Don’t let me forget the 2008 US Open

Dear Memory,

Please don’t let me forget what I saw today on TV. When time has passed, and the record books state simply that Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in a 19-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate, don’t let me forget just how far Tiger was pushed, and just how tough this win really was. Don’t let me forget that Tiger hadn’t played competitive golf in two months leading up to the Open, or that he played through the pain in his knee. Don’t let me forget all of the shots that made Tiger grimace in pain, or hobble, or wobble, or buckle. Don’t let me forget the miraculous shots Tiger made on Friday and Saturday to take the lead. The 60-foot eagle putt, the chip-in, the eagle on 18. Don’t let me forget the sight of Tiger bent over toward the beginning of his round on Sunday, appearing to be in so much pain that a mentally weaker player might have walked off the course. And don’t let me forget that he didn’t, and fought his way through the final round. Don’t let me forget that he still had to make a very tough 12-footer for birdie on 18 just to get in the playoff against Rocco.

But really, don’t let me forget about Rocco. Don’t let me forget his hat, covered in U.S. Open souvenir pins, or his players’ medallion, clipped to his sweater. Don’t let me forget that he stayed true to himself- always talking, joking, smiling, shrugging, flipping clubs in disbelief. Don’t let me forget that he gave everything he had on Sunday, and that he looked emotionally drained and physically spent after the round. That he said he knew Tiger would make his putt on 18, but his body language said he’d hoped Tiger would miss.

Don’t let me forget that Monday’s playoff appeared as if it were Tiger’s to win from the start. That Rocco said he was “running on fumes” prior to his round, and that the road appeared long and difficult when Tiger actually found the fairway on the first hole. Don’t let me forget that everything changed on the par 3 third, when Tiger plugged his tee shot in the front bunker and Rocco nearly aced it, leading to a two-shot swing. But don’t let me forget that Tiger was still Tiger, and came right back with a perfect approach and birdie on 6. Don’t let me forget Rocco’s approach that bounced off of two cart paths but still left him room to make a miraculous recovery. Don’t let me forget the short par putt that Rocco missed on 9, or the bogey on 10 that put him down three shots.

Don’t let me forget that the back nine on Monday was Rocco’s finest moment. Don’t let me forget that Rocco picked up two shots on 11 and 12, or that he birdied 13, 14, and 15. Don’t let me forget what happened on 15. That Rocco had just tied things up on 14, and then knocked his drive in the fairway. That Tiger drove his ball right into a bunker. That Rocco hit a great approach shot, and that Tiger hit an even better one. That up on the green Rocco said something to Tiger that actually made him laugh, which itself was quite an accomplishment given the circumstances. Don’t let me forget that just when Rocco could have let the round slip from his fingers, he made one of the greatest clutch putts I’ve seen. Don’t let me forget that Rocco held firm on 16 and 17, forcing Tiger to make a move on 18.

Don’t let me forget that one swing was the margin between winning and losing. Rocco pulled his drive into the bunker, and Tiger corked his right down the middle. Don’t let me forget that Rocco still had a 20-footer to win, but couldn’t get it to drop. Don’t let me forget that once the playoff went to sudden-death, it was finally, really over. Don’t let me forget that facing defeat, Rocco was still joking around with the rules officials, faking throwing his ball toward the green while he walked to the drop area on the 19th hole. Don’t let me forget that Tiger would have fought for 18 more holes to win the championship. Don’t let me forget that while he made the spectacular shots on Friday and Saturday, Tiger made all the crucial shots he needed on Sunday and Monday.

Don’t let me forget that Rocco pushed Tiger harder than anyone ever has, or that there is probably no other runner-up more deserving of winning the U.S. Open. While no one will forget that this might have been Tiger’s greatest win, please don’t let me forget that Rocco almost pulled off golf’s greatest win.


Memorial tournament round-up

– Congrats to Kenny Perry, who won the ’08 Memorial Tournament on Sunday.

– By all accounts Perry is one nice guy. But my favorite fun fact about Perry? His hometown of Franklin, Kentucky apparently didn’t have a public golf course, so he took out a $2.5 mil loan and built one. Rumor has it that he occasionally even works behind the counter. Cheers to that.

– The conditions were brutal at Muirfield Village all week, with 20-inch high rough and greens reading 20 on the stimpmeter*, leading many of the guys to piss and moan and threaten that players might start skipping Jack’s tournament because of the difficulty. Cry babies.

– Did he or didn’t he? Jack always waits by the 18th as the last few groups finish up, and usually says a few words and/or shakes some hands. When J.B. Holmes finished up, he walked right by Jack without saying anything. I think it’s basically a non-story, but I noticed it when I was watching and so did other people. I know you’re pissed at shooting 77 for the final round, but come on. I’ll give Holmes the benefit of the doubt, but if he was really trying to give Jack the cold shoulder, then that’s pretty weak.

– Memorial in photos: The Sand Trap has a nice gallery of photos from the weekend.

– The Tiger in the Room: You know Tiger’s the man when he’s not even playing right now and a profile of him is the golf article of the weekend.

