The Big Three-Oh: #7

Welcome to “The Big Three-Oh!” I’m turning 30 at the end of July and to celebrate, I am counting down my best/favorite sports moments in my lifetime. If you missed the kickoff post, check it out for the background for the seriesMore Tiger today. I didn’t play for this to lineup with Tiger’s post-COVID return but life is funny sometimes.

#7 — Tiger Woods Wins the 2008 US Open in a Playoff

Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines. Until 15 months ago, this was the weekend Tiger fans looked back gloriously as it was the last Major Championship Woods had won until the 2019 Masters. The US Open is usually the toughest of the four golf Majors and as it turns out, Tiger made oh-so-much harder for himself.

Tiger entered the US Open having missed tour events because of knee surgery he underwent after the 2008 Masters. There wasn’t a ton of hype surrounding Tiger and there wasn’t much after Thursday as Woods shot a one-over 72, four shots behind the leaders. Between Woods and the leaders were servals pros, as well as an amateur named Rickie Fowler, including Rocco Mediate. After Mediate shot an even 71 and Tiger exploded for a 68, both men found themselves tied for second through two rounds. Tiger would take the lead after while Mediate saw Lee Westwood sneak past him into second place. Mediate would be in the second-to-last paring while Woods and Westwood would be in the final group.

Tiger had gone 13 for 13 when entering the final day of major with at least a share of the lead. While Woods struggled to make pars as his knee was clearly bothering him, the rest of the contender struggled to reach an even-par 71 in the final round except for Rocco Mediate. As the video showed, Mediates sliding birdie putt on 18 trailed off, securing him the 71 and going into the clubhouse as the leader with a tournament score of one-under. Both Westwood and Woods needed birdies to reach the coveted one-under score to force a playoff. Westwood had a similar sliding putt as Mediate and fell short. Tiger drained his 12-footer and Dan Hicks asked the question we all knew the question to: “EXPECT ANYTHING DIFFERENT?” None of us expected Tiger to miss.

As the video shows, the two battled through a playoff round on Monday with both men shooting an even 71 to force the 91st hole. Mediate bogeyed while Tiger came inches short from canning a birdie, but still walked away with his 14th Major. Woods would announce that he would miss the rest of the 2008 season to once again get knee surgery. Tiger won the hardest major on a broken leg. We’d see Tiger once again enter the final round of the 2009 PGA as the leader, but YE Yang stared down Tiger and secured victory. Denying Tiger his 15th major. SPOILER ALERT. I’ll stop with the story between 2008 and 2019 because the 2019 Masters will be appearing on this list. That shouldn’t be surprising considering this is the second Tiger-related entry but I won’t spill when that moment will arrive. 2008 stands out as one of my favorite sports memories not because it’s Tiger Woods winning, but because of how invested I was in this tournament from start to finish. Tiger had been out of golf so he wasn’t drawing me to watch. I hadn’t caught the bug to play golf yet so that wasn’t it. Nevertheless, I tuned in every day to see how the players were going to fair against Torrey Pines. Maybe it was that I watched Sportscenter every night along with Baseball Tonight so it could’ve been ESPN’s previews getting me hyped up. With the final round being played on Father’s Day, I vividly remember going out to dinner with dad and us watching this tournament play out. My dad joked that if Mediate, who was a year-and-a-half younger than my dad, could be competing for a Major, then he “had a chance.” He was rooting for Rocco and I wanted Tiger to win. It wouldn’t be the last time we would be on different sides regarding Tiger winning, but that’s a story for another day.  

Today’s Instagram Athlete

(via)

Ron Jaworski comes in at #7 for a very interesting reason. Not because of football as I never saw Jaws, but because of golf. Jaws has had a larger than life personality in Philadelphia throughout my life. He’s on ESPN a ton, he goes on local sports shows, he owned the Arena League, and he also owns multiple golf courses around the greater Philadelphia area. My friends and I have the Jaws pass before, allowing us to play any of his courses. Most notably, two of the three Thundercups have been played at Ramblewood, a Jaworski Golf Course! #7 was an interesting one to find as there aren’t too many modern players of note to pick from. Philly athlete-wise: the Flyers retired it for Bill Barber, it’s rarely used for the Sixers, and the Phillies haven’t had the best luck with players wearing it, most recently Maikel Franco. I could’ve gone with Mickie Mantle again or even John Elway as I did watch him play and win Super Bowls. Jaws has that extra connection outside of football, though.

(cover photo via)

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