams also trying to help, but Tiger says something. Williams pulls away from Tiger quickly. Tiger over the putt but he pulls off. He nails it. Takes his cap off in appreciation, walks to the side of the green. Now Rocco needs to hit his putt - to force sudden death. Looks calm. The ball swirls around the hole and in. The two take off their hats and shake hands. Onto the sudden death.
I'm actually nervous. What a playoff.
Tiger walks around. Surveys. Gets in position. Pushes the ball by about 3 feet. He looks upset. Rocco has about 22 feet and the ball rolls by 3 feet left of the destination. Rocco, by the way, is sweating profusely.
Tiger for birdie now.
I stand corrected. Tiger has about 38 feet to the hole. His ball must travel over a ridge.
Tiger sauntering up the fairway. Or is it down the fairway? And is he really sauntering? More like strolling. He's cooling off with a red liquid. Hmmm, wonder what that is?
Tiger has a 4-iron. Dead center into the green. Pulls off the ball. Went over the pond, hit fat part of the green. He's on in two. Remember, it's a par-5 finishing hole. Rocco out with 123 yards to the hole. Ball bounces on, gives a baby fist pump. He's looking at least at 20 feet; Tiger about the same.
That's it from here. Only kidding.
OK, pressure's on. Rocco dumps his drive in the left fairway bunker. Put his head down as soon as he hit it. Tiger in fairway, but he pulls off ball in pain. Spewing out the kind of words that can only be uttered to ease pain.
Rocco, from the front of the green, has an uphill climb of 60 feet. Nice stroke but a little strong. The ball runs by about 4 feet. Tiger's turn. He looks locked in now. He's got the better poker face, although Rocco does play a mean game of Texas Hold 'Em. Actually, that's a fact. There's your trivial nugget for the day.
Tiger's putter goes back on the left-to-right 15-footer and it doesn't break enough. Stopped 2 feet short. Rocco needs to make this, but it's not easy. The pressure has intensified. Rocco rolls it in for par. Still up one, heading to 18.
Buckle your straps. Here we go .......
Brief mention that I have received a couple of e-mails from soldiers stationed in Baghdad. Thanks for the kind words. You are not forgotten.
Tiger on the back part of the green. Solid shot. Had about 170 to the hole. He's got 30 feet left, almost hole high.
Rocco has about 154 yards to the hole. Ball kicks off mound, onto green and barely holds. The green is sloping. Rocco looks tense now.
OK, Rocco's drive on 17 just doesn't turn over. It's not that bad though. Finds the first cut on the right. has a decent lie. Tiger's drive lands in the center of the fairway. I'm not sensing too many nerves on Rocco's part, but the tension has ratcheted up.
Rocco opts to putt from off the green. He's got a hair over 60 feet to the hole. Masterful putt. It runs about 3 feet past. Tiger walking around the green, steely-eyed. Another tricky putt because of the contours. Trying to get a line. He had about 30 feet. Has the line. And the ball stops a couple inches short. What a putt. Now Rocco knocks his in.
This is making for a wonderful playoff. These guys are giving it their best. I can already say this will go down as maybe my most memorable major. Probably because of Tiger's third and fourth rounds. And the playoff, of course.
Tiger is three over today; Rocco one under. Have to watch these next three holes. They don't set up well for Rocco. Tiger pulls an apple out of his bag. It's green. Again, you wanted detail, you've got it.
By the way, sorry for any misspellings if there are any. Trying to keep this blog humming.
Rocco drills his drive. Dead center, just short of geen. Tiger pauses, checking wind. It's swirling. Waiting it out. Consulting with caddie Steve Williams. Tiger's ball inches onto the green.
Readers, this is absolutely stunning. Rocco answers Tiger's approach by dropping in an 18-footer. The gallery erupts. Back on Tiger. This is like match play. Tiger surveys the putt. Misses just right. Rocco in the lead. Wow.
Tiger actually in a bunker, far right, on another hole. Rocco on the green, looking at a long putt. Tiger sticks it. Unbelievable. Sorry, I'm short on the hyperbole right now. My jaw has dropped. His ball is 10 feet from the hole. Sorry, didn't track a yardage, but trust me, just another incredible shot by Tiger.
OK, drama has heightened. Rocco splits the fairway. Not Tiger. His drive fades. He's well outside the ropes. Fans are scampering to surround his ball. That's always a sight to behold. The magic of a little white ball. People will scrum to get around it and then just stare down at it like it's an alien object. I know, I know, it's Tiger's ball and it's a chance for them to get up close.
