No Regard

June 15, 2008

U.S. Open live blog: final round

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Vasquez @ 4:06 pm

Can Tiger Woods stave off his knee pain, and the rest of the field as he goes for his third U.S. Open and 14th major championship? We’ve got the live blog…

9 p.m.: That’s it for us today. What a freaking tournament. And we still have one day left. Tiger is going to play on a bum knee once again. But Rocco will have to play in the midst of all the madness that surrounds Tiger Woods. It should be fun. Playoff starts at noon on ESPN and switches to NBC at 2 p.m. for the duration.

8:55: Rocco Mediate is a class, class act. He just said “it doesn’t make sense to root against someone. I was prepared for him to make it.” I love the guy. He left it all out on the course today. But he’s totally, totally screwed tomorrow.

8:52: Tiger Woods …………….. makes it!!!!!! it curled around the lip! You have got to be kidding me! This is crazy. Poor Rocco Mediate. Tiger and Rocco will be in a playoff tomorrow! Tiger just barely curled it in there. He does it again.

8:50: Westwood actually leaves the putt short. WOW. You just can’t do that with a chance for a major championship playoff on the line. One more left for Rocco to dodge. And Tiger Woods is the one with the putt to do it. You have to think this is going in.

8:48: It’s been a weird day. Not many roars, and compared to yesterday, not much drama. But this end is about as good as it gets for a U.S. Open. There is certainly a lot of tension in the air right now around this 18th green.

8:46: Westwood hits it to about 15 feet. And so there will be two putts. One from Woods, one from Westwood. If one of them goes in, there will be a playoff. If both miss, Rocco Mediate is the U.S. Open champion.

8:44: Tiger Woods, out of a bad lie in the rough, hits it to within 12 feet of the hole. This guy just doesn’t ever give up. You think he might be pretty good one day?

8:42: Westwood does what you’re supposed to do with a layup: hit the fairway. He’s going to have a chance to birdie for the tie.

8:40: Woods steps into the bunker, and he’s going to lay up. This means he’s going to have to hit a great wedge and putt, just to force a playoff. And Woods, unbelievably, misses the fairway with his layup. His chances of even tying just went way, way down.

8:37: Woods misses the fairway to the left, and lands in a bunker. He’s right in the middle of it, so it will be interesting to see if he goes for the green in two. Either way, this looks like a positive development for Rocco Mediate. There’s real chance that in about 20 minutes, Mediate will be holding the U.S. Open trophy. Who would have thunk it.

8:35: Westwood finds the right bunker with his tee shot, which has to be disappointing. Almost no chance at an eagle and a win for Westwood now.

8:32: Tiger Woods had the perfect speed on the put, but it’s left all the way. He will have to birdie the final hole to force a playoff. Lee Westwood has an eight-footer to stay even with Tiger and he makes it. At least one of these guys will make a birdie on the final hole, so you have to think we’re about to see a playoff.

8:29: Mediate lags his putt up to about two-and-a-half-feet, and he makes it. He looks at his caddy and said “I don’t know.” We’re about to find out if it was good enough. He posts at 1-under-par. Tiger is about to step into his putt at 17.

8:25: Rocco Mediate is getting one hell of an ovation as he walks to the 18th green and he deserves every bit of it. This has been a truly remarkable performance, the best golf Rocco has ever played in his life. That he’s been able to return from a back injury, and fight off the demons of previous major championship collapses is truly admirable.

8:21: Tiger smokes a three-wood into the middle of the 17th fairway. He’s going to have a chance, and with everything he’s been through this week, he can’t really ask for much more than that. He hasn’t played particularly well, but it’s been a remarkable display of grit and tenacity. No matter what happens here, even if he loses, Woods has done nothing to hurt his legacy.

8:18: Woods stands over this putt for an awful long time and, in true Tiger fashion, pours it right into the center of the cup. He’s not going to make this easy on anyone. Meanwhile Rocco sends his drive on 18 into the rough on the right. He pretty much will have to lay up. This almost guarantees that Woods is going to have a chance to at least tie Mediate when he comes to 18, providing he doesn’t make a mess of 17.

8:16: Tiger Woods tries to chip it in at 16 and blows it way past the hole. At least five feet. He’ll be lucky to avoid a bogey. Rocco Mediate is looking real good on the 18th tee right now.

8:15: Mediate misses the birdie putt, and knocks it four or five feet by the hole. Yikes. This is nerve-wracking stuff for Rocco. Don’t want to miss this … and he doesn’t! Mediate is one hole from posting an under par number that will be hard to beat.

