US Open Spectacular

I thought I'd take a night's sleep before I go on-and-on about this weekend's amazing, riveting, wonderful U. S. Open tournament. The last two days were as great a spectacle as I can remember, and I would stack them up against Jack's 1986 run in the Masters for sheer drama combined with the tangible feeling of seeing a great moment in the history of golf unfold. It was as fulfilling a tournament as I've ever seen. Let's switch it up and do bullet-points, because I have a lot of thoughts on this one.

  • West-Coast Prime Time Golf. It has been since 2000 since we've had a US Open played on the West Coast, long enough for people to forget what a different viewing experience it brings: prime-time drama. Thursday and Friday you had golf coverage from 11 AM to 10 PM Eastern, and that was real coverage, not recaps. For golf junkies, it was fantastic. For your casual fan, you got to see Phil and Tiger play their round in their entirety on Friday because they didn't even tee off until after 5 Eastern. And as a happy coincidence, the NBA benefitted because Sunday's riveting finish ended only minutes before Game 5's tip at 9. It was strange and refreshing to have a non-football season late Sunday with plenty of interesting sports to watch.

  • Top-three pairing. The top-three players in the world (Tiger, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott) were paired together for the opening two rounds of the tournament. This has never been done before; usually you have to wait and hope that you'll get a good matchup on Saturday or Sunday. As I mentioned above, this only created more great TV and instant storylines, before the bigger ones took over later. I hope they do this every year, every major.

  • The thrill of victory... I crib from the late, great Jim McKay's open from Wide World of Sports to mention the unforgiving conditions that are traditionally the US Open, and that a moment's victory is usually fleeting. Consider that the only person under par for the tournament was its winner. 176 other players could not average par on the course -- and although it was a tough, long (longest in history) course, it wasn't up to US Open brutal standards AND THAT WAS OKAY. I know the tournament wants to present a true test for the United States champion, but having the last two winners come in at five OVER par is not fair to the professionals. This course had a perfect blend of challenge, but did away with much of the five-inch, impossible-to-hit-from rough. Kudos.

  • ...And the agony of defeat. And by this I mean Phil Mickelson's meltdown on Saturday, scoring a nine after repeatedly (three times) performing the same uphill chip and having it come back to him each time. Absolutely painful to watch. Phil was on his home course, with everyone rooting for him, and he took a bath. That all said, take away that hole and he would have finished +2, tied for fourth. As it is, a top-twenty finish is bitterly disappointing.

  • Contagious exuberance. Rocco Mediate made this tournament FUN to watch. A self-admitted US Open junkie, at 45 years young he plays with a smile on his face and a hop in his step. To nearly become the oldest US Open champion EVER is an achievement, but his attitude was better. After Tiger clutch-birdied on the 72nd hole to force an 18-hole playoff, Rocco admitted to a reporter that he wasn't rooting for Tiger to miss. Huh? He was excited, EXCITED, to get to play in an 18-hole playoff against the best golfer anyone has seen in years and find out just what he had in him. Can you ask for anything more genuine in the love of the game and the moment? (And can you imagine Phil Mickelson saying that?)

  • An underdog's gritty fight. Not to be overshadowed by the way he approaches the game is the way Rocco Mediate played. He found out just what he wanted to when he wondered aloud what he had one-on-one against the best player in the world, and that was everything the champ could handle, and then some.

    The example that came to mind is a scenario that so many others before him had withered under. On the 15th hole, after coming back from three down in the last five holes, both Rocco and Tiger were faced with birdie putts, Rocco's much further AND in a position to show Tiger the line. Rocco made it, he reacted as if he couldn't believe it, the crowd went wild, Tiger was momentarily shook and missed his, and the game was on. I don't think anyone has ever taken it to Tiger like that, and it was a joy to see it done by someone who loves the competition and has a great time on the stage.

  • A champion's resolve. It's refreshing for it to be not-all-about Tiger, but did he ever have a series of challenges to overcome that made this story epic. From him grimacing on his injured knee every time he hit a drive to having to make not one but two 18th-hole birdie putts to go into another playoff. Epic. I don't think I can disagree with Rick Reilly in calling it the best US Open [since WWII]. I can't think of another that comes close.

  • The Internet. And finally, a hero to golf fans everywhere and a scourge to micromanaging bosses everywhere, streaming video. Taking a cue from CBS's Masters streaming coverage, the 18-hole playoff was available in its entirety, and I watched most of it from my desk. Naysayers may point out that productivity was hurt by a Monday playoff and streaming video, but I submit that had it not been for the Internet, I would have just used a sick day instead of actually getting stuff done between shots (there is a lot of lag time when there is only one twosome playing). And hey, I have all my stuff done and on time, so cut some slack!

    So, in case you skipped to the end past my rambling, here's the gist of the blog: Best. US. Open. Ever.
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