Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tiger's Saturday Night Special

Somehow, when I got to Lucky's, an odd melange of an arcade, sports bar, martini bar, surprisingly good restaurant, dance club, and bowling alley under one roof, on Saturday night, Tiger Woods had rolled in a 60-foot bomb for eagle at the par-5 13th hole and got back to even par on the 17th tee.

I walked up to the bar, ordered an Arnold Palmer (half iced tea, half lemonade), and sat down for Woods's final two holes.

He hit an awful drive well right into the tall, gnarly U.S. Open rough. He tried a heroic second shot and found more tall, gnarly rough beside the green. The ball was on a severe slope at least a foot above his feet. The green ran away from him. I distinctly thought, "If he can somehow get up and down, and birdie 18, then he's only one stroke behind (Lee) Westwood." Westwood looked like the 54-hole leader at two under par.

Woods hacked at his ball. It hit the green, took one high hop, and fell directly into the cup. My jaw fell to the floor. "He put it in the hole!" I screamed. The bar patrons took a collective "Ohh", astonished. Woods shared a laugh with Steve Williams and shook his head in wonderment, as if thanking God for all He had entrusted to Woods.

If Woods hadn't made the chip-in at 17, I strongly doubt he would have eagled 18. He needed the crowd's energy, the realization of just how good he was, just to finish the round. And he did, with a flourish.

Two strong shots gave Woods a 25-footer for eagle and a tricky downhill putt that, it seemed, half the field had tried and not come close to holing. He started it on a line well left of any previous try. "Uh-oh", I thought, "he knows something we don't." Indeed, he rolled it true, and the ball broke right, then a little left, straight into the cup.

Looking back at the entire U.S. Open, the chip shot on 17 was one of the great greenside shots of all time. The gold standard, Tom Watson's chip-in on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach in 1982, was from a level position, not from the cartoonish uphill lie that Woods overcame.

Woods, after his 3-3 finish, walked off the 18th green one stroke ahead of Westwood.

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