Tigers Time Place Delayed


2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Every great athlete has a time or a place.
Reggie Jacksons time was October. Magic Johnsons time was the final two minutes of a playoff game'Winnin Time he called it.
Lance Armstrongs place was the Tour de France. Bjorn Borgs place was Wimbledon, Centre Court.
Beyond sports.Churchill had WWII. Caesar had all of Gaul. Lincoln had Gettysburg. Washington had the Delaware.
Tiger Woods right now has a time and a place. The time is any major golf championship when he has at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. The place, more than any other for him, is Torrey Pines South.
There is work to do yet, however, because a likable veteran named Rocco Mediate has played Woods to a standstill. In fact Woods needed a 15-foot birdie putt, that curled into the hole, on the 72d hole Sunday to force an 18-hole playoff with Mediate
That will take place Monday morning. And Woods will be favored although questions remain about the surgically-repaired left knee that has left him limping much of the week.
Mediate, for his part is looking forward to the challenge. I cant wait, he said. To see what I got against the man (Woods).
Woods tying putt was the latest in a week full of thrills, chills and spills at Torrey Pines. Which leads us to reflect on our national championship? Its fascinating to note how many critics have noticed that The Masters, in the last few years due to the toughening of Augusta National, has become what the U.S. Open used to be. Its even more fascinating to note how few of them have noticed that the U.S. Open, under the stewardship of course set-up guy Mike Davis, has borrowed what The Masters used to do best.
That would be the introduction and nurturing of the concept of risk and reward. This year that meant a short par 3 (the third hole), a drivable par 4 (No. 14 on Sunday) and a par 5 finishing hole that was reachable for much of the field on all four days.
The fairest set-up it has ever been, Phil Mickelson said. The mixture off tee boxes, the pin placements were all perfect to give the best players a chance to separate themselves.
The 14th, to be precise, was exactly 267 yards from the tee to the hole location Sunday. Which made it longer than the par 3 eighth hole from the back tee box at last years U.S. Open. This was the kind of potential for excitement that the USGA for too many years seemed bound and determined to avoid. Its also the kind of potential for excitement that makes people want to take up golf. Its certainly the kind of potential for excitement that drives television ratings.
A salty little shot, Mickelson called the tee ball at 14.
Earlier in the day Woods agent, Mark Steinberg, was wearing a long face. Its a struggle, he said 25 minutes before Tiger teed off. And a lot more of a struggle than any of you guys (the media) will ever know.
When it was suggested that Woods wouldnt stop playing Sunday unless he had to be carried off on his shield, Steinberg said, He doesnt show up on Thursday unless he thinks he can win on Sunday.
Now he will need to go into Monday.
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