LA JOLLA, Calif. - Tiger Woods didn't linger at Torrey Pines on Wednesday, which no doubt caused several writers to conclude that he must have been whisked away to a hyperbaric chamber somewhere, all the better to sooth his knee. Or perhaps, he elected to hang from the ceiling like Batman, gearing up for this morning's heroic, historic battle.
Before Woods even hit his first shot in this U.S. Open, his attempt to win it on a surgically-repaired knee had already taken on the life of legend.
Story after story has been written, declaring how this would be Tiger's greatest accomplishment. Tiger's been asked himself to speculate on what winning a major on one battered knee would mean to his already Mount Rushmore legacy.
The sports media wants this story so badly; it's already so invested in turning Tiger's achy knee into a moment for the ages, that all perspective is being lost. Let's make one thing clear right now, this isn't Ben Hogan at the 1950 U.S. Open. ESPN and NBC had better not break out some grainy black and white photos of Hogan at Merion Golf Club. Chris Berman - Mr. Nickname - will likely be unable to contain himself. But if you're a sports fan with an IQ over 80, you long ago lost hope for anything resembling reason from Berman.
Tiger should already be a little embarrassed himself and maybe he is. You can only hope that all this premature fawning over the Open Of One Battered Knee is annoying the most dominant golfer in history as much as someone not paying their proper respect to his greatness does.
None of the other pros are going to say it. Not with the teetering shells of Rory Sabbatini, Ian Poulter and Stephen Ames' careers serving like hulking warning carcasses on the sides of the fairways - but somebody should.
It's past time for one of these guys (come on Monty, what do you have to lose?) to wonder when exactly they debated amputating Woods' knee.
Yes, Tiger Woods had surgery two days after the Masters. Yes, today will be the first time he even walks a full 18 holes since. Yes, it's a challenge, even for the golfer who's long treated Torrey Pines like his personal trophy case.
But let's be real: Thousands and thousands of everyday Americans undergo this type of knee surgery every year and most are back at work within about a week. Woods did not have to completely rebuild his body the way Hogan did after that horrific 1949 car crash. He wasn't hit head on by a Greyhound Bus (not that Tiger would ever be driving himself anywhere, let alone somewhere outside of El Paso).
Woods had a pretty standard knee operation. Yes, they don't make them like John Wayne anymore. But trying to turn Tiger's round today into some show of courage borders on the type of fantasy hyperbole that even director M. Night Shyamalan might balk at.
Part of the problem is that this U.S. Open promises to be so good that it took on a Super Bowl-style buildup. Excitement over the Tiger-Phil pairing announcement and the fact that even devout golf fans (let alone general sports fans) couldn't find anything interesting in the LPGA Championship, combined to give this Torrey Open constant advance coverage for the past two weeks.
And as exciting as this Open looks like it will be once the first ball is in the air, it's been that boring in the final days of the tee-off countdown.
No one's mad at anyone else at Torrey Pines. The players aren't even upset with the United States Golf Association - which happens about as often as you find happy airline passengers. Heck, no one's even saying anything.
What did Wednesday bring in the way of news? Sean O'Hair withdrew because of a pulled chest muscle, which really doesn't advance the cause of pro golfers as tough athletes, but it's still only Sean O'Hair, so how worked up can anyone get? And oh, Adam Scott - the break-my pinky-in-a-car-door forgotten third in the Woods-Phil Mickelson group - blew off the press again.
We're talking more Coronation Street than Lost in terms of drama.
Your grandmother would have loved U.S. Open's eve.
Still none of this justifies turning Tiger Woods' knee into the kind of battle that they write songs about.
It's not like Tiger Woods is walking Torrey with a defibrillator implanted in his chest. Brian Kortan will be - and playing just like Tiger. Okay, probably not just like Tiger. But Kortan - the ultimate heartwarming longshot Open qualifier in every sense of the phrase - tees off at 9:01 a.m. PST, exactly 55 minutes after the circus - and the 10 extra police officers the USGA commissioned just for Tiger-Phil - takes the first tee.
"To put it into words - you really can't," Kortan said, "because I don't know how many people have been sitting some place and hoping to see the next sunrise or something, and that was kind of me for six, seven, eight days."
That only happened 22 months ago. August of 2006 and Kortan, 34 years old then with a minor league baseball player's version of a golf life, retired to his room after playing a little tournament on the South Dakota Tour. He put down the book he was reading in bed to clutch his chest, suddenly fighting for his life.
The heart attack almost gave Kortan his final rites, not his final round. He made it through local and sectional qualifying to punch his ticket to a Torrey Thursday despite having lost 40 to 50 percent of his heart function.
"I have good days and bad days as far as energy," Kortan said, shrugging.
Woods has good and bad days on the knee too. It's just not close to the same thing. You shouldn't have a lump in your throat this morning because Tiger Woods is playing on a repaired knee. If he hits a great shot it's not heroic. It's just Tiger being Tiger.
It's time to let that be enough. Save the Johnny Cash ballads for something else.
June 12, 2008
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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