RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Even Tiger Woods called it his most amazing tournament ever. He won the US Open, one of golf's biggest titles. All he had to do was overcome knee problems, get through a playoff and come from behind. He beat veteran golfer Rocco Mediate. Commentator John Feinstein joins us now to talk about it all. Good morning.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Walk us through the extra day. I mean, it started out seeming as if Tiger Woods would himself walk away with the title.
FEINSTEIN: Well, it's a lot easier for me to walk right now than for Tiger, Renee. He was clearly in pain throughout the five days because of that surgically repaired left knee from April 15th. He had not played an 18-hole round of golf coming into the Open. And as I think I said on Thursday, if it had been anybody else but Tiger, it wouldn't have even been worth bothering. But he's just so mentally and physically tough that he was able to get through it. He had an early lead, as you said yesterday. Then Rocco Mediate - who put on an extraordinary performance for five days - is a 45-year-old guy who'd never really been close to winning a major title, took the lead by one shot. But Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods. He birdied the 18th hole when he had to tie it all up, then they went to sudden death, the 91st hole of the tournament. And Mediate made a bogey and, as you said, Tiger had his third US Open title and his 14th major title.
MONTAGNE: Well, talk to us briefly about the challenger, Rocco Mediate. As you said, he came from almost out of nowhere, and then got so close.
FEINSTEIN: Yeah. He's a guy who's been bothered by injuries his entire career, Renee. He's had back problems dating back to the early 1990's, when he first came on tour. And as a result, his career's been very up and down. He's won five times on the tour. Right now, he's ranked only 158th in the world because he couldn't play very much last year as a result of injuries. And he's just -he's the everyman golfer. He just goes out and keeps playing and keeps trying and never complains about being hurt, enjoys it. Kept saying how much fun he was having competing against Tiger Woods. Most of the top players in the world don't want to compete against Tiger Woods. Rocco Mediate clearly enjoyed it.
MONTAGNE: Now the US Open is the only major golf championship that has an 18-hole playoff in the event of a tie. As you have just suggested, John, this particular playoff actually went longer, but it turned into quite an exciting moment.
FEINSTEIN: It was an exciting day yesterday. And - but still, the 18-hole playoff is an anachronism. The US Golf Association's the only golf organization in the world that still insists on the 18-hole playoff. The golf tournament's meant to end on Sunday. The players are ready for a climax. The fans are ready for a climax. Television is ready for a climax. If Tiger and Rocco Mediate had gone back and had a three-hole playoff, which is what the PGA Championship and the British Open do on Sunday evening, it would have been a fair way to decide the title, and it would have been far more dramatic, even, than yesterday was. Everybody expects a finish on Sunday. It would be like if the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers play seven games and they tie at the end of regulation in the seventh game and then they say, okay, everybody come back tomorrow. We'll play another game. That's not the way you do it.
MONTAGNE: Okay. In just the few seconds we have left, Tiger Woods is now four majors short of Jack Nicklaus, appears to be a foregone conclusion that he will surpass Nicklaus. Is it premature to call him the greatest player of all time?
FEINSTEIN: I don't think it is. I think the only thing left for them to do is tie one hand behind his back, because he's already beaten everybody playing on one leg, Renee.
MONTAGNE: John, thanks very much.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein. His "Tales from Q School" is now out in paperback.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.