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Nation, World Sports

Five things: Tiger vs. Rocco in the 2008 U.S. Open

| Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 6:31 p.m.
Greensburg native Rocco Mediate congratulates Tiger Woods after Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open in a playoff.
Greensburg native Rocco Mediate congratulates Tiger Woods after Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open in a playoff.

Ten years ago, Greensburg native Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods dueled in one of the most memorable U.S. Opens in history.

Woods, famously playing on an injured leg, birdied the 72nd hole to send the Open at Torrey Pines to a Monday 18-hole playoff. He birdied the 18th again in the playoff to force sudden death, which he won on the first hole.

Besides the classic, see-saw battle between Woods and Mediate, the 2008 U.S. Open also is famous for being Woods' 14th and last major to this point, as personal problems and injuries derailed his career.

Here are five notable storylines from the 2008 Open:

1. Forgotten contender

The tournament looked like it might come down to Woods and Lee Westwood. Westwood opened the final round one shot behind Woods, with Mediate one more shot back. Westwood went into the back nine leading Woods by a stroke and Mediate by two, but three bogeys between Nos. 10-13 were his undoing. Still, a birdie on the 14th got him back to even par, and a birdie in the last four holes would have made him the third playoff participant.

Westwood managed only pars the rest of the way, adding to his legacy of near-misses in majors.

2. Rocco's unlikely run

There was little to indicate Mediate would be a contender — let alone come within a whisker of winning — at the '08 Open. In the 17 tournaments he played leading up to Torrey Pines, he missed eight cuts and withdrew once. In the eight cuts he made, he finished higher than 36th just once. That one was the Memorial (tied for sixth) two weeks before the Open.

After Torrey Pines, he had better luck making cuts the rest of the season but cracked the top 20 only twice in eight events, with one withdrawal. The latter part of his 2008 season included an ignominious 85 in the final round of the PGA Championship.

3. First depressions

Were it not for his struggles on the first hole, Woods might have avoided the drama with Mediate. He played No. 1 at Torrey Pines 5-over-par for the week: double bogeys in the first, third and fourth rounds and a birdie in the second.

The birdie in the second round came during a stretch that might have kept Woods afloat in the tournament. He shot 30 on the front nine, with five birdies and no bogeys. It was part of a 68 that also included an eagle on the par-5 13th.

4. Career best

Mediate's runner-up represents his best career finish in a major on the PGA Tour. (He won the Senior PGA Championship, a major on the Champions Tour, in 2016.) At Torrey Pines, he never was lower than third place at the end of any round. It was one of only four top-10 finishes in his 49 career starts in majors. Two of the other three top-10s were at U.S. Opens: fourth at Southern Hills in 2001 and tied for sixth at Pinehurst in 2005.

His other top-10 finish in a major was a sixth-place showing at the 2002 PGA Championship.

5. Last of its kind

Mediate might not have made personal history at Torrey Pines, but he forever will be part of U.S. Open history. He and Woods have the distinction of playing in the tournament's final 18-hole aggregate playoff. No U.S. Open has gone to a playoff since, and beginning this week at Shinnecock Hills, the USGA will go to a two-hole aggregate playoff format.

It probably is best there won't be any more 18-hole playoffs at the U.S. Open because it's hard to imagine another matching the drama of 2008.

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at ccurti@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.

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