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Camilo Villegas has a three stroke lead after the opening round of the 2009 Buick Invitational. For more PGA TOUR highlights and recaps, go to http://www.pgatour.com … PGA TOUR golf sports highlights first round one Phil Mickelson Davis Love III Camilo Villegas Aaron Baddeley Padraig Harrington great shot birdie 2009 Buick Invitational Torrey Pines PGATOUR.COM
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SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods cradled the silver U.S. Open trophy in his right hand and limped toward the edge of the Pacific bluffs, each step as much a burden as the 91 holes he played at Torrey Pines for a major that might have been his most amazing yet.
Out of competition for two months because of knee surgery, he won the toughest test in golf.
For the second straight day, Woods came to the 18th hole one shot behind and stood over a birdie putt to avoid a shocking collapse.
His knee throbbing and heart pounding, he delivered. He always does.
An epic U.S. Open finally ended Monday afternoon on the 19th hole of a playoff when Woods outlasted a gritty Rocco Mediate for a victory that surprised even him.
“I think this is probably the best ever,” Woods said. “All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position, to be honest with you. It was a long week. A lot of doubt, a lot of questions going into the week. And here we are, 91 holes later.”
Now the greater question is his future.
All week, Woods had managed to mask the pain, walking with an almost imperceptible limp. Finally, he could give in to it. Walking toward the bluffs for his last round of interviews, he could barely make it up the hill.
Woods conceded that he risked further damage by playing the U.S. Open, and said it was possible that he had indeed made it worse.
He does not know when he will play next, even uncertain whether he will show up at Royal Birkdale in five weeks for the British Open to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors. Torrey Pines was Woods’ 14th major and made him the only player besides Nicklaus to win the career Grand Slam three times over.
“I think I need to shut it down for a little bit,” Woods said. “It’s a bit sore. I need to take a little bit of a break.”
It might take that long for this victory to sink in.
Caught in a tussle with Mediate, a 45-year-old with a creaky back and no fear, Woods blew a three-shot lead with eight holes to play before rallying with a birdie to send this 18-hole playoff into overtime.
On the verge of one of golf’s great upsets, Mediate instead became another victim.
He had a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win – not many players get a chance like that against Woods – and pulled it just slightly.
“I just yanked it a touch,” Mediate said. “But I can’t really complain. I did the best I could.”
Woods reached the green in two and his 45-foot eagle putt rolled some four feet past the hole. He backed off the putt when a seagull’s shadow crossed over his line, then watched it tumble in for birdie. Both Woods and Mediate finished at even-par 71.
Going to the seventh hole for sudden death, Mediate drove left into a bunker, pulled that shot to the edge of the bleachers, chipped 18 feet past the hole and missed the par putt.
“Great fight,” Woods told him as they embraced on the green.
It was almost more than Woods could handle, yet he escaped again. He won the U.S. Open for the third time, and the first since it was last held on a public course at Bethpage Black in 2002.
“I’m glad I’m done,” Woods said. “I really don’t feel like playing anymore.”
Mediate’s odyssey began two weeks ago when he had to survive a sudden-death playoff simply to qualify for this U.S. Open. Even more unlikely was going toe-to-toe with Woods – whom Mediate referred to as a “monster” – and nearly slaying him.
Mediate struggled to keep his emotions after taking bogey on the first extra hole, but he walked off Torrey Pines with 12,000 new friends who crammed both sides of every fairway for a playoff that was tighter than anyone imagined.
“Obviously, I would have loved to win,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say. They wanted a show, they got one.”
Did they ever.
From the opening tee shot Thursday in a light fog known as “June Gloom,” this U.S. Open simply shined.
“The atmosphere is what kept me going,” Woods said. “The tournament, being a major championship here at Torrey Pines, all the people, it could have very easily .. I couldn’t ever quit in front of these people. It wasn’t going to happen.”