8:10: Rocco Mediate nearly holes out from the 17th fairway. And you know Tiger Woods heard that roar from the 16th tee. This championship is firmly in the hands of Rocco Mediate right now, and he has a 12 foot putt on 17 for a 2-shot lead. Woods just hit his ball at 16 right at the hole, but it landed in the rough just short of the green. He will likely have a makable chip for birdie.

8:05: Mediate is the sole leader once again. Woods’ putt looked good, but seemed to hit something and didn’t go in. Rocco is the only player under par, and Tiger is in real danger of losing his first ever 54-hole lead at a major championship.

8 p.m.: Johnny Miller takes us all back to reality with one simple reminder, essentially saying that it’s pretty remarkable that Woods is still in this thing on a bum knee. He’s right. Woods hits a nice flop shot and will have 15 feet left for his par. Mediate has about five feet left for par on 16.

7:58: So hold that thought. Tiger just hit a terrible second shot at the 15th. Rocco just hit his ball over the 16th and into the sticky deep rough. Westwood, he’s in the middle of the green at 15. So now it’s anyone’s game. Tiger Woods, injury and all, has had his chances to seize this championship. He’s not taking advantage of them, and he doesn’t seem to be playing the course as smart as he usually does. Especially considering this is a course he had been so successful on.

7:52: There I go, jinxing Rocco again. He missed the par putt, Tiger is back tied for the lead at 1-under par. And now the 18th hole starts to loom large. It’s a reachable Par 5, and that gives Woods a huge advantage over just about everyone. Tiger is well right at 15, but he’s so far right that he might be on the trampled grass again.

7:49: Rocco Mediate is still having fun out there. And as long as he stays loose, laughing, and shrugging, he’s going to have a chance to win. Mediate just hit a great third shot from the 15th fairway, to within 10 feet. If he saves it, he’ll have a remarkable par. He’s having so much fun out there that it’s contagious, judging by the cheers. It seems like he’s getting support from the gallery at a comparable level to that of Tiger.

7:46: Woods misses that putt well short. But still, it’s going to be a fight between him and Rocco from here on out. Westwood birdies the 14th, and has an outside shot of still being in this. But it feels like its going to be Woods v. Mediate down the stretch.

7:45: Lee Westwood has had his chances. But his struggles early in the back nine seem to be too much to overcome. He had a great look at eagle on the 14th, but left it very much short. Mediate is in some trouble left of the fairway on 15. Woods steps to his putt for birdie. This is his chance to get right back into it.

7:41: So, of course, Woods lays up. He from the right side of the fairway he hits a very mediocre, by his standards, wedge to the green. He has about 30 feet left for a birdie. Westwood — three strokes back of Mediate (-2) and two strokes back of Woods (-1) — doesn’t have much more than that left for an eagle.

7:33: Still in disbelief that Tiger Woods went for the 13th green in two. His consistent philosophy at the U.S. Open has been that par is a great score. I know the 13th feels very much like a birdyable hole. But when you have a one stroke lead at the U.S. Open, it makes no sense to tempt fate by going for the green. Now, as he goes to the reachable Par 4 14th, he’s trailing. He might have to try to drive the green.

7:30: Mediate, and his peace sign-shaped belt buckle, has the lead alone. Woods is going to make bogey at best at the 13th, and now will have to come from behind once again to win this U.S. Open.

7:28: Rocco Mediate has a short putt at the 14th for birdie, and likely the lead all alone. Woods and Westwood both lost their balls, and hit their fourth shots to places where they can each putt for an unlikely par. The whole complexion of this tournament may have just changed.

7:23: And there’s the potential adversity I was referring to. Tiger Woods went for the green in two, and he hit his ball so incredibly far left that it landed a good 50 yards from the green and fairway. It might be the worst shot Woods has ever hit at a pivotal time in a major. He will be lucky to find his ball, and it’s in such deep ice plant, that he’ll be lucky to do anything with it from there. What makes this error even more incomprehensible is that Lee Westwood did the same thing just a few moments before, right in front of Woods. Rocco Mediate is starting to look like he’s in really good shape.

7:17: Sorry, Rocco. I think I just jinxed you. Rocco just missed the short putt for birdie. But he’s still only one back of Tiger, who just bombed a drive down the left side of the fairway on 13. Will he go for it in two? I don’ think even he has the shot to get it there, but this is Tiger Woods…

7:10: Rocco Mediate feels no pressure. He just hit a spectacular approach to the par 5 13th, and has only feet left for birdie. He’s laughing and having a jolly good time. I was completely wrong about this guy — he has as good a chance as anyone to win this tournament. Especially considering Westwood just made bogey at 12. Tiger and Rocco are the only players under par now.

