Sports Outside the Beltway

Tiger Woods, Rocco Mediate, A US Open playoff, and 13

There will be an 18 hole playoff tomorrow to determine the US Open Champion. 64-time PGA Tour winner, 13-time Major Champion, maybe the greatest golfer ever to play the game Tiger Woods versus five-time PGA Tour winner, Zero major champion tour journeyman Rocco Mediate. The playoff has the smell of a rout in the works for tomorrow, doesn’t it? I’ll get back to this later.

Just yesterday I wrote I was pulling for Rocco, but at the same time gave him little chance to win the US Open. Rocco, who comes off as a very nice person(at least he did when I followed him at a tournament 20 years ago) had people pulling for him this weekend. Fans shouting Rocco. He played good golf, better on Saturday than Sunday I think, and has put himself in position to win a major championship.

Except that Rocco is up against Tiger Woods. An injured, but formidable Tiger. I wasn’t surprised when Woods birdied 18 to force the playoff.

A playoff that shapes up much like the 1929 US Open did. Then it was Bobby Jones, arguably the greatest player to tee it up prior to 1950, against Al Espinosa a 7 time PGA winner. Because Espinosa was a devout Catholic, the tee-time was pushed back on Sunday in order for him to go to mass.

I’ll save you looking up how that playoff ended. Jones won it by 23 shots, 141-164. In those days a 36-hole playoff took place to determine who the Open champ was if a there was a tie after 72 holes.

Which reminds me, the USGA should finally eliminate the 18-hole playoff format they use to determine the US Open champ. A four-hole playoff like used at The British Open is a fair test, besides the USGA has dumped the 18-hole format for their other events.

Note- I always thought it dumb that once the 18-hole playoff was over, and if there was still a tie, the USGA suddenly thought sudden death was acceptable for a major championship. If it isn’t acceptable at the end of 72 holes, why should it be at the end of 90?

I looked at other playoffs that may compare to Woods vs. Mediate. On the men’s side of the equation, you have 1990 where Hale Irwin faced Mike Donald and 1994 where Ernie Els faced Loren Roberts. Irwin and Els are three-time major winners, Donald and Roberts were journeyman.

A better comparison may be the 2006 US Women’s Open where Annika Sorenstam faced off against Pat Hurst in a 18 hole playoff. Annika and Pat’s win totals 67 to 5, is almost the same as Tiger and Mediate’s 64 to 5. Annika was the #1 player in the world, maybe the best woman to play the game ever. Hurst is a career journeywoman(but unlike Mediate, Hurst has a major to her credit. The 1998 Kraft Nabisco)

Annika won the playoff in 2006 70-74.

So what do I predict tomorrow.

First what’s that 13 I mention in the title of the post.

Tiger has 13 majors

Tiger has almost 13 wins to every one of Rocco’s.(12.8 to be exact. I think that’s close enough to be called 13 to 1).

The Par 5 13th hole was pivotal in this weekend’s play. Tiger making an eagle three on Saturday compared to Rocco’s bogey six. Then on Sunday, Tiger bogied the 13th, opening the door for Rocco Mediate to win the tournament in regulation which he nearly did.

Now for my prediction- Most people will say Rocco Mediate hasn’t a prayer just like Al Espinosa did when faced with Bobby Jones. Tiger has a bum knee, and Rocco is playing well. I think the playoff will be close with Tiger coming out on top 71-73.

One last thing- I’m surprised tomorrow’s playoff isn’t in prime time also like play had been over the weekend. Instead Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate will begin their playoff at 9 a.m.

Also note Tiger is 10-1 in playoffs according to the 2007 PGA media guide book(I don’t have 2008′s) and Mediate is 2-0. Tiger has won the San Diego Open, also played at Torrey Pines, in a playoff. That was in 2006.

Tiger’s only defeat in a playoff happened up the road at the Nissan LA Open in 1998 to Billy Mayfair.

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