The week was filled with some of Woods’ greatest moments in a major – a 30 on the back nine Friday to get into the mix, two eagles from a combined 100 feet and a chip-in birdie on Saturday to take the lead, and one of the biggest putts of his career when he holed a 12-foot birdie with the final stroke of regulation to force the playoff.
Then came a playoff in which he built a three-shot lead with eight holes to play, only to find himself trailing four holes later.
“You just keep pushing and pushing,” Woods said. “And I did, all week.”
Woods seized control when Mediate bogeyed consecutive holes around the turn, but Woods bogeyed the next two from the bunker and Mediate tied him by nearly driving the 267-yard 14th hole and chipping to a foot for birdie.
Then the playoff took yet another surprising turn on the 15th.
Woods hit his tee shot so far to the right that it landed in a fairway bunker along the adjoining ninth fairway. But he carved a seven-iron from 170 yards around the trees to 12 feet, one of those defining shots that turns a tournament in his favour.
But not this time. Mediate dropped in a 25-foot birdie putt, while Woods missed and spent the next three holes in a desperate chase to make up ground until he did on the last hole.
“I never quit. I never quit,” Mediate said. “I’ve been beaten down a few times and came back, and I got what I wanted. I got a chance to beat the best player in the world. And I came up just a touch short.”
It was the second time Woods has won a PGA Tour event and a U.S. Open on the same course – Pebble Beach in 2000 and Torrey Pines, where in January he won by eight shots for his sixth Buick Invitational title.
He now has won eight times at Torrey Pines, including a Junior World Championship.
It was his 65th career victory, passing Ben Hogan for third all time. Woods raised his playoff record to 15-2 and made it 14-of-14 in majors when he had at least a share of the lead going into the final round.
He now has won every major in a playoff except for the British Open.
Just like the last U.S. Open playoff seven years ago, both players arrived wearing the same outfit – khaki trousers and a white shirt at Southern Hills, black slacks and a red shirt with a black vest at Torrey Pines.
That’s typical for Woods, and when he saw Mediate, Woods removed his vest.
It felt like a prize fight the way both players marched through a wall of fans and onto the first tee, posing before the silver U.S. Open trophy. And it finished that way, too.
“With everybody in the world all looking in, and everyone expecting me to get my (behind) handed to me, and I didn’t,” Mediate said. “And I almost got it done. I almost got it done.”
Woods raised his arms like a heavyweight champion walking off the first tee, but only because he found the fairway for the first time all week. He had double bogeyed it three of the previous four days.
Mediate flipped his club to the front of the tee box when he came within inches of an ace on the par-3 third.
Back and forth they went, Woods building an early lead with consecutive birdies, Mediate refusing to go away. But when Mediate three-putted from 15 feet for bogey on the ninth, and Woods holed a 20-foot par putt from the fringe on the next hole to go three shots ahead, it looked as though this playoff would turn into another snoozer.
Then it was Woods who faltered, and Mediate caught a second wind. It set up a fabulous finish, just like everything else this week on the public course in the tony hamlet of La Jolla that translates to “The Jewel.”
“It was just unreal,” Woods said. “It was back and forth, back and forth. And 90 holes wasn’t enough.”
Even someone like former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy can acknowledge being a bit mesmerized by seeing Tiger Woods win tournament after tournament after tournament.
”It’s quite fun to watch,” Ogilvy said.
Sure, but it doesn’t compare to beating Woods – especially when the world’s No. 1 hasn’t lost in six months.
Ogilvy won the CA Championship on Monday, saving a round that seemed in peril with a chip-in for par at the 13th hole and going on to claim his second victory in a World Golf Championship event. And not only did Ogilvy take down Tiger, he did it at Doral, where Woods had won each of the past three years.
- CA Championship – Final Leaderboard
So much for that perfect-season talk. The streak is over.
”It was going to end at some point,” Ogilvy said. ”I’m very glad that I did it. It’s a nice place to do it, too, because he’s obviously owned this place for the last few years. He just had one of those weeks.”
