Relive the Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate 2008 US Open Playoff from Inside the Ropes

Relive the Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate 2008 US Open Playoff from Inside the Ropes

US Open Champion Tiger Woods with the trophy along with Rocco Mediate who was one stroke ahead on the tee at the last and lost with a bogey on the first sudden-death playoff hole after Tiger birdied the qq8th to tie. Dramatic for sure!

US Open Champion Tiger Woods with the trophy along with Rocco Mediate who was one stroke ahead on the tee at the last and lost with a bogey on the first sudden-death playoff hole after Tiger birdied the qq8th to tie. Dramatic for sure! Photo Credit: Golf Monthly UK

It’s been a great U.S. Open week for me already. Attending the Monday playoff round with my brother Dave is simply icing on the cake.

In fact, it has been a great trip out to California for the U.S. Open. I stretched it a little bit coming into LAX and staying in Hermosa Beach with my nephew David the Thursday before.

Nothing like beach volleyball and watching the Lakers-Celtics playoff game during a West Coast happy hour. It brings back memories of Monday Night Football, West Coast style.

I used to live out here in the early 1980s and got together with my best friends over the weekend. Much has changed over the years, as the oldest ones approach 50 and there are kids all around ranging in ages from kindergarten to college and beyond.

But our friendship hasn’t changed much and picks up where we left it off a few years back. We did manage to get out to play golf and of course the one guy takes us to a course the rest of us never played and manages to eke out a victory, at least in his mind. I still haven’t confessed to kicking his ball into the green side bunker at 18.

This week at the U.S. Open was especially wonderful since I enjoyed it with so many close friends and relatives. I was able to get a job for another friend working for NBC Sports as a spotter.

On Monday I checked out the course with my nephew David. Then on Wednesday my nephew Stephen came in with me. Today, for the playoff, it’s my brother Dave.

Some people have to show up to work on Monday morning, even when they are the bosses. Others like me at this point in my life have to show up at the golf course for work, or in reality potential work, since I am still basically unemployed yet will never admit to it. That’s unemployed, not unemployable.

Sorry, as it is difficult to concentrate right now. The playoff is over and I am sitting on the Sun Coaster train heading north to LA. Directly to my left outside the window is the beach, the Pacific Ocean with waves crashing onto the shore.

At the last station stop I was literally on the beach with the Fisherman’s Pier right there. What a beautiful sight to see.

This is a nice train with electrical outlets and wireless Internet so that I can do my “work” while transporting.

The ticket was all of $18. At $4 a gallon, I could not have driven to Anaheim for less than the cost of a ticket. Maybe I am adapting to being green as I also drive a motorcycle too. Back to golf…

This week NBC had me stationed at the 16th tee where my job was to find out which club each golfer used on the par 3 hole. It was fun, and I literally got to see all the golfers competing in the 108th rendition of the U.S. Open.

But I did miss being assigned to a group and walking the whole 18 holes with the golfers. With the Monday playoff, now is my chance to walk the full 18 with Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods competing to become the 2008 U.S. Open champion.

This will be a memorable day for my brother and I. Surely one our father would rejoice in it, as he was an avid golfer and brought all three of his sons into the game of golf and the way of life it promotes.

Dad passed in 1993, and surely this is a wonderful way to acknowledge him and celebrate Father’s Day in his memory. I got up at 6:30 a.m. and drove in with my brother from his home in Spring Valley. Traffic was light, so we made it to the course a little after 8.

I showed Dave around the NBC compound a bit and then we headed to the far side of the course to see Tiger and Rocco warming up on the driving range and putting green. As we walk past the 12, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18 holes, Dave recalls vividly the hole locations and shots from Sunday’s round.

He and his wife were out on the course Saturday and I think he watched all 8 hours of television coverage on Sunday. He was there at the 13th green when Tiger made that unconscionable putt for eagle.

We get there just as Rocco is leaving the driving range heading for the putting green. It’s a little weird seeing only one player on the putting green.

He was sort of knocking it around and didn’t seem to be putting all that well. I don’t know if it was because he was the only show in town to watch, so we saw all his misses, or he simply was not putting well.