– You didn’t play golf this weekend because you had a rec league softball tournament? Turns out that other sports might help your golf game. I’ve heard that Jack never played tennis because he feared it would throw off his golf game (too much right wrist?). It’s interesting that in the article it’s said that tennis players make good golfers by switching hands (i.e. right-handed tennis players golfing left-handed).

* not true

[UPDATED 6/4: Found an article summing up the players’ complaining.]

It’s Memorial week

Ah, the Memorial Tournament. When you’re from Columbus and a proud OSU alum, like tournament founder Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial is always a highlight on the golf calendar. The Memorial holds a special place in my heart, because it’s one of the places where I fell in love with golf as a kid. I come from a family of non-golfers, and I hadn’t been playing for very long (maybe a year or so) when my dad scored tickets to the final round in 1993. I don’t remember many specifics about that day, but I do remember how beautiful the course was and how fun it was to watch the best golfers in the world plying their trade. After walking the course for several hours, Dad and I ended up watching a couple of groups from the hill behind the 18th green. We were both pretty tired by that point, and the leaders still had enough holes to play that we decided we didn’t quite have the energy to stick around and wait for them to finish. So we called it a day and headed home, happy that we could spend the beautiful day together watching a game that neither one of us really knew much about. Getting home didn’t take as long as we thought it might have, so I flipped on the TV to see if I could catch the end of the tournament. I turned on the TV just in time to see this:

In one of the most dramatic finishes you’ll see on a golf course, Paul Azinger holed out from the greenside bunker on the 72nd hole to win the tournament. I was hooked. And I was there, sort of.

Phil wins the Colonial in style

Phil Mickelson went to the 18th hole in a three-way tie for the lead at Colonial CC yesterday and promptly proceeded to Winged-Foot his drive into what seemed like jail down the left side. His playing partner and co-leader, Rod Pampling, knocked his drive 300+ down the middle of the fairway, leaving a wedge to the green, and in great position to make birdie (Tim Clark, the other co-leader, was already in the clubhouse). It looked like Phil was in some serious trouble (one of the commentators- Peter Kostis, maybe) even suggested that if his lie were any worse he’d have to pitch out), and then he went and did this:

Pampling, who I’m guessing may have been just a tad bit rattled after losing the lead with a bogey on 17, hit a pretty poor approach, leaving a long uphill putt. His first putt was about 5 or 6 feet short, and Phil made his 8 footer to win the tournament.

Accordingly, it seems everyone is already frothing at the mouth about Phil’s chances at Torrey Pines in a couple of weeks (OMG PHIL IS BACK TIGER SUX LOVE YOU PHIL SERGIO SUX TOO), but let’s just say it’ll be interesting to see what happens. It was a great shot, but in a major (esp. the US Open) it might be a little bit easier to play from the fairway (see: Tiger vs Cabrera on 18 at Oakmont last year).

But in the meantime, congrats, Phil. Nice shot.

S@H Book Club: Before I begin, a word…

I try to do as much reading for pleasure as I can. My guilty pleasure? Books about golf. These don’t include instructional books (although Harvey Penick’s books are an exception, as are Dr. Bob Rotella’s books), biographies of tour pros (my guess is that books about Arnie or Jack aren’t written for people who are too young to have seen them play, and Tiger’s story is still being written as far as I’m concerned), or books about the PGA tour (reading A Good Walk Spoiled was like reading the phone book, although it didn’t help that I read it about 10 years after it came out). In my local library’s golf non-fiction section, if there are 20 shelves of golf books, 19 of them don’t interest me. So what does that leave me? How about golf memoirs by non-famous golfers (typically writers), collections of essays (by said writers), and a couple of non-picture-book architecture books. Is that esoteric enough for you? I guess what might make that weird is that I feel like I’ve read most all of the books from the genre, save the really old guys like Grantland Rice and Herbert Warren Wind.

This includes books by David Owen, James Dodson, Tom Chiarella (most people know him from Esquire, I read his golf memoir before I read his stuff in Esquire- that should give you a sense of the kind of geek I am), Tom Coyne, John Updike, Dan Jenkins (the unquestioned king), Bob Cullen, and others I’m forgetting. These guys are all writers who golf, and write about their relationships with the game. Some of them have also written novels I like, novels that tend toward “real people in real places,” rather than the kind that invoke mystical Scottish caddies or matches between ghosts. I realize I just dissed some of the more well-known and loved golf books, but sorry, they’re just not my cup of tea (maybe I’d love them, but they don’t even interest me enough to start).

(Ed: I don’t know why I felt I needed to explain all of that, but now you know.)

Kizer’s greens explained

I played Kizer about a month ago with a buddy of mine, and can verify that the greens were atrocious (even for my crappy standards). I thought they should just put down a Big Break-style scoring grid on the greens, and based on the circle where you land your approach shot (or 3rd chip, for some of us), you add a certain number of strokes (“putts”) to your score. The way we actually played, anything inside of about 6 feet was a gimme. Just brutal. So it was interesting to see some kind of explanation for what’s going on down there. I hope they can get it back on track soon- I really like the course, and it seems to suit my game pretty well.

Artist\'s rendering of Kizer\'s greens
Like this, but with lumps and bumps

Kizer Confidential: What went awry with ol’ Roy’s greens (via Statesman’s Backspin blog)