At high noon tomorrow, Eastern Standard time, the unlikeliest of duos will play 18 holes of golf for the 2008 U.S. Open championship. Rocco Mediate, 156th in the world rankings will tee it up mano y mano against Tiger Woods, world #1. Rocco's 71 made up the two stroke deficit he started the day with. Wood's 73, with a need birdie on the 18th, left him alone tied with Mediate.
Rocco's steady play, hitting fairways and greens, elevated him to the high echelon of golf for the last four days. Wood's erratic play, especially off the tee, has been countered with spectacular short game and white hot putter when he needs it. With Rocco in the clubhouse with a one stroke lead, Woods and Lee Westwood were tied for 2nd, a single stroke back, both needing birdie on the easiest hole on the golf course. Both hit their drive into fairway bunkers. Both laid up, Woods in the 1st cut of rough, Westwood in the fairway. Both hit the green with their 3rd shots. Westwood missed a downhill slider to get into a playoff, Woods drained his to play tomorrow.
A study in contrast awaits. We all know Woods. We'll all think Rocco's part of the family when this is settled. Superstar vs 45 year old tour grinder. Long hitter vs short hitter. Mr. Serious vs Mr. Affable. The knee that's been talked about so much didn't seem to be as much of a factor other than the first two holes when Woods started double bogey, bogey. Rocco seems in fine shape having evidently licked the chronic back problems that have dogged him for a good share of his career.
Other than Westwood, no one really challenged Woods or Mediate all day long. Some got within three or four shots of the leaders and then hit a wall that prevented them from contending. Tomorrow's round begins at 12:00 PM EST on ESPN, then switches to NBC at 2:00 PM. This has been one of the best U.S. Opens ever. Great tough, but fair golf course. Compelling action and lead changes. Couldn't ask for anything more. May the best man win.
Average Golfer observation..........Rocco Mediate has a career playoff record of 2-0.