I remember Steve Stricker getting some putting tips from his Wisconsin buddy Jerry Kelly on Wednesday. He was putting poorly so poorly that I couldn’t watch it anymore and had to leave. Then when he came through 16 on Thursday he was 3-under after only playing 6 holes and birdied it to go to 4-under.

By Friday, when he came through almost 27 holes later, he was not doing as well.  He did make the cut, whereas his buddy Jerry did not. Maybe that is what friendship is all about? Help out your buddy even though he may beat you.

We go over and watch Tiger hit a few on the driving range. He looked good as he always does. He left and headed to the pitching green to practice his chips a little. I wonder if Rocco went there before the driving range. Either way, they both ended up stroking a few more putts together on the putting green.

Rocco left first heading to the first tee, then Tiger. When we went around the corner, it was Tiger emerging first to the first tee. A matter of courtesy or maybe Rocco had to check out the restroom first. If he did it was a quick No. 1.

There we were above the first tee listening to the introductions for the playoff of the 2008 U.S. Open between Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods. Rocco hit first on the par-4 first hole and hits a nice driver down the left side of the fairway.

Tiger hit driver, too, and looked to be heading for the right bunkers when the ball cleared everything and landed safely in the fairway if just barely.

Rocco hits an awful approach shot that luckily dies in the right front bunker. A dad behind me tells his son to watch Tiger hit it “stiff.” The son inquisitively asked what does hitting it “stiff” mean.

I thought to myself I really have no idea even though I used that terminology with my dad lots of time. I was interested in the father’s response.

When it came, I thought it was kind of lame. Stiff means hitting it close to the stiff flagstick? Does anybody have a better explanation than that? I am interested!

Tiger gets up and hits a decent shot but not “stiff” or exceptionally close to the flagstick or hole location. Rocco hits a decent sand shot but it releases and ends up 10 feet past the hole. He misses the side hill left-to-right putt.

Rocco bogeys the first hole. Tiger comfortably 2-putts from 25 feet. Tiger is one stroke ahead. Remember that this is a two-person medal playoff and not match play. Every stroke counts and the golfer with the lowest score at the end wins the U.S. Open trophy.

They both par the par-4 second hole. Tiger drives it into the left rough, misses the green short right, chips up and makes a 6-footer. Rocco hits the fairway but misses the green right and gets it up and down making a four-foot putt. Tiger still one stroke ahead.

Tiger hits first on the par-3 third hole and is inches short of carrying the front bunker. Instead of a birdie putt, he is confronted with a “fried-egg” lie in the bunker. Forced to severely blast it out of the sand, there is no spin on the ball and it rolls 15 feet past the hole.

Rocco hits a magnificent tee shot that almost goes in the hole stopping within tap-in range. Tiger misses his par putt. Two-stroke swing with Rocco birdieing the hole and Tiger bogeying it. Rocco has a one-stroke advantage.

The par-4 fourth hole magnificently follows the ridge of the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. Rocco hits left of the fairway but with a decent lie and hits a nice shot right at the hole. It is short of the back hole location and he is left with a 40-foot uphill putt.

Tiger is longer but also left with a poor lie. He muscles a low shot out of the rough trying to run it up the opening to the green. It goes left stopping short of the bunker in the rough.

He chips up and has a gimme for par. Rocco two putts. Two pars. Rocco retains his one-stroke advantage. I hear a guy yell “Rocco, win one for the ages.” Rocco is 45 years old.

On the par-4 fifth, Rocco bunkers his driver tee shot to the right. Rocco is relaxed talking to a USGA official on the tee. Tiger backs off his tee shot, hoping the MetLife blimp will pass by. It does. He hits it in the fairway on the left side.

Rocco goes first and hits a left left shot ending up the hill about 40 yards from the hole. No lucky gallery bounce. Tiger irons to 20 feet and 2-putts for par. Rocco hits an amazing flop shot, which means he is left with a 12-foot chip-putt. His miss results in a bogey. Match is even with both golfers are one over par after 5 holes.

Tiger has the honor on the par-4 sixth hole and hits driver into the fairway and hits it close to 7 feet with his approach shot.

Rocco hits the fairway but is long on his approach. The hole is front left in a bowl, leaving Rocco to contend with a large ridge to navigate with his chip shot. He does so magnificently and makes the 6 footer saving par. Tiger knocks in his putt for birdie to regain his earlier one-stroke advantage.