7:07: So, goodbye Ernie Els. We hardly knew ye. Triple bogeys on the 15th hole in the final round kind of ruin your chances of winning a U.S. Open. Tiger Woods has 30 feet or so for birdie at 12, Westwood has 15 feet for par, and D.J. Trahan is three shots back of Tiger now at 1-over-par.

7 p.m.: Woods smacks his drive down the left side of the fairway, without a grimace or even a wince. He must be feeling a little bit better. With Westwood snap hooking it into a bunker, it makes me wonder whether or not the intensity of playing in Tiger’s group is finally starting to get to him. That would give Rocco Mediate, playing a group ahead, a much better chance of fighting Tiger to the end

6:56: Tiger Woods has the lead alone … unbelievable. How he is doing this — bad knee, missing fairways left and right — makes it even more impressive. There was a very nice roar accompanied with Woods’ birdie make at the 11th, and the crowd surrounding his pairing is just a remarkably dense mass of humanity. Woods has already gone through so much adversity this round, you have to wonder if there is anything left for him to overcome.

6:52: You think Tiger likes the 11th hole at Torrey Pines much? On the same hole that Woods drained a huge-breaking putt earlier this season, on the way to a win at the Buick Invitational, he hits a perfect long iron to within five feet of the hole for birdie. With Westwood in the bunker to the far right of the green, this is a real chance for Tiger to get some separation.

6:48: Tiger Woods, the guy who could barely walk about two hours ago, has reclaimed a share of the final round of the U.S. Open. Westwood made a hot mess of the 10th hole, and made bogey. Tiger had a good chance at par, but didn’t drop it, and now we have a 3-way tie for the lead, between Woods, Westwood and Mediate, at 1-under par. They hold a three-stroke lead over the next closest group of players. Tiger has looked much, much better — pain wise — over the last few holes.

6:42: I’m telling you right now. Watch out. Tiger Woods has played the 10th hole nearly perfectly, and has a 10 footer left for birdie. Westwood just skulled his second shot from a fairway bunker over the green at the same hole. It damn near knocked the head off of ESPN’s new writer Rick Reilly. He had to jump out of the way out of that low-tracking, laser-like shot before it careened into the grandstand behind the green. Rocco Mediate just made a great save for par on the 11th hole. This is really starting to look like a three-horse race.

6:32: The eagle putt by Tiger Woods never had a chance. But he’s left with a two-foot tap-in for birdie. Momentarily he’s tied for the lead with Westwood, who has a six-footer for birdie. Westwood makes it, and moves to 2-under-par. So after nine holes, this is starting to look more and more like a potential Tiger Woods/Lee Westwood/Rocco Mediate showdown situation. Els, Ogilvy and Trahan are three all at 2-over.

So with the knee injury, you never know what can happen in these final nine holes. But it’s hard to give the advantage to anyone but Woods. He’s stuck in it this long, and you have to believe that’s for a reason.

6:25: Tiger’s second shot is absolutely fabulous. He hits it to 30 or 40 feet and will have a chance at eagle, and almost a sure birdie. With Westwood in the greenside bunker, there’s a very good chance Tiger Woods will be tied for the lead at the U.S. Open when he makes the turn.

6:23: Tiger and Westwood in the fairway at nine. Could this be the start of the magic for Tiger? Westwood is certainly due for a birdie right now.

6:17: Despite having the wind at his back at the par 3 eighth, Woods comes up well short and lands in the front bunker. I started noticing this yesterday, when Woods knee pain first became really evident. It seems that he’s missing a lot of shots short. There could be some sort of power outage with his knee problems. Meanwhile, Westwood had a great chance at birdie at the same hole, but missed it. Westwood has had his chances, but he’s not running away with this, and that leaves Tiger & company in the tournament. Tiger makes a really nice up and down out of the sand after a wonderful bunker shot. Six pars in a row after that horrendous start. This guy will not go away.

6:08: Tiger makes his par at the seventh. As disastrous as his round has seemed so far, he’s only a shot off the lead. I think the only people he is going to have to worry about are Ogilvy and Westwood. Mediate would be a fabulous story, but he’s just too old, and too prone to having a really bad hole in a key situation.

6:02: Tiger winces on a drive, knocks it into the short rough on the right and hits it to the the middle of the green. He keeps giving himself chances, and you’ve got to think one of these putts is going to fall in for a birdie. Lee Westwood pounded the ball down the middle of the fairway and hit his approach within 25 feet of the hole. Pretty equidistant putts for Woods and Westwood, but Tiger is away.