Someone asked what happens if they remained tied after 18. They keep playing.
Both drive just short of the green. Both chip up, close. Oooooh, a 6-foot Tiger putt lips out after Rocco made his. We're all tied!
OK, back-to-front sloping green. Tiger's ball just runs out of legs. He had the line. He taps in after Rocco two-putts. Rocco still one stroke behind. On to the short par-4 14th at 435 yards. Little bit of a dogleg left.
Tiger hits a magnificent shot that finds the green. The ball went so high that I sweat it pierced a cloud. He's got about 30 feet to the hole. Can't get a read on the contours of the green right now, so let's assume he just makes it. Agreed?
Rocco in the front greenside bunker with a good lie. Nice shot. He's out, within 4 feet of the flagstick.
No. 13 is playing from the back tee. Such a pretty view from up there. You've got the Pacific Ocean to your back and a canyon immediately below. But the canyon isn't nice place to be for anyone. That's where the rattlesnakes hang out. I'm not kidding. They've spotted several on the course in the past month.
A course official told me if I ever was bit by one, don't panic. Adrenaline will expedite the venom through the bloodstream. Yeah, don't panic. I'll just do my best to be like Perry Como. Cool as a cucumber. Sure, right.
Anyway, Rocco is in the fairway. Tiger is in the left rough. First cut. The Land Of Tigerville is not happy.
Oh, the ball doesn't turn, rolls 4 feet by. Rocco is demonstrative. Unhappy. He knows he missed a golden chance. Tiger, dressed in his final-round championship red shirt (he's wearing a hat too if you can believe it), yanks the putt. He walks off it, knowing it isn't going in. He made the comebacker for bogey. Rocco in a must-make scenario.
He falls to one knee to survey the green, lines up and .... nails it. Lead down to one.
OK, Rocco, now's the time to make a move. He's got about 18 feet to the hole, for birdie.
Rocco splits the fairway. Second shot in finds the green. Tiger's turn. Let's see if he can play 'Plinko' again. Tiger's out but the ball is short of the green, grabbed by the right first cut in the fairway. He's got a decent lie. He chips on. Ball stops 12 feet short. No emotion.
Rocco has a right-to-left break. Knocks it close. Tiger for the up and down ..... and can't save par. Rocco gains a stroke. Now two back. The fans are backing up, chanting, "Rocco! Rocco!" What a great name for a golfer, eh?
As I mentioned the other day, it could be my favorite name on the Tour. That or Rory Sabbatini. Like you care.
Onto the long par-4 12th. Tiger finds a fairway bunker. He started gesturing to himself, waving his arm. Maybe it's from the painkillers? It's made him loopy. Only kidding.
Tiger heads into a left bunker off the tee. He short-sided himself. But he's out, his ball running about 8 feet by. Rocco has a beautiful 4-iron onto the green to raucous applause. He still has a lengthy putt, roughly 15-18 feet.
Someone asked about Tiger's knee today. He's winced a few times. The camera, if you're watching on TV or on the Web site (and if you are, you probably aren't reading this) isn't catching all of his grimaces. He's limped a few times right after a swing, but then seems fine. Yesterday he admitted he took something, but not sure what that was. He wouldn't elaborate.
Tiger rolls in an 18-footer. Happy, happy. He's smiling. Rocco misses left. Tiger has three-stroke lead.
Tiger's ball engulfed by kikuyugrass. He can only chunk out. Major frown. His third shot lands above the hole but spins back with wicked force, just off the green. He's looking at an uphill putt now. In the meantime, Rocco just short of the green. He chips. Not enough steam. The ball stops about 8 feet below the hole.
Rocco wipes face with towel. Hey, some of you wanted detail.
Stat of the day: Tiger has 29 top-10s in majors; four for Rocco.
Lost opportunity for Rocco. He two-putts from 6 feet. Bogey. Tiger has a nice up and down for par. Up by two strokes again.
Rocco has not won in six years, by the way.
Tiger's drive on No. 10 goes into the rough. Tiger spewing unprintables. Rocco in the fairway.
Stop the Jeopardy music. Tiger's on the left side of the fairway. Looking to play a draw. Ugh. The ball cut right and ended up in a greenside bunker. Not a horrible shot, though. If you miss on this hole, where the hole location is, you want to miss right.
Which brings up another point. These guys are such tacticians that when they miss sometimes, it's part of the strategy. They compute everything, even the odds of missing their target.