As we approach the seventh tee, I can see the big scoreboard on 18. It is full of numbers from the week’s play. I am surprised they are not tracking the hole-by-hole score of the playoff contenders.

There is an update of the match on the smaller scoreboard to the right. I see the MetLife blimp overhead and wonder if it is out here today to advertise the “IF” in life, or rather the 2008 U.S. Open. Who will win when play concludes at No. 18 later this afternoon?

I also smile looking at my brother Dave realizing he is most certainly the only one “inside the ropes” wearing an Ely Park golf hat from the golf course in our hometown of Binghamton, N.Y. Sons are always thinking of their fathers.

Tiger takes it to Rocco again on the seventh hole. Drive in the fairway, nice iron shot carrying the bunkers and drains a 30-foot putt for birdie.

Rocco responds with a nice iron to 15 feet from the fairway but cannot hole the uphill putt. Woods is now 2 strokes ahead through 7 holes.

On the par-3 eighth hole, Tiger takes a huge divot. I think he hits it fat, but the ball winds up in the back bunker. He is not a happy camper. Rocco hits a nice shot and is just short right of the green.

Coming off the tee, he goes over to Isao Aoki who is doing the Japanese broadcast and chats with him for a few steps.   Tiger’s sand shot is heavy and the ball releases and runs off the front of the green quite close to Rocco’s approach shot.

I realize that although this playoff is not a match play situation there is indeed a mano-a-mano air to it like a chess match. Tiger is 2 strokes up, and it is as though Rocco has lost a significant piece like a rook or bishop, but not a queen.

They are both chipping from in front of the green, Rocco first, then Tiger. Rocco needs to seize the opportunity and capture back a stroke here.

Tiger has some powerful moves left, with three remaining reachable for Tiger par-5s. Whose king will remain in power after all is said and done this afternoon? Who will be hugging the U.S. Open trophy?

Both chip strongly past the hole, leaving downhill 5-footers. Tiger putts first and makes it, recording his second bogey of the day, ending his consecutive birdie initiative.

Now Rocco needs to follow suit to reduce Tiger’s lead to one. He does so. Woods is one stroke ahead.

As we cross the 18th fairway to get to the ninth tee at Torrey Pines, I glance down the fairway to the green and wonder what the final status of the playoff will be in a couple of hours.

Both Rocco and Tiger hit the fairway with their tee shots on the par-5 ninth hole. Rocco is talking away to Tiger as they come down the hill from the tee. Tiger is struggling to keep up with Rocco yet seems intent on continuing the verbal exchange.

I wonder if this is part of Rocco’s strategy. Is he playing fast trying to tire out Tiger and his defective knee?

I overhear a guy behind me saying something about hiding from someone, so I turn around and ask him if he is hiding from his boss or his wife. One doesn’t want to be caught on national television if one is not supposed to be there.

Before I could take the words back, I realize it is Reggie Jackson. I was a big Yankee fan growing up in New York and loved watching him play and win back-to-back World Series in the 70s.

I was also entertained with his off-the-field love-hate relationships with the media and George Steinbrenner. I assume he was really trying to hide from his fans, so he could enjoy the golf as a fan himself.

Rocco elects to lay up but ends up in the right rough. Tiger nails a 3-wood that has green written all over it but ends up in the front left bunker. Rocco’s approach is so-so leaving a 25 footer downhill for birdie. Surprisingly Tiger’s sand shot comes up short and finds the bunker closest to the green. Maybe he was overcompensating for the long bunker shot on the last hole?

He blasts out again and this time judges the distance fairly well. Tiger converts the 5 footer for par then Rocco misses a short one and ends up 3 putting for bogey.

When it looked like Tiger was going to give one to Rocco, Rocco ends up giving one to Tiger. Even though it looked like they would be tied after the ninth hole, Tiger is two strokes ahead.

Tiger’s stunningly beautiful wife Elin is in the gallery behind the 10th green escorted by his agent I presume. I notice they skip every other hole and appear out of nowhere behind the grandstand to watch as much of the match as possible without being a distraction to Tiger.

A photographer motions to my brother and I to move back so he can get a shot of her from the side. Success must come with a lot of benefits yet surely a few impositions when one is out in public.