5:55: Here’s how you know that Lee Westwood is for real today: He’s playing in the final group circus that is Tiger Woods’ twosome. Woods has gotten off to an awful start, which makes the energy of playing in that group even more shocking, weird and surreal. Yet Westwood is playing as if he’s completely oblivious to all of this. He’s chugging along, doing his work, and looking mighty relaxed in the process. His Ryder Cup record proves that he can play with anyone, and he’s making good on that today.

5:50: Here comes the rest of the field… Ogilvy just made one heck of a putt at the seventh hole, Ernie Els had a chance to get within two of the lead at 11, but missed a short putt. Tiger can’t find the magic, but nearly chips in at six. This has all the makings of a stupendous finish. Oh the drama!

5:48: It’s hard to feel bad for a guy that makes in the neighborhood of $130 million per year. But it’s kind of rough to watch someone playing in so much pain. It’s absolutely tough not to root for him right now. Everything tells you that he can’t do this. Everything tells you that this is too much to overcome. But this is Tiger Woods. He does the things that just can’t be done.

5:43: This is becoming surreal. Tiger Woods just pounded a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway, and moaned in agony after the shot. It actually seems to be getting worse as the round goes on. If he’s already crying out in pain now, on the sixth hole, what’s it going to be like when we get to 15, 16, 17 and 18? Ernie Els just chipped in and he’s only three shots back of the lead at 2-over-par.

5:39: Woods lags it up there nice and close and taps in for his third par in a row. He’ll head to the sixth tee only one shot off the lead. Westwood taps in for his par and is the only player under par at 1-under. Lee Westwood is not going to go away today. Will Tiger Woods?

5:37: Lee Westwood just made a very nice chip at the fifth hole. Other than his bogey at the first, Westwood has been the most steady and solid player so far in this final round. Woods has a long putt to tie Westwood for the lead coming up.

5:31: It’s interesting that earlier in the day, all the announcers were talking about how the scoring conditions were so much better today. However, none of the players in the final groups seem to be taking advantage. The reason: It’s a lot easier to play well at the U.S. Open when you’re not in contention, and you have nothing to lose. The guys who are playing late know exactly what’s on the line. On Sunday at the Open the only thing tougher than the course itself is the pressure.

5:28: Woods steps to the fifth tee with a three-wood. Once again a hard swing, the ball goes right down the middle and Tiger winces, and squirms in pain. This didn’t start until late in the back nine yesterday, which is troublesome. But if he can keep the ball in play, and give himself some chances, the pain may be irrelevant.

5:26: So two pars in a row for Tiger. It has not been pretty, but maybe he’s stabilized things a little. It doesn’t appear that anyone is going to run away with it. But it almost seems like Tiger might have used up all of his good luck in yesterday’s remarkable round.

5:24: Hate to say I told you so. But Villegas misses a short bogey putt at the sixth. His putting in clutch situations, especially on short putts, has been costly in his career so far.

5:22: Seriously, Tiger Woods is only one shot back? He has all but thrown up on himself for the first three plus holes, and he’s one shot back. If he can somehow start stringing something together, who knows… NBC is showing a clip of Ben Hogan. If Hogan can come back from being hit by a truck in a near-fatal car accident to win multiple majors, why can’t Tiger do this today?

5:17: Watch out for Geoff Ogilvy. He’s had a terrible start to his round, but has been getting out of stuff this afternoon like a magician. Mediate misses a short putt on the fifth hole, and Tiger is only one shot back. Ogilvy is only two back. Westwood is tied with Mediate for the lead at 1-under.

5:14: Tiger hits a three-wood off the fourth tee, and gets it in the fairway for a nice change of pace. Johnny Miller says Tiger should do this more — hit the three-wood. Johnny is right. Tiger swings much more smoothly with the 3-wood, still hits it a mile and keeps it in play better. It might be the only chance he has to win. Save the driver for the five pars.

5:10: Tiger’s putt comes up short by a few inches. I have to agree with the NBC commentators. If he’s not going to putt well, his knee is going to give him no chance to stay in this. Westwood, getting a great read off of Tiger’s putt, still misses right and short. But if these guys don’t run away from Tiger, it’s kind of hard to count him out.

5:06: In the span of one minute, Johnny Miller, Roger Maltbie and Bob Murphy all expressed doubt as to whether Tiger Woods could win today because of his knee trouble. Tiger promptly hits the ball to within 20 feet on the Par 3 third.

5:01: To make matters worse, Tiger’s putter doesn’t exactly seem to be working today. He just missed a four-footer for par at the second hole, and tossed his putter at the bag. Keep in mind, he started yesterday’s round at 3-over-par through four holes. But this seems to be different, because he’s in such clear pain early. One observation: Tiger seems to be much more aware of ambient sound today, as he backed off because of gallery noise before missing that putt.

