Tiger Woods' Amazing Putt
MIKE PESCA, host:
Well, another great sports weekend. The LA Lakers expressed their interest in summering in New England, or at least forcing the NBA Championship Series back to Boston for Game Six. Interleague play in baseball meant we got to see a line score which read Seattle-comma-Washington. That was cool to me. But really, the most amazing thing over the weekend was golf's U.S. Open's kid by the name of Tiger Woods. His strokes were responsible for more eagles than the credit sequence of "The Colbert Report." We now turn to Bill Wolff, the BPP's athletics analyst, father of the BPP baby of the year, Ike.
BILL WOLFF: Is he baby of the year right now?
PESCA: He's baby of the year. He's leading.
WOLFF: Oh. That's great news.
PESCA: He's leading in the UPI and the AP.
WOLFF: That's excellent.
PESCA: Bill Wolff, all around bon vivant. You want to talk golf first?
WOLFF: Well, it was the eye-catching event of the sports weekend. I would say, did you watch, Mr. Pesca?
PESCA: Yes. I guess I tuned in for the greatest stuff, unless it was all great, because I saw Tiger's back nine on Saturday, which included so many fantastic shots. And then I saw his back nine on Sunday, which was a comeback. Why don't you start off with Saturday? Tell us what we saw.
WOLFF: Well, what we - what - first of all, what we - it's the U.S. Open, which is the toughest tournament in the world. The conditions on the course are the most difficult in the world, and both the length of your shots and the accuracy of your shots are tested as in no other tournament. It's the hardest tournament in the world. Here's Tiger Woods. Right after the Master's Tournament in the second week in April, he had arthroscopic knee surgery, and he hadn't walked 18 holes until he played the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.
So here's a guy entering the tournament with essentially no practice in a sport that requires more practice than any other sport. So there's your backdrop. Tiger Woods, by all rights, rusty. On Saturday, his knee was absolutely aching, and as a result, he was not playing very well and trailing in the tournament by four strokes as they headed for the final nine of this third round, second-to-last round.
He put together three of the more unbelievable holes of golf that you'll ever see under tough circumstances with maximum pressure. On the 13th hole, which is a par five, he had about a 70-foot putt, or what's called eagle, which is two strokes better than par, which is rare and excellent. And what does Tiger Woods do? Drain a 70-foot - you don't drain 70-foot putts.
PESCA: No. You just try to get close.
WOLFF: You try to get close. You hope you can make it in two putts. He made it in one. Then on the 17th hole, still trailing in the tournament, Tiger Woods duffs again and finds himself off the green in thick grass in a place where a hacker like me, or pretty much anybody else I know, would completely muff it and get a double bogie and ruin your day and snap your putter over your knee and be angry and have it ruin everything. Tiger Woods lost a shot from the rough up on to the green - one bounce - drained it, right in the bottom of the hole. And even Tiger Woods had to laugh because it was pure good luck.
PESCA: I think it was helped out by the flag a little bit. It seemed to have ricocheted off that right into the hole.
WOLFF: It did. It hit the flag and it also took the most fortuitous bounce it could take. If it hadn't hit the flag and it hadn't bounced like it did, it would have run way past the hole and he would have been in hacker territory. But instead, by his own admission, very luckily, he birdies the hole. So now he goes to 18 and he's trailing by just one stroke. And 18 is a very difficult par five, again, but Tiger just busting it out, cringing with every stroke because his left knee is in such pain.
PESCA: Wincing after every shot.
WOLFF: Wincing after every shot. Goes to the center of the fairway with his drive, then puts the second shot onto the green, which is something only guys like Tiger Woods can do. And then facing about a 35-foot putt on a bank - on a bank that would knock you over, a giant slope, he taps a tiny, little, slow-moving putt. It reaches the crest of the hill that it must encounter, takes a turn to the right and, at perfect pace, finds the center of the cup for another eagle, putting Tiger Woods into the lead going into the final round.
And my wife was asleep - we really spent the whole weekend at home hanging out with our boy. She's sort of groggy on the couch and looks up and says, did Tiger win? And I said, well, he hasn't won yet, darling, but this is the stuff. This is the stuff of legend. This is why Tiger Woods is a legend. It was absolutely unbelievable.