The 10th hole at Torrey Pines is a straightaway 414-yard par-4. Tiger drives in the right rough and chunks one out of the heavy grass. Rocco is in the fairway but leaves his iron short.

Tiger pitches up and is about 20 feet from the hole in three shots. Rocco kind of chunks his chip leaving a 7-foot putt for par. Tiger magically chip putts it right into the hole and Rocco misses his par putt.

Rocco bogeys again when it looks like Tiger will make bogey. Tiger the magician is defying gravity on the last two holes, advancing when it looked like he would be falling behind! Tiger is now three strokes ahead and stands at even par to Rocco’s 3-over par.

I think to myself that even if Tiger applies a few more knockout blows to Rocco, it is still a medal match meaning it will go the full 18 holes no matter what. One never knows about an injury and Rocco may be able to knock out Tiger on the last hole.

This is as exciting as watching Reggie and the world champion Yankees in the mid-70s. You never know what will happen for sure until it happens!

A photographer goes up to Reggie Jackson, who is wearing a media credential, and comments that it looks like he gets along well with the media these days. Everyone who overheard it laughed out loud and Reggie shrugged his shoulders coordinated with a mischievous smile. I didn’t have the courage to ask him how it was going with George Steinbrenner these days.

On the 221-yard par-3 11th, Tiger hits first, misjudging the wind and ending up in the front left bunker. Rocco hits a good shot leaving him a 25-foot left-to-right downhill putt for a deuce. Tiger hits an aggressive sand shot, which stops 10 feet past the hole. Isao Aoki is right there at the back of the green reporting the action to television viewers back home in Japan.

Rocco two putts for par and Tiger Woods misses the 10 footer and bogeys the 11th hole, giving one back to Rocco. Tiger bogeyed both the par-3 eighth and 11th holes after his tee shots found a sand bunker instead of the green.

The 12th is one of the toughest holes on the course: a 504-yard par-4 playing into the predominant ocean breeze. Rocco finds the fairway while Tiger bunkers his tee shot to the right.

Rocco hits a magnificent shot, which hits softly, rolls right by the hole, and stops only 18 feet from the hole. “Golf shot,” I say out loud as I would to one of my playing buddies.

Tiger gets it out of the fairway sand bunker and leaves it short right. He has a good lie but an undulating green to navigate to the back hole location. He looks human and leaves it 15 feet short.

Rocco strokes his amazingly fast right-to-left putt and it continues to trickle four feet past the hole. Tiger misses his putt leaving himself a 3 footer and elects to putt out. He makes, as does his opponent. Rocco gets another one back and is trailing Tiger by only one shot after 12 holes. He is definitely back in the hunt for this U.S. Open title.

While watching the action at the 12th green, I overheard one NBC executive ask another if he saw the reported 2.4 rating from yesterday’s broadcast. Evidently that is huge, as were their matching smiles.

Tiger competing in a major on prime time television is evidently good for business. One photographer thanks another for pointing out Tiger’s wife Elin to him. He must not be a regular photographer on the golf beat.

Six holes to go in the playoff for the 2008 U.S. Open. I do some quick math and realize Tiger would be 2-Up if this was straight match play. Rocco beat him by two strokes on the fourth hole, and nine of the other 11 holes were decided by one stroke. They have matched scores on only two holes.

Tiger has recorded 2 birdies, 6 pars and 4 bogeys while Rocco has 1 birdie, 7 pars, and 4 bogeys of his own. This is a seesaw match with the latest exchange being Tiger winning the ninth and 10th holes, yet Rocco came back to win the 11th and 12th holes.

With the two reachable par-5s on holes 13 and 18 and the tee up on the drivable short par-4 14th,  it would seem the course favors a good Tiger finish. But only if he can control the accuracy of his tee shots.

Also, Rocco’s short game may be able to get the job done as in the end it is but how but how many! It is a medal match and Tiger stands at 2-over par one stroke better than Rocco’s 3-over par.

Today, the USGA has elected to use the new back tee on the 614-yard par-5 13th hole. There are marshals directing the media to the right down the fairway as they try to separate us from the players going left to the back tee.

Reggie burrows through to the left following the golfers. Nobody directs Reggie Jackson, not even that Steinbrenner character nowadays! The 13th is playing considerably downwind today and may be reachable in two shots.

