Up Against Houdini


2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Tiger shook the earth on Sunday night.
But for goodness sakes he couldnt shake the underdog, and no angry pit bull but a loveable, warmhearted big ole lab named Rocco.
And just when you were as certain as taxes that the coldest competitor the games ever known would put a foot on his neck and his nose in the dirt, Happy Gilmore somehow came away smiling and bouncing and not just breathing but leading the national championship on a Monday that felt like any of the greatest Sundays the sports ever seen.
He was up against a living legend, a Mt. Rushmore giant whod all week been mixing the fighting spirit of Venturi in 1964 and Hogan in 1950, with the kind of lights out stretches Johnny Miller played in 1973.
He was up against a guy who makes Houdini look like a Tuesday Vegas lounge act.
And suddenly Rocco was Mike Eruzione with Al Michaels screaming Do You Believe in Miracles?!
Rocco was in the cage with Tiger and he was about to leave in a discussion with Francis Ouimet and they made a movie about him.
But Tiger writes the scripts in this sport. This one was Academy worthy, with a supporting Oscar for Rocco.
Truth is though they dont make movies this good.
Making this one of the greatest Opens ever, with more electric moments
By the most electric performer in golf history
Rocco didnt simply play good golf for four days to make the playoff, he played to the crowds and built goodwill, a technique other players might want to try
And Tiger and Rocco werent the only stars
The USGAs set up man Mike Davis has helped to move The U.S. Open ahead of the Masters for the moment with his multiple tee boxes allowing for more thoughtful, interesting golf
Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, says the clutch athletes dont hear anything else and that everything gets smallerMontana and Russell and Gibson and Koufax through pain in Reggies estimation willed their way to success
And from Eddie Merrins, the little pro from Bel Air who knew them all---Jones and Hogan and Jack---comes thisTiger, he says, is the most possessed player everothers played to win, but they werent possessed with winning as Tiger is
The great Tiger bloodied but unbowed

Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Rich Lerner's Archives