SAN DIEGO — With a throbbing knee and a pounding heart, Tiger Woods made one last improbable escape Monday and won the U.S. Open in a 19-hole playoff over Rocco Mediate, his 14th career major and maybe the most amazing of them all.
One shot behind on the 18th hole after a collapse no one saw coming, Woods birdied the 18th hole to force sudden death at Torrey Pines against a 45-year-old with a creaky back who simply wouldn’t go away.
But that one extra hole was enough to doom Mediate, trying to become the oldest U.S. Open champion at 45 years, 6 months.
He put his tee shot in the bunker at No. 7, knocked his approach off a cart path and against the bleachers, chipped some 18 feet past the hole and missed the par putt.
On the verge of one of golf’s greatest upsets, Mediate instead became another victim.
Woods, who delivered so many spectacular moments over four days along the Pacific bluffs, only needed a two-putt par at the end to win the U.S. Open for the third time, and the first since it last was held on a public course at Bethpage Black in 2002.
It capped off a remarkable week for the world’s No. 1 player, who had not played since April 15 surgery on his left knee and looked as though every step was a burden. But it held up for 91 holes, and the payoff was worth the pain.