Woods stumbles, but maintains for tie at US Open golf


La Jolla (California) : World No.1 golfer Tiger Woods produced one more piece of US Open magic Sunday, draining a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, to force a 18-hole playoff Monday at Torrey Pines.

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The birdie Sunday allowed Woods to tie with Rocco Mediate at 1-under-par 283 for the tournament. The two unlikely combatants – one in the prime of his career, the other in the twilight – will tee off in the playoff at Torrey Pines.

Playing one group ahead of Woods, Mediate completed his round of par-71 just moments before Woods made his roll. Mediate is attempting to become the oldest player to win the US Open at age 45 years and 6 months, and he fully expected Woods to force the issue.

“I knew he would make that putt,” Mediate said. “That’s what he does.”

Such an outcome seemed unlikely at the start of the afternoon. Woods, who has never lost a major championship when he has had a lead or a share of it after 54 holes, led after three rounds at 3-under for the tournament. But he started the final round with a double bogey at No 1 and a bogey at No 2, dropping three stokes to par and losing his standing immediately.

“I got off to a quick start today, didn’t I?” joked Woods, who grimaced in pain after several shots early on. Woods is competing in a tournament for the first time since having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee April 15. He acknowledged that he “took some things” to help with the pain for Sunday’s round.

Nothing felt better than seeing his last stroke drop. “I hit it good,” said Woods, 32. “It took forever to break, but it finally snuck in there at the end.”

Nursing a one-stroke lead, Mediate left the door open when he failed to birdie the par-5 18th. The hole played as the easiest on the course Sunday, yielding 28 subpar scores. Woods was able to walk through the opening, sore knee notwithstanding. England’s Lee Westwood was not.

Hoping to become the first European to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970, Westwood played alongside Woods in the final pairing and matched the game’s No 1 for 17 holes. But needing to match with a birdie at No 18 to join the playoff, Westwood’s 20-foot putt rolled up short.

“It’s sickening not to be in the playoff,” Westwood said. “But all in all, I played pretty good all week. If somebody said you’re going to have a chance from 20 feet for a playoff on Monday, then I would have taken that at the start of the week.”

Woods is 2-0 in major championship playoffs and 10-1 in playoffs over his PGA Tour career. Mediate is 2-0 in playoffs. But the undefeated record aside, he knows who will be the favorite.

“I’m playing against a monster tomorrow,” Mediate said. “I’m excited for the opportunity. You get to play against the best player that ever played. Whatever happens, happens. I’m happy I’m here and I will give it everything I’ve got.”