Anyway, Rocco in the right rough now. Looking at his approach. Remember, this is a par 5. Part of his problem is he's not getting his club face all the way open. Rocco at the flagstick, but it hops past the hole. He's got a putt of about 15-20 feet.
Tiger in a right bunker. But he punches into rough just outside of the collar. He ain't happy folks.
OK, the first real grimace by Tiger today. After hitting his tee shot, he winced like an injured, well, tiger. The knee buckled a bit.
A moment here about Tiger and his invincibility. He's big into intimidation. But Rocco, at 45, isn't one who really gets intimidated easily. He's good natured but a bulldog on the course as I mentioned to an e-mailer a minute ago.
Rocco's in the fairway on No. 9. Trying to locate Tiger's ball. Cue the Jeopardy music.
Rocco picks up a stroke on Tiger. It's in the bottom of the hole. He breathes a sign of relief.
I'll tell ya, he's hanging in there. One big difference today in Tiger's game is the way he's got better control off the tee. He's not spraying it as much.
By the way, about half the media bolted today. I understand budgets as well as anyone, but my thinking is that this is compelling enough to find the extra money. Of course, flight prices these days are almost equivalent to a mortgage. I digress.
.... drops in. Tiger absorbs bogey. Now Rocco's turn. He's got about 4 feet for par.
Oooooh, Tiger won't get up and down here. His ball comes out fat and rolls over the ridge and past Rocco's ball. He'll hit again. Tiger's next shot runs 5 feet by. It's a delicate downhill, breaking putt, and it ............
Tiger hits a soft 8-iron on the par-3 eighth into a greenside bunker. You always know when Tiger looks disgusted, and this is one of those times. His ball is half buried, although he doesn't know that yet. But he will, oh yes, he will.
Rocco, down two strokes, is well short of the hole but he's on the green. He's looking at something in the range of 30 feet. The ball must traverse over a ridge, so it's going to be a tricky birdie try.
The gallery is being really supportive of Rocco. I think they don't want to see a blowout. Well, I don't think anyone does. There's your obvious comment of the day. I'll try harder. I promise, I will.
With little emotion, Tiger sinks the putt. Straight line in. The green was flat from where his ball was to the flagstick. He's not going to miss many of those. Meanwhile, Rocco made par with a two-putt from about 20 feet.
OK, Rocco got into trouble on the par-4 fifth. Couldn't get up and down, but after his ball had hit two cart paths, he made chicken out of chicken salad. Incredibly, he hit a beautiful flop shot close and sunk the putt for bogey. That could have been a nail in the proverbial coffin for Rocco. He dodged a huge bullet.
Unfortunately for Rocco, he again got into an up-and-down situation on the next hole. He saved par from a greenside bunker, but Tiger needed just 4 feet for his birdie, which he sank. Tiger even par, up one stroke.
Rocco drives into the first cut off No. 7. Long iron in. On the green. Tiger in the fairway, has 145 to the hole. This could be a birdie opportunity if he can get it close. He's within makeable distance, roughly 12 feet.
Uh oh. Rocco's in trouble on No. 5. With ball in a fairway bunker, it didn't come out clean. Released awkwardly and ended up far right outside the ropes. Tiger was on the green.
Useless thought of day: the fact I'm trying squeezing my brain for a useless thought. It will come. Oh yes, it shall.
By the way, for those who have e-mailed me at firstname.lastname@example.org, thanks for all the kind words.
Rocco sticks it close on No. 3. He almost carded an ace. Tiger bogeys. Guess he's not superhuman after all. They're tied heading to No. 4.
By the way, want to know how they determined who had honors on the first tee today? Our Rules expert explained that in her blog.
Keep in mind Rocco Mediate has beaten Tiger Woods before in a playoff. Not that it means anything today, mind you. But it has happened. Rocco's 2-0 in playoffs; Tiger 2-0 in major playoffs.
Rocco hanging in after a bogey on the first hole. Both parred the second with short putts.
Looks like our live streaming is getting hit. More than 100,000 simultaneous users and climbing. Sorry for the shameful plug.
They're off. Is Tiger the luckiest guy on the planet or what? Did you catch his drive on the first tee. Thing was headed straight into a fairway bunker and miraculously kicked out onto the fairway. Even he started cracking up. It's like the priest in Caddy Shack who started to make every putt. He laughed uncontrollably.
Why do I feel as though it's Groundhog Day? Here we go again. That's all for now.