Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tiger Woods...probably the most outstanding single-sport player ever.

That title is going a long way for me, Ali and Michael Jordan are certainly up there. But Tiger is, perhaps, only half way through his career.

Coming back on Friday to post a 30 on the back nine, 7 birdies, on what can only be considered a very difficult course in a major that always separates the men from the boys. But today, watching him play/struggle with significant pain from recent knee surgery, was an amazing event...regardless of tomorrow's outcome. The last two holes....

Bad drive on the 17th, buried in the the ruff, needing to hook around trees, hitting a shot that almost makes the green but ends in significant ruff just left of of the putting surface on a steep lie, he addresses the ball and catches a flyer towards a pin that is running downhill away from him, and boom, the magic happens again, one hop-hit the flag, and drop in for a miracle birdie. It was the first time I have ever seen Tiger laugh on the course, at least in a major! He was, I swear, actually embarrassed that the ball went in.

Some will call that shot luck, Tiger called it that in the clubhouse later, but even to be able to have that kind of luck requires incredible talent; perfect line, perfect intent, amazing concentration.

The pain in the left knee was obvious occasionally throughout the tourney but was more so today. After the amzaing birdie on 17 his caddy reached from the green down the hill to shake his hand, but what he really did was help pull Tiger up the slope to the green.

I had stopped watching for a while after the 9th when Tiger was, I think, 5 strokes back and had just tuned in again on the 17th. After the birdie he was one stroke back. The 18th is a challenging Par 5, you have to be long off the tee and then you are looking at about 230 over the pond to a devilish green, its a tin cup hole if ever there was one. Tiger crushed a fade to perfect position then pulled out a 5-Wood and hit a big fade the left him a big breaker down hill, perhaps 45 feet. The smart play, with a day left to play (Sunday...Tiger's day) still in front of him, questions in his mind (well probably not in his mind but in most other minds) as to his physical ability to play a final round, the smart shot was to lay up and play for birdie. Not today, not Tiger. He hit the 5 and the camera stayed on Tiger, the same intense face we see on every shot, eyes following the flight of the ball, and then, as it lands, the grimace of pain; a grimace that led to what could no doubt be anything else but gut-buckling pain, just so obviously a case of incredible mental discipline.

On the green he lines up the put, lining up WAY left of the pin, so far left that the NBC announcers are freaking out, he is just on top of a small ridge, he gives the ball a slight tap, lined up perhaps 25 degrees left of the cup, the ball picks up speed and then breaks about 8 feet over the last 20 feet to roll solidly into the center of the cup. A perfect read, a perfect stroke, nerves of absolute steel.

Tiger starts tomorrow one stroke ahead of a tight pack.

Anything can happen on Sunday at the US Open. Still, of the 13 times Tiger has held or tied the lead going into the final round of a major he has won every one. That statistic is unbelievable, it says it all; luck doesn't happen 13 out of 13 times. Don't bet against him.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jumpin, I had no idea you liked golf!

Editor said...

Oh yeah, I go back to Arnie's Army! (never liked Nicklaus go he put Arnie outta business.) Tony Lima, Gary Player, those were the days.

I watched all day Sunday and all of Monday, even though I am a big Tiger fan I was pulling for Mediate.

Wood's Bird on the 18th on Sunday, what can ya say.....