Rocco hits a solid drive in the fairway and aggressively plays to reach the green in two hitting a 3-wood. It is barely short and finds the front left bunker. Tiger is in the first cut of rough left of the fairway and hits what looks like a 5-iron trajectory up the hill onto the elevated green.

The USGA’s use of graduated rough seems to have been a success this week. The further one is from the center of the fairway the more difficult the lie. Pretty simple, makes sense.

We hustle up the hill to get a nice resting-place on the slope behind the green. Rocco is not even visible in the front bunker but I do see his sand wedge at the apex of his swing.

He hits a great shot leaving a 6-footer for birdie while Tiger is lining up a 25-footer for eagle. Rocco must make his putt or likely be two down with five holes left.

Tiger’s eagle putt is downhill right to left and it looks like he plays it for about 3 feet of break. No heroics on this green like on Saturday. Tiger taps in for birdie and Rocco makes his for birdie also. Tiger still one stroke ahead.

The 435-yard, par-4 14th hole is shortened to 277 yards for the playoff as it was in Sunday’s round. Both golfers hit 3-woods with Rocco short of the green in the fairway and Tiger short right in the rough.

Rocco “stiffs” his chip and Tiger responds with a nice chip of his own. Rocco drains his 6-footer, while Tiger’s putt catches the hole but rims out. The medal match is all square with both players at 1-over par with four holes remaining.

The last four holes on any golf course are normally designed for excitement and to be a good test of golf to decide a golfing competition fairly. Torrey Pines is no exception.

The 15th is a long par-4 with a fairway tightened by large trees and an undulating green guarded by sand bunkers. The 16th is a difficult par-3 that projects back out towards the ocean and into its breezes.

The 17th is a dogleg left par-4 of reasonable length with reasonable birdie possibilities. The finishing hole is a reachable par-5 with disastrous possibilities if the water front left of the green is not carefully navigated.

Rocco has the honor and plays a solid tee shot driving the ball into the fairway on the 15th, a good start on this fairly straight 478-yard par-4 hole.

Tiger miss hits his tee shot way right finding a sand bunker on a hole where there are no fairway sand bunkers. He hit it so far right that he is in one of the long fairway bunkers on the par-5 ninth hole.

Since he is playing it in the opposite direction, his emerging sand shot does not have to contend with any lip of the bunker.

Rocco hits first and plays well into the center of the green leaving a 30-footer downhill putt for birdie. Tiger pulls another one out of his hat and hits an iron well inside Rocco to 12 feet.

Rocco’s long birdie putt finds the hole and the gallery around the 15th green goes crazy! Just before it is Tiger’s turn to putt, another roar is heard in the distance as Rocco’s birdie 3 and even par for the day is posted at the 18th green. Tiger misses and makes a sizeable putt coming back up the slope for par.

As Rocco walks past me down the slope to the 16th tee, I am thinking, “holy cow he could definitely win this thing and slay the dragon.” He has made three birdies in a row and beaten Tiger on three of the last five holes and definitely has the momentum.

He seems a little tighter than before when he was joking with Isao Aoki coming off the eighth tee but seems to have the composure and determination to win the golf tournament.

As he stands on the 16th tee, he is at even par and one stroke ahead of Tiger Woods with three holes remaining to be played on this beautiful afternoon in southern California with the magnificent Pacific Ocean lying beyond the 16th green.

Rocco’s iron shot is directly at the flagstick but short on the front fringe leaving him an 80-foot chip putt second shot on the 193-yard par-3 16th hole. Tiger backs off from his tee shot wondering if the wind direction has changed. Has the wind calmed down or maybe even switched to being behind him now?

It seems that Tiger is a little more isolated in his own world today and less interactive than normal with his caddy Steve Williams. Rocco on the other hand is constantly interacting with his caddy.

Tiger makes sure all is right before playing his shot, a good shot right on line but like Rocco far short of the hole location. Tiger is left with a 50-foot uphill putt. Neither player wanted to chance being long with a chip out of rough downhill with little green to work with.

Before the golfers play their next shot on the 16th hole, I notice a journeyman photographer just in front of me. The one that performed one of those random acts of kindness back on Tuesday that you never hear about.

Sergio Garcia was making his way from the practice putting green to the chipping green. A young boy wanting to get Sergio’s autograph on his hat literally got trampled by the crowd and was in tears crying to his father.

