What's more American than a U.S. Open Sunday spent on the couch, in front of the Hi-Def, remote in one hand, beer in the other, laptop in the other? Setting aside the fact that I'd need three hands to really pull this off, let's dive right into our U.S. Open diary, as seen from my living room:
1:30 p.m. (Pacific time): NBC opens with a montage of Tiger as a lad, including some shots of the late Earl Woods, on Father's Day, set to soaring trumpets. It's Tiger with a 54-hole lead at a major. Everybody should pretty much walk off the course. Bob Costas mentions losses by Big Brown and the '08 Patriots. He forgets a key: If Tiger were the jockey on Big Brown, he'd have won the Triple Crown. And if Tiger played for the Patriots, they'd have gone unbeaten.
1:33 p.m.: Tiger's wearing red, is unbeaten in majors with a 54-hole lead, is experiencing his first Father's Day and is at Torrey Pines. He pulls his tee shot left. He's just playing possum.
1:37 p.m.: Tiger kicks his golf bag in anger and GOES DOWN IN AGONY! TIGER'S HURT! THE KNEE HAS GIVEN IN! Oh, wait. He kicked it with his right leg. Never mind.
1:40 p.m.: Tiger's second shot hits a tree and bangs left. Terrible. Who does this guy think he is, Phil Mickelson?
1:42 p.m.: Speaking of Lefty, he's done with his round. Finishing before 2 p.m on Sunday wasn't part of the Lefty dream at the Torrey Open. He's classy, though, wishing us all Happy Father's Day, calls the event "awesome." Psychologists call this "denial."
1:43 p.m.: Tiger's third from the rough hits another tree and doesn't go more than 20 yards. Who does this guy think he is, John Daly?
1:45 p.m.: Meanwhile, Rocco (The Man of the People) Mediate birdies 2 to go to 2-under. He may celebrate by buying the gallery a round of beers. He's that kind of guy.
1:46 p.m.: Back to the Tiger Disaster. It's a double bogey, his third of the week. The San Diego Fire Department is dispatching units to put out the five-alarm blaze between Tiger's ears.
1:52 p.m.: Tiger pumps a driver way right, and gives us his First Knee Grimace of the Day. Possible TV movie on the topic: "Bury My Major at Wounded Knee."
2:03 p.m.: Tiger blasts his 4-foot par putt on 2 past the hole, and he's in third place, two back. How soon before Johnny Miller drops "Gag-o-rama" on Tiger? If Rocco checks the leaderboard, he may think somebody slipped some LSD into his bottled water.
2:35 p.m.: Rocco can't make a par on 6. The Man of the People is making bogeys like the Average Joe. Lee Westwood, from Worksop, England, is your new U.S. Open leader. British golf writers always refer to him as "the Worksop golfer." Oddly, I always found this amusing.
2:45 p.m.: Geoff Ogilvy is two back. Scientists call this Lurkemus Golferus, or "Lurking Golfer."
2:51 p.m.: Ogilvy rolls home a side-door bomb on 7. He's one back, and graduated from "Lurk" status to "I'm Here to Party" status.
2:56 p.m.: Dan Hicks advises us that Westwood has dropped 6 inches from his waistline through workouts and discipline. Post-U.S. Open, Westwood is slated for "The View" to pump up the Lee Westwood Diet.
3:34 p.m.: Ogilvy bogeys 10. Scientists now classify him as Fademus Golferus, or "Fading Golfer."
3:44 p.m.: Rocco needs something huge for an up-and-down on 11 – and gets it. TV reveals he's wearing a belt buckle with a "Peace" sign, straight out of Woodstock. He's the counter culture man of the people! All we are saying/Is Give Rocco a chance!
3:46 p.m.: We've got ourselves an all-skate on the leaderboard: Tiger, The Man of the People and the Worksop golfer tied up at 1-under. Gentlemen, start your major!
3:52 p.m.: This is what Tiger does for a living, by the way. His tee shot to 11 settles 6 feet from pin. Dan Hicks tries to pump up Westwood, says Westwood has been impressive. Miller moves in for the kill, fires back: "That last hole sure wasn't impressive." When Westwood's tee shot goes into the bunker, Miller breaks out the fangs: "Tiger's putting the heat on him, and he's melting." NBC anoints the run with montage of Tiger bombs in '08, including Dubai, Bay Hill and the third round at Torrey's Open. Who can compete with this stuff?
3:56 p.m.: The Worksop golfer feathers a bunker shot to 6 inches. "I don't think he's melting yet, Johnny!" Hicks blurts out, stopping just short of going MMA on his partner.
4 p.m.: Tiger splits 12 fairway. All of a sudden, his knee doesn't hurt anymore.
4:08 p.m.: NBC sadistically shows Ernie chunking his way around 15, including a cold top, a ball into a tree, and a triple-bogey. Is there a more maddening athlete than later-years Ernie Els?
4:23 p.m.: The Worksop golfer, wobbling, is going for 13 in two. Ill-fated from the get-go, he yanked it left into the ice plant. Ice plant sucks.
4:24 p.m.: Meanwhile, Tiger is going for it in two, also. Say what? First-guessing: Bad idea, babe! He, too, yanked it left into the ice plant.
4:24 p.m.: Did that just happen?
4:25 p.m.: I once had a dream where Tiger Woods, with a lead on the back nine at the U.S. Open on a Sunday, and with a bad knee, tried to muscle up and go for a brutally long par-5, when parring in probably would win him his 14th major. Crazy dream.