A final round of 1-under 71 – with nothing but nine pars Monday – was enough for Ogilvy to finish at 17 under, one shot better than Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh, who all closed with 68s in the rain-delayed tournament. Woods was fifth at 15 under, losing for the first time in six PGA Tour starts and seven official ones worldwide, not counting his win at the Target World Challenge.
”As players, it’s nice to see somebody else lift a trophy for a change,” Goosen said.
Calgary’s Stephen Ames finished eight shots off the pace after closing with a 2-under 70. Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., shot a 1-under 71 and was nine strokes behind.
With the win, Ogilvy joined select company – only Woods (15) and Darren Clarke (two) have more than one WGC title.
”People don’t really understand, you need to have something happen, a positive thing happen to you out there in order to win tournaments,” Woods said. ”I heard Geoff bladed one in the hole for par. That’s what you need to have happen. Those are the things that have happened to me, and things weren’t going that way this week.”
Indeed, Ogilvy got the biggest break at the most crucial time.
Woods started the morning five shots back with seven holes remaining and made his typical charge, closing within two strokes after making a four-footer at the 17th. He birdied the 12th to start his day, then hit his tee shot within a foot at the par-3 15th for a tap-in.
At that very moment, two holes behind, Ogilvy seemed in trouble.
He pulled his two-iron tee shot at the par-3 13th way left, and his chip from thick, dewy grass didn’t even reach the green – making bogey seem probable, until a most improbable shot followed.
Ogilvy’s second chip hopped twice, hit the pin and dropped straight in, giving the Australian a break he desperately needed. If it went past the cup, he surely could have been looking at double bogey – since the ball clearly would have kept rolling for a while.
”That was moving,” Ogilvy said. ”That’s why you have to hit it on line. Flag gets in the way.”
Around the same time that chip dropped in, Ogilvy’s nearest pursuers began falling off.
Singh was the first one to make a run at Ogilvy, getting within a stroke before back-to-back bogeys doomed his chances. Furyk got within one after making birdie at the 17th, then missed the fairway at the finishing hole. Adam Scott started the morning four shots back, then inexplicably missed a two-foot tap-in and lost all hope of making a run.
”Geoff played well,” Singh said. ”He hit a lot of great shots and putted nicely. Somebody had to win, somebody had to lose.”
For a change, Woods was one of those somebodies on the losing side.
It was Woods’ first defeat since Sept. 3, and his perfect start to 2008 begged the ridiculous-sounding question: Could he go unbeaten for an entire year?
”You want to always win every one you play in,” Woods said. ”So you’ve just got to get ready for the next one.”
His next official tournament: the Masters, where Woods’ annual Grand Slam quest will begin.
”I think it’s a great sign, what happened this week, to make that many mistakes and only be two back,” Woods said.
It has come to this: When Woods doesn’t win, it counts as stunning news.
He was less than an even-money favourite before the tournament began, and at least one British bookmaker had Woods at the preposterous odds of 1-to-3 after the second round – when he wasn’t even in the lead.
But since Woods’ surge of late was amazing even by his own standards, why would those oddsmakers expect anything less?
”The chitchat about ‘Is he going to win every golf tournament this year,’ that’s frustrating stuff to hear,” Ogilvy said.
Ogilvy won’t have to hear it anymore.
His last win was the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the one best remembered by Phil Mickelson’s final-hole double-bogey collapse that handed Ogilvy the title.
There was some symmetry at Doral, where this week might go down as the week Tiger lost.
”I guess they stopped going in for him this week,” Ogilvy said. ”Yeah, it’s nice.”
Woods’ check for US$285,000 put him over the $80-million mark in official earnings. .. Woods was among several players who scurried out quickly to get to Orlando for the afternoon start to the Tavistock Cup, the annual match between pros from the Lake Nona and Isleworth clubs. ”Going to be a long day,” Woods said. .. Goosen’s finish was his best since tying for second at the Masters last year.