SAN DIEGO -- Tiger Woods hit the ball all over the place on the 72nd hole at the U.S. Open. He hit left into a bunker and then into the right rough. He hit onto the green on his third shot, the ball 12 feet from the hole.
Woods needed to make the birdie putt to send the major to a playoff with Rocco Mediate. If Woods missed, Mediate would have won the first major of his career Sunday at Torrey Pines.
This is Woods, so you know how this ended.
It ended with Woods bent over in a limbo-like stance, pumping his fist and screaming with joy. Woods sank the putt, which Mediate predicted before the blade hit the ball, and forced an 18-hole playoff which begins today.
There were no ridiculous shots for Woods on Sunday. There was no chip-in which one-hopped the flagstick and dropped in the cup. There was no 60-foot eagle putt or 40-foot eagle putt. But the 12-footer that stood between Mediate and the trophy was memorable.
"That was actually one of the worst parts of the green," Woods said. "It's so bumpy down there. And I just kept telling myself, two-and-a-half balls (break) to the right. But make sure you stay committed to it, make a pure stroke and if it Plinkos in or Plinkos out, it doesn't matter as long as I make a pure stroke. And I did. Hit it good. It took forever to break, but it finally snuck in there at the end."
The U.S. Open will be decided by today's 18-hole playoff. The U.S. Open is the only major with an 18-hole playoff format. Today, it's just Mediate versus Woods. Lee Westwood had a chance to make the playoff as well, but he missed a 15-foot putt above the hole on the 18th to finish third.
Woods is recovering from knee surgery two months ago. This is the first tournament he has played since Augusta and had he not had a two-month hiatus from golf, it figures that he would've run away with the championship. But Woods is hobbling and grimacing and limping through this U.S. Open.
He needed something to help him get through the day.
"Did (the knee) get better? No," Woods said. "I took some things to relieve that, so I feel a bit better now."
If Woods wins, he'll feel even better. It will be his third U.S. Open victory and 14th major. But this is different. He has never had to win it quite like this.
"I'm looking forward to it," Woods said. "I've never been in this position before in a U.S. Open. After I got the start off today, it looked like I could play myself right out of the tournament. But I still have a chance going into (today). I kept telling myself after I started that if I shoot even par for the day, I win the tournament."
Mediate, 45, has won just five times on tour. He played conservatively on the last hole, laying up and two-putting for par. He forced Woods to birdie the final hole.
Woods led after the third round and is 13 for 13 in majors when leading after 54 holes. But he lost his lead after the first hole, which was quite an adventure. Woods hit his drive way left into the gallery, then hit a tree and his ball landed in the left rough again.
He made double-bogey in the hole and fell into a tie for the lead.
Woods didn't play his best round of golf - he shot a 2-over 73 - but it might have been his most magnificent because it was so gutsy.
Mediate, who started the day two shots back, shot 71.