PESCA: Let's skip to Sunday. And here we have the guy we haven't mentioned yet. Rocco Mediate is in the clubhouse as the leader, which means unless Tiger does something or anyone else - but it's going to be Tiger, does something impressive, Rocco Mediate's walking off with this tournament. And it comes down to one last shot, one putt, 15 feet. If Tiger misses, he loses the tournament - well, comes in second, but Rocco Mediate wins the tournament. Would you say this is the most pressure-filled situation in all of professional sports?
WOLFF: Well, that's hard to say. It's certainly the most pressure-filled situation in golf, and that puts it among one of the most pressure-filled situations in all of sports. You know, if you have to kick a 45-yard field goal to win the Super Bowl, that's about the same thing. But it's right there on the Mt. Rushmore pressure-filled thing, here is a 12-foot putt or birdie to tie the U.S. Open on the final hole. It is unbelievable pressure, and what do you think happened?
(Soundbite of laughter)
PESCA: I saw it. He made it.
WOLFF: Of course he made it, he's Tiger Woods. This is why - I mean, if he wins this tournament, in my mind, given his injury and his layoff and the conditions and everything else, we should just end the argument over who the greatest golfer of all time is because he - Tiger Woods just shouldn't - I said to somebody before the tournament started, if Tiger Woods, given his knee and the layoff, is in the top ten of the tournament, he has proven his greatness.
The fact that he is today playing off for the championship means I don't know how you could argue that there's been a greater golfer ever. And he has assumed it - he assumed it quite some time ago, the mantle of transcendence, which used to belong to Michael Jordan. It now belongs to Tiger Woods. Who's the transcendent athlete? Who's the athlete that everybody knows? It's Tiger Woods.
PESCA: That's who I was comparing him to, just in terms of dominance in his sport and just consistently coming through. Even dominant guys in hockey or baseball, it's not like they're so automatic. Jordan and Tiger, just on the pantheon of greats. Let's go to the NBA. The NBA MVP is Kobe Bryant, but his Lakers were down three to one. They fought back. Is this - does this fall on Kobe's shoulders, the Lakers' underachievement to this point? Or is this a testament to Celtic teamwork?
WOLFF: I think it's unfair to say it falls on Kobe. Kobe is brilliant. He has not played his best basketball. I think it is more a reflection of the Celtic's depth. The Celtics have more good players surrounding their centerpieces and guys who have come through, James Posey and Eddie House and Leon Poe, not household names to people who are not basketball fans, sort of second-level, and in some cases third-level players, who have come forth with tremendous effort in support of their star players, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Kobe, on the other hand, has had the guys around him fall back a little bit. So I think this was a chance for Kobe. Had the Lakers steamrolled the Celtics in Los Angeles, won all three games, and were they heading back to Boston up three-two with a chance to close it out, I think it would have been a testament to Kobe Bryant's transcendence. This remains an opportunity for Kobe Bryant to assert that not only is he the best player in the game, which I think most people believe, but head and shoulders the best player in the game, a player so great that he believes he by himself can will a team that is slightly overmatched to victory.
He still has the chance to do that. Don't forget, the Celtics have to win Game Six or Game Seven in Boston, and I guess the chances are that they will. But when you have Kobe Bryant on your team as the Lakers do, they're in the series. They're not out. They were overcome Thursday night in Game Four when they blew a 24-point lead. That's a devastating blow to a team, a demoralizing blow. They survived that demoralizing blow and held off a couple of big charges by the Celtics on Sunday night. And so they're still in the series. But is it more a reflection of Kobe coming up short or the Celtics' greatness? I would say it is a question of Kobe Bryant coming up short of all-time supremacy. So it's hard, you know, OK, he's not the all-time greatest player...
PESCA: He's the fourth greatest or something like that.
WOLFF: Well, he's right up there, and he's a tremendous player. You know, I'll believe they're done when they're done, the Lakers. When you've got Kobe Bryant, you have a chance.
PESCA: I want to debut something we call the BPP's Quicktakes. And we're only debuting it because we don't have much time left. The big issue is instant replay in baseball, specifically for homeruns. We've seen a lot of blown calls. What do you think? Can they look at the videotape and get the homerun calls right?
PESCA: They should.
WOLFF: They can. I don't like it. I like human error. Baseball is a game whose traditions are all about human error. It's part of the game. It's something I enjoy, but they're going to do it and it will work.
PESCA: All right, Bill Wolff, BPP sports analyst. Thank you very much, Bill.
WOLFF: My pleasure, we'll talk to you later.
PESCA: All right.