The photographer saw this and took his hat inside the ropes to Sergio who gladly provided the autograph for the boy.

I notice that this guy has duct tape on his large camera lens and wears knee guards to lessen the pain of being a photograph hiking and kneeling all over the place to get that one prized photograph. The prized mental photograph of him helping the little boy is etched in my mind forever.

Rocco hits a great chip shot and makes a par maintaining his even-par status, which may be good enough to win the U.S. Open.

Tiger perfectly navigates the direction to the hole but comes up painfully just short of making birdie to even the match. The putt loses too much speed at the end and veers slightly right of the hole.

Rocco dodged a swipe by the claw of the Tiger on the 16th hole and remains one stroke ahead with two holes to play.

Rocco hits a decent drive on the 441-yard par-4 17th hole, his 89th of the week at the 108th U.S. Open. It finds the first cut of the right rough.

Tiger hits a perfect 3-wood, bisecting the fairway. The crowd begins chanting “Let’s go, Rocco!” Two young drunks at the rope line shout out “you are going down, Tiger.” It’s early on a Monday afternoon at a U.S. Open in what is surely a playoff for the ages. Why would one want to see it in a drunken state? Surely it is something one would want to remember every detail about.

Tiger is definitely taking his time walking down the fairway. His limp is not as noticeable as it was at times earlier in the week.

I wonder what is going through Rocco’s mind: what is he thinking about? “What if I won the U.S. Open beating Tiger Woods in a playoff?” Holy crap, I would be petrified; wouldn’t you?

I am sure both professionals are focusing on the work at hand and mentally disciplined not to let their mind wander. No Sir Walter Hagen mind tricks here.

Oh, by the way Rocco, what will you do with all the money you are about to win? Money is meaningless to these two players. A win in the 2008 U.S. Open will define their careers.

Rocco goes up to his ball, which is 30 or so yards in front of Tiger and takes a practice swing without a club. Rocco is one stroke ahead, how will this end? Is Tiger Woods deliberately taking more time trying to ice Rocco like opponents do to a field goal kicker in football?

Tiger steps away; was there a wind shift? Steve brings the bag to him and Tiger switches clubs. Tiger hits a good shot and it bounces on the slightly elevated green. By the gallery’s reaction, I think it is a good shot but not great.

It’s Rocco’s turn now. There is a guy talking behind the gallery but Rocco hits anyway. It bounces on the green but has the same reaction by the gallery.

Rocco’s ball is 50 feet from the hole. He putts it decently, rolling it two feet by the hole. Tiger is only 18 feet from the hole. I had positioned myself directly behind him on line with the putt. It is slightly downhill left-to-right.

I was there when he chipped in on Saturday and then saw him make a 30 footer with 6 foot of break to eagle 18. Will today’s finish be as dramatic?

Tiger putts…it is on line but finishes short of the hole. A slaying of the Tiger is possible. Rocco Mediate is one stroke ahead in the 2008 U.S. Open with only the 18th hole left to play.

Rocco hits his drive on the 573-yard par-5 18th hole left into the sand bunker. This opens the door for Tiger, who responds like an experienced champion and drills a drive down the center of the fairway.

Rocco is forced to lay up and executes an excellent recovery shot out of the bunker into the fairway within 100 yards of the green. Tiger is ready to hit his iron shot into the 18th green when there is distracting noise coming from the right of the 18th, causing him to step away. The gallery and folks watching from the balconies of the lodge are a little too exuberant.

Tiger hits a solid iron onto the green of this now reached par-5 in two shots and has a 60-foot putt for eagle and an outright victory, unless Rocco holes his approach shot.

Rocco, the leader by one stroke, is still in the driver’s seat and can bring home the U.S. Open trophy with a wedge and one-putt. He hits a decent wedge and is left with a 15 foot birdie putt to ensure at least a tie again for the title of U.S. Open champion if Tiger should perform the dramatic feat once again of eagling the 18th hole.

I was there when he did it on Sunday to force the Monday playoff. I was there when he holed the 25-footer to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at Bay Hill during the Florida Swing earlier this year.

If Tiger and Rocco make or Tiger two putts and Rocco misses this rendition of the U.S. Open will go to a sudden death playoff format. A playoff of the playoff, if you will.