4:25 p.m.: Wait. That really happened?
4:30 p.m.: Miller calls out Steve Williams for not coaching Tiger out of the 3-wood. Good call, that.
4:32 p.m.: From 2 feet on 14, Rocco, Peace Belt Buckle and all, makes bird on 14 to get to 2-under. Almost concurrently, Tiger makes bogey, and is one back of Rocco. Power to the people!
4:36 p.m.: Rocco is pacing on the 15th tee box like a guy who has a chance to beat Tiger at a U.S. Open. Tim Rosaforte reveals Rocco is about to be a member at Bel-Air, a very un-Man of the People move. Who can blame him? Bel-Air, baby. "Rocco's going Hollywood!" Miller says.
4:47 p.m.: Tiger only makes an ordinary par on 14, but he has a weapon in his arsenal: knowing Rocco's nerves will be a tad frayed down the stretch.
4:48 p.m.: Some nerves! Rocco hits wedge to 5 feet! Torrey is feeling the Rocco love. Better not let the public golf galleries know about that Bel-Air membership.
4:52 p.m.: Rocco misses the par putt on 15. OK. Here we go. Tie atop the leaderboard. Miller notes that in the last nine groups, not one player is under par. "It's the Open pressure," Miller says. That 63 at Oakmont gives Miller lifetime chirping rights, doesn't it?
4:56 p.m.: Tiger's 2nd on 15 is … wow … short … and right. Johnny Miller doesn't understand why he didn't run it up to the green. The decision on 13, the layup on 14, the decision on 15 … is Tiger Woods – dare I say this, lest the golf gods strike me down forever – choking?
5 p.m.: Before the third shot on 15, Miller offers full excuse for Tiger with bad knee, likens it to NASCAR driver in Daytona hunt with a flat tire. What about Rocco's bad back, bad nerves and bad birth certificate?
5:03 p.m.: "Guys named Rocco don't get on that U.S. Open trophy, do they?" Miller asks, as Tiger lines up lengthy par putt on 15. Miller is digging it.
5:04 p.m.: Hicks reminds us Tiger is 13-0 with 54-hole leads in majors. As Tiger misses par putt on 15, idle thought: What's the stat on him being one shot back with three holes to play in majors after holding the 54-hole lead?
5:07 p.m.: It's official: This is exciting, baby. Full disclosure: I love Tiger's march to history, but I'm all about TMOP here. Rocco's one of the good guys. This will be his only chance. Come on, people. Feel the Rocco love. Power to the people!
5:08 p.m.: Hicks recites long litany of what it would mean to Rocco: oldest first-time winner of a major, et cetera. After the Rocco recital, Miller says dryly: "Hopefully, Rocco's not thinking of one thing you just said." Rimshot!
5:09 p.m.: Rocco's 2nd to 17 is excellent, leaving about 10 feet for bird. Big smile from TMOP. Miller has a man-crush on Rocco. "He's the greatest, man, what an attitude," Miller says. Amen!
5:23 p.m.: Rocco's 3rd at 18 is safe, but not very birdie-able. Hmm. For the first time, I'm thinking Monday playoff, and I'm thinking major buzzkill.
5:27 p.m.: Rocco just misses his birdie on 18, finishing a 69-71-72-71 ride we'll never forget. But as Miller said, noting the tee shot into the rough: "He could have closed the door and won the United States Open." Ouch. Double ouch.
5:39 p.m.: Mediate is hanging backstage with his college buddy and two-time U.S. Open champ Lee Janzen, who, amazingly, is sporting a Baltimore Orioles cap. Ladies and gentlemen, the last known Orioles fan!
5:40 p.m.: Tiger in the bunker off the tee. He lays up and hates it! It lands in the right rough. "Boy, that's a huge mistake," Miller says. Is this happening?
5:42 p.m.: Mark Rolfing with Rocco, who appears emotional, jazzed, pumped and near-tears all at once: "It was the most fun I've ever had," he said. Power to the Rocco!
5:43 p.m.: Tiger has 105 yards from the rough to get up-and-down. Eagle is out of the question. Birdie is not, given his Superman status. Hicks tells us in his 13 major wins, he only had to birdie the 72nd hole once, at the 2000 PGA Championship with Bob May. Man, that was, like, 10 lifetimes ago.
5:44 p.m.: Tiger's third … "can he hit it flush?" Miller asks … "look at this … a pretty darn good shot … Don't check out of your hotel, Rocco!" Good stuff, Johnny.
5:51 p.m.: Hicks reminds us Rocco would be first man ever to track down Tiger with a 54-hole lead at a major … Roger Maltbie says just outside the hole right is the read … "and fast," adds Miller … they're doing well. …
5:52 p.m.: It's quiet and my heart is in my mouth.
5:52 p.m.: Amid the tumult, amid the explosion of noise, Hicks asks: "Did you expect anything different?"
5:52 p.m.: No, I didn't.
5:53 p.m.: The replay confirms what Miller says: "This ball made it by one hundredth of an inch."
5:53 p.m.: The replay also shows a new move by Tiger: the double fist pump!
5:53 p.m.: Quoth Rocco: "Unbelievable. I knew he'd make it."
5:59 p.m.: Maltbie is with Tiger. Tiger admits he "took some things" to relieve knee pain. Did anybody see Victor Conte on the grounds?
6 p.m.: You can officially begin your "USGA needs to pull its head out of the 19th century and institute a sudden-death playoff" arguments right about … now.
- Tiger Woods