Big Sunday for Superstars Woods and Bryant
LIANE HANSEN, host:
If there's a dad in your house who likes sports, then here's a Father's Day gift suggestion: a TV remote with fresh batteries, because later today there will be a rare confluence of athletic greatness live on network television. In San Diego, Tiger Woods enters the final round of the U.S. Open leading by a stroke after one of his most remarkable days as a professional golfer. Then up the coast in Los Angeles, NBA's most valuable player Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers as they try to stave off elimination by the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Salivating about all of this is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Hi, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Good morning.
HANSEN: Oh boy. Lots to talk about. Let's start with Tiger. What can he do today to possibly follow up his performance yesterday?
GOLDMAN: Torrey Pines Golf Course is on the ocean. He could try to walk on the Pacific, Liane. That might top Saturday - and I say might. Here's what he did. He comes to the 13th green five strokes behind the leader. He sinks about a 70-foot eagle putt, shaves two strokes off his score. We go to the 17th hole; he's just off the green in thick grass. He swings, the ball comes off the club hot, it's heading well past the hole. But it takes one bounce, hits the flag, drops in for a birdie. His reaction was hilarious; he just laughed. He knew that the golf gods had given that one.
Then the next hole, the 18th, the last one. He rolls in about a 40-foot putt for another eagle. So, he goes from five strokes back to a one-stroke lead in six holes. And, oh, Liane, I forgot to mention, all the time he was doing this he had trouble walking, even standing. His left knee was killing him. He had knee surgery in April and this tournament was the first time he tested it.
HANSEN: Oh boy. What are the odds someone can beat him?
GOLDMAN: Not good. He has never lost a major championship when he's at least tied for the lead after three rounds. And consider what Rocco Mediate, who led much of yesterday said after that round by Tiger. He said it's just the most amazing display athletic mental power that there is, there ever was. Completely out of his mind; the stuff he does, it's unreal. Now, that's from a 45-year-old tour veteran who thinks that you can bet everyone thinks the same thing, even though they're not going to say. Deep down they know they can't beat this guy.
HANSEN: The Lakers are saying it's not over. That's pretty positive given the loss on Thursday. Do you think Kobe Bryant can pull a Tiger Woods and will his team to victory?
GOLDMAN: Well, he's the one NBA player who might be able to do that but it's tougher because he isn't out there alone like Tiger Woods is. He's going to have to figure out some way to deal with about three or four Boston defenders being on him, which is what happened Thursday when they had that historic collapse.
If he can do that, if the other Lakers can help him out, he's got a chance. But it's still hard to come back from three games to one, which is what the Lakers are down right now.
HANSEN: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Have a good time today, Tom. Thanks a lot.
GOLDMAN: Thank you.
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HANSEN: This is NPR News.
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