4:56: Geoff Ogilvy just appeared to hit his ball off a cliff and into the Pacific Ocean. That can’t be good. Also Robert Karlsson just made a nice par. He seems to be a lot more comfortable not playing with Tiger.

4:53: As we’re in the commercial break, I’m thinking, there hasn’t been a playoff at the U.S. Open since 2001. Remember its an 18-hole Monday playoff. I have a feeling we might be seeing one this week…

4:50: Tiger looks to be in major, major trouble right now. He hit a driver well right at the second hole, and the grimace on his face was more than a grimace this time. He actually had to stop walking, and grab his knee because he was in so much pain. This day could not have started worse for Tiger Woods.

4:49: They just showed a clip of Rocco Mediate, talking about how this is probably his last chance to win a U.S. Open, so he better do it today. He’s so vibrant, and so happy, it’s hard not to root for him.

4:46: Rocco Mediate has the lead, alone, at 2-under-par. He’s within birdie range. Tiger Woods taps in for double bogey. He just played that hole like Edward Scissor Hands, and he’s still only one stroke back. Interesting.

4:44: Tiger uses a nice chip to get within two feet of the hole. He’ll have a pretty easy putt for a double bogey. He has now double bogeyed the first hole three times this week. Imagine if he had been able to figure this hole out? He’d be up by 5. Meanwhile Rocco Mediate nearly aced the third hole, his ball appeared to hit the back of the cup. Rocco’s off to a great start. Tiger and Westwood have each lost strokes at the first.

4:42: This is actually getting hard to believe. Tiger Woods has taken three swings at the first hole, and he is nowhere near the hole. He just took his fourth, and still hasn’t made it to the green. He has to get up and down for a double. Johnny Miller just said “I’ve never seen him play a hole like this in his whole career.”

4:38: Tiger has gotten off to a phenomenally bad start this round. He duck hooks his second shot, hits a tree and looks to be in worse shape. Meanwhile Lee Westwood clanks his second shot off a spectator’s head, on the bounce. And one hole up Rocco Mediate knocks a shot to within a few feet for a nearly certain birdie. This start is shocking for Tiger Woods. He’ll be lucky to make a bogey, and there’s a good chance he’ll have lost his lead after only one hole.

4:36: Tiger gets to his ball, and it is soo far left that he’s in the grass that has been trampled down by the spectators. It’s big break, but he’s not happy and kicks his golf bag hard. With his good leg, of course.

4:31: Woods is announced on the first tee. NBC announcer Dan Hicks aptly points out that this is Tiger’s first Father’s Day as a father himself. Tiger backs off from the shot after hearing crowd noise, and steps up to hit it, and hits yet another hook of the first tee. This one is way, way, way left.

4:30: Lee Westwood is announced on the first tee. He’s certainly has the game, and mindset to win a major. But it’s a different story playing in Tiger’s group in the final pairing of the U.S. Open. Westwood’s opening drive is waaaaaay right. Not a good start.

4:27: There have been a lot of low scores on the course today, but it’s going to be crucial to see how the guys playing closer to the lead — the guys who actually have a chance — start their rounds. So far it doesn’t look good as both Geoff Ogilvy and Rocco Mediate, playing in the penultimate pairing, are looking bogey-bound on the first hole. NBC goes to a commercial, when they come back Tiger Woods will be on the first tee.

4:25: Every group is off now but the final one. So this is about to get cracking. Bob Costas, Curtis Strange and Peter Jacobsen are talking about his first-hole problems right now. He’s double-bogeyed it in two of the first three rounds. If Tiger can get off to a good start, it will put a lot of pressure on the field because they will certainly hear the roars coming.

4:18: Camilo Villegas just made a nice par save after hitting his approach into the bunker at the first. He could be one to watch out for, however his putter has never seemed to serve him well under pressure.

4:15: NBC has been showing a lot of the 18th hole already this afternoon. With the pin up on the very front of the green, right next to the water, there are some great chances at eagle and some very real possibilities of disaster. Just something to think about as we move forward, as this hole will definitely play a part.

Mickelson just tapped in for birdie on 18, he finishes the tournament at 6-over-par. Disappointing for Phil and golf fans in general this week.

4 p.m. : The television commercial running this Father’s Day weekend regarding Tiger Woods is pretty fitting. It’s a Nike ad, and it features Tiger’s late father, Earl, talking about his son’s mental toughness. The most moving quote comes at the end of the clip, when Earl says “Tiger I promise you that you’ll never meet another person as mentally tough as you your entire life. And he hasn’t. And he never will.”

Tiger’s mental toughness is sure to be tested today.

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