Elin is at the edge of the tunnel with baby Sam in her arms. Tiger’s mom is front and center at the back edge of the green. All, including baby Sam are wearing Tiger red.

The numbers on the scoreboard are still all black today with Rocco at even par and Tiger at one-over through 17. The stage is set as Tiger calculates what is needed to make this 60-foot eagle putt.

He strokes it firmly and seemingly on line yet it goes beyond the hole without dropping the standard six inches and comes to rest with a 3-foot comebacker to tie should Rocco miss his birdie putt.

If Rocco makes his 15-foot putt, his number goes into the red at 1-under and he wins the 2008 U.S. Open. Tiger Woods is on ice, there is nothing he can do but watch as Rocco lines up his putt. Rocco’s caddy is all positive and comes away with clinched fists indicating he thinks his man is going to sink this putt.

Rocco pulls the trigger, fires, and rolls the golf ball the needed 15 feet but it misses just to the left of the hole. Now both golfers are left with must-have 3 footers to tie the U.S. Open playoff at even par and force a sudden death playoff.

There is absolute silence amongst the 18th grandstand as Tiger goes first in the ultimate mano-a-mano format of must have 3-footers to have a chance to win the U.S. Open.

The only exception is the flapping in the wind of the USGA flags ceremoniously flying high above the grandstands. The shadow of a seagull flying over the 18th green distracts Tiger and he steps back away from the putt.

Is this a sign from above from his father to reinforce another Father’s Day victory for his devoted son? Tiger strokes the ball into the cup for his second par-5 two-putt birdie on the back nine.

Now it is Rocco’s turn to seal the playoff tie with the world’s greatest golfer. He makes his putt to force sudden death. Rocco is still smiling, even though it is sudden death and his opponent is Tiger Woods. He is healthy and one of two people left standing competing for the U.S. Open championship. He should be happy.

I expect the playoff to be on the 18th hole where Tiger has gone eagle-birdie- birdie to force the 18-hole playoff and now the sudden death playoff.

Surprisingly, it is announced the first playoff hole will be the 461-yard par-4 dogleg right seventh hole. I am confused, as it seems to be a disservice to the well situated gallery at the 18th green.

Most will not be able to make the journey to the seventh, even though it is nearby. Did the USGA avoid the 18th since based on recent results it would be favorable to Tiger? Did they not choose the first hole for exactly the opposite reason?

Tiger did birdie the seventh earlier in the day with a 30-footer, while Rocco two-putted from 18 feet for par. For whatever reason, the decision was made and announced. We hustled as fast as we could to circumvent the 18th green and beeline it to the seventh tee.

Both players shot an even-par 70 to force the sudden death playoff. Each had four birdies and four bogeys to go along with 10 pars. Meaninglessly, Tiger would have won the playoff 1-Up if it had been a straight match play affair.

Tiger has the tee on the seventh hole. I am not sure if he picked number 1 out of a hat or his honors carried over from the 18th hole. Either way, it was suddenly do or die for both players. Whoever wins the first hole is the 2008 U.S. Open champion. It is truly match play now on a hole-by-hole basis.

Tiger hits a 3-wood dead solid perfect. Rocco pulls his driver left and it winds up in the front lobe of the sand bunker.

As I pass by it walking hurriedly up to the green, I see it is not a completely clean lie and the slope is considerably uphill yet side hill with the ball lower than your feet. This will not be an easy recovery shot.

With Tiger in excellent position, the advantage is definitely Tiger’s at this point. My brother and I find a position directly behind the green. This is as good a position as any to witness history.

Rocco makes good contact with his iron shot out of the sand bunker. The shot goes left and almost looks like it goes into the grandstand short left of the green. It reminded me of the poor iron shot he hit into the first green.

Maybe Rocco is nervous. I know I would be as the tension factor is riveted upwards now that it is sudden death.

No time or holes to recover from a poor start now. With the hole in the front center of the green guarded by a fairly deep sand bunker short left Rocco’s second recovery shot on the first sudden-death playoff hole will not be easy.

Tiger is ready to play from the right side of the fairway. He has to negotiate a sand bunker short right of the green and avoid swale areas left and long. He hits a great shot and the ball comes to a stop 20 feet below the hole. A huge advantage continues to be with Tiger after both players have played their second shots.

