Tiger Woods vs. Rocco Mediate in U.S. Open playoff: who the heck are you supposed to root for?
What was originally billed as the Tiger vs. Phil Open has blossomed into something beyond our wildest imagination.
I can already envision myself, grizzled old man on the porch, telling my grandkids the match of Tiger and Rocco at Torrey Pines. The game of golf couldn’t have asked for a better weekend of action.
This isn’t David Vs. Goliath. This is the Terminator versus Rodney Dangerfield.
Tomorrow, Rocco gets his wish. He will tee it off against the Alpha Male after playing ahead of him today. He is already smack-talking Woods in public call-outs in the media room. I hope Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson were watching when Mediate, on live TV, started egging on Tiger, suggesting how nervous he was. Joking or not, that might be the most anyone has ever challenged him.
The gallery’s two favorite players of the week are the last ones standing for an 18-hole encore, and I just can’t see how you could root against someone tomorrow. Tiger has validated every superlative spoken about him this week. Rocco has reminded us that these guys are first and foremost entertainers - and to never count out the guy playing short and straight “Old Man Golf". I’ve lost many times to Old Man Golf.
So who do you root on tomorrow, the closest thing to perfection in our era of sports, or the washed up, short-hitting veteran who could use a cup or two of decaf?
If Tiger routs Rocco tomorrow and limps home with another major, I’m going to revel in the moment and praise Woods’ determination all week (though I won’t be dumb enough to compare it to Ben Hogan).
But I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog. Pick out the shortest, quirkiest player in the field who owns a blind, three-legged dog sitting on his couch back home, and I’m the biggest fan.
What Rocco is doing is like the 16 seed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament winning four straight games and getting to the Final Four. Tomorrow he faces Duke, and must hope his scrawny little point guard can stay hot from three and the lone big man can stay out of foul trouble and play all 40.
Rocco is Cinderella, if she were balding and had a better personality. In a time where pro sports’ inspirational moments have been few and far between doping controversies, officiating scandals, jailed athletes and cheating coaches, this weekend at Torrey Pines was as pure and entertaining as sports can get thanks to Rocco’s showmanship and Woods’ magic. Right now David Stern is wishing he was commissioner of a sport where you didn’t have to fabricate the majority of your sport’s drama.
I’ve never been a fan of the U.S. Open’s 18-hole Monday playoff, but this time it just seems too good to be true – although maybe that’s because unlike the media on location, I don’t have to scramble around to find a hotel room for another night or try and change my flight, that’s our man on the scene Chris Baldwin’s problem. I can only imagine the roar, followed by a sudden groan in the media center after Tiger’s putt.
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He is the one who is making me jump out of my chair and call my (young) boys in the room to: "Holy cow! Check out this shot. That's Tiger Woods, boys." Literally, that's the way it was at the end of the third round and at the end of the action on Sunday.
He is just so doggone inspiring...
So, instead of rooting, I'll just be watching. I'll cheer for good shots and groan at the missed putts, and be happy knowing that a bunch of folks who didn't get tickets last week were able to get out and watch in person today.