SAN DIEGO — Calling it “probably the greatest tournament I’ve ever had,” Tiger Woods outlasted a determined Rocco Mediate on Monday, finally defeating him on the first hole of sudden death to win the 108th United States Open.
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Woods again came back from the brink of defeat, with a birdie on the final hole in the 18-hole playoff to pull even with Mediate at an even-par 71 and then a par on the first hole of sudden death to win.
The struggle went back and forth across the big, brawling 7,643-yard layout here, the longest Open course in history. Woods, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, opened a three-stroke lead at the 10th tee, where he saved par and Mediate missed a 6-footer for par. At that point, Woods was even and Mediate was three over par.
But three straight birdies by Mediate on holes 13-15 and a pair of bogeys by Woods changed things. Woods arrived at the 18th hole down by one stroke. As he has throughout his career, he produced the key shot at the key moment, ripping a 4-iron 217 yards on the par-5 hole for his second shot while Mediate hit the green with his third.
Woods missed his eagle putt, leaving Mediate a putt for the Open victory. His putt from 20 feet missed on the left side of the hole, and Woods then made his birdie putt to send the proceedings into just the third sudden-death playoff in Open history.
“It was a great battle all week,” Woods said. “I was up and down, up and down, up and down all week, and then the playoff. Everyone knows Rocco was in bad shape last year, and for him to be back out here and playing this well. Honestly, it was an unbelievably gutsy performance. He put so much pressure on me today, and he played well all week. This is probably the greatest tournament I’ve ever had.”
Mediate had no doubt it was his finest hour.
“Hanging in there with this man,” Mediate said, “he is just so hard to beat. He’s unreal. Obviously, I would have loved to have won. Three down through 10, I thought it was over. The fans were great; this was huge for me. I was nervous as a cat, but I handled it.”