I overhear a USGA official speak into his radio that the players have signed their cards, the presentation will be here and carts will be needed to get the people back to the clubhouse afterwards.

The USGA is scrambling a bit. I wonder when the seventh hole playoff decision was made. This is the live version of life: it is what it is and one has to go with it.

Rocco gets a free drop from the grandstand. There is a drop zone circle designated so he drops his ball into the circle. It pops up and out of the drop area designated by white lines.

The USGA official with the radio confirms the call made is correct- i.e. if the dropped ball contacts the ground within the drop zone and goes outside the drop zone after the initial contact it is a legitimate drop and the ball is in play. Rocco’s ball is in play. Will he be after this first sudden-death playoff hole?

Rocco does his best and uses his “get out of jail” card playing a good pitch over the bunker and hitting the green short of the hole. The shot gets away from Rocco though due to the hard green and rolls 20 feet past the hole.

Steve Williams is quick to position himself at the hole to determine who is away, Tiger or Rocco. He determines Tiger will putt first and no one objects to his decision. Tiger is seemingly in the driver’s seat now after emerging from the back seat with a heroic birdie on No. 18.

Tiger Woods has a 20-foot putt to win the U.S. Open outright, no matter what Rocco does. Just the opposite situation when Rocco had the 18-footer to win it all back at the 18th green. Rocco went left twice on the No. 7 sudden-death playoff hole. He went left when the hole went right.

Tiger has his putt on line but did not hit it firmly enough and it is two inches short. Tiger taps in for par and forces Rocco to make his 20-footer to continue the playoff. Has Tiger done enough to win his 14th major championship?

After a chorus of “Let’s Go Rocco” chants, Rocco finalizes his preparation to stroke the putt of his golfing life. It is slightly downhill with a left-to-right break. He misses. Tiger Woods is the 2008 United States Open Champion. Steve Williams gets the flag.

There is a controlled celebration on the seventh green. Tiger and Steve hug and the shake of many hands indicate the contest was well orchestrated and well competed. An army of carts appear at the front of the green and it is obvious the awards presentation will occur back at the 18th green.

Dave and I hustle up the fairway and are like little kids chatting back and forth about the shots of the day that commingled together to produce the outcome we witnessed.

While golf tournaments like the U.S. Open is for the ages, golf itself is for all ages and sometimes it is hard to distinguish the ages of those involved with its pursuit. Rightly so.

The little scoreboard at the 18thgreen tells the final story: Woods 0; Mediate +1 thru 19. The outcome is fair but difficult. It was a playoff nobody deserved to lose.

The environment was absolutely fantastic. The match went back and forth, with Tiger taking the initial lead and Rocco taking it for himself with a birdie and two shot swing on the par-3 third hole.

Tiger then slowly built what peaked to be a three-shot lead through 10 holes. He then faltered with back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 and his lead evaporated fast.

Rocco’s strength surged with three straight birdies on Nos. 13, 14, and 15. The last to regain that one-stroke lead on the 16th tee 13 holes after the first and only other time he led Tiger in this match.

He was one shot ahead with three holes to go and as he said in the press conference he hit some pretty good shots and played the last three holes fairly well.

He had a putt to win it on 18, but Tiger birdied 18 to force sudden death and Rocco suddenly lost his chance to win the U.S. Open when he faltered and bogeyed the first and only sudden death playoff hole, the No. 7.

Did Tiger’s left knee injury come into play? Definitely. Though it did not stop him from winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, it was definitely a factor. Tiger’s perspective on that: “Glad I am done!”

Brent Musburger emceed the awards ceremony for both the fans at the 18th green and the television viewing audiences around the world. After 90 holes, it was all even and it took the 91st hole to determine the champion.

Tiger stated it was nice to see a healthy Rocco free from prior back injuries. Everyone knows that this is how well he can play even at age 45. It was an unbelievable gutsy performance from both golfers.

But in the end Tiger Woods was holding the U.S. Open trophy and concluding that it “was the greatest tournament I ever had.” I know it was certainly the greatest playoff I had ever seen in person. Truly a lifetime experience for me, my brother Dave, and Dad above.

(Originally published by Andy Reistetter on the Bleacher Report.)