Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods don't live that far apart in Florida. Jack is in North Palm Beach, Tiger in the Orlando area. If it's too far to drive, maybe Jack can hop aboard Air Bear, get the business over and done with, and be home in time for lunch. Barbara's whipping up a nice chicken salad, we hear.
The business? To hand over to Woods the trophy or plaque or medallion or bronze desk plate or chiseled stone tablet or whatever you get for being the "Best Golfer in the History of the World, Since the Beginning of Time and Forever and Ever, Amen."
There have been holdouts, maybe even myself among them, who felt that as great as Woods is he still had to surpass Jack's 18 major championships before there could be any official passing of the torch.
Well, forget it. It's over. It's as official as it gets. Sorry Mr. Nicklaus. Tiger Woods is the best there ever has been and, quite likely, ever will be.
For all of his impressive accomplishments, and there have been many, Woods had done nothing that compares to winning the 91-hole U.S. Open with a left knee that we now realize was being held together by three staples, two wads of Juicy Fruit, a gerbil running on a giant rubber band, and a few dozen Motrin.
Oh, yeah, a load of guts too.
Woods announced yesterday that he will be undergoing reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn - by now, perhaps, shredded - anterior cruciate ligament. He will miss the rest of the 2008 season, including the British Open and PGA Championship, which should open some doors for Phil Mickelson, providing Lefty can keep those pesky 9s off his card.
Then, there's that double stress fracture of Woods' left tibia. That's two hairline cracks in a bone. He has that too.
So, let's review. Tiger has a
fully blown ACL and two bone fractures in the same leg and plays four rounds plus 19 holes in an intense playoff on the longest Open course ever with barbed-wire-like rough and cliffs that disappear into an ocean and wind swirling from about seven directions, including north by northwest, and takes on 150-plus of the best golfers in the world, including the enchanted Rocco Mediate, and WHIPS EVERY ONE OF 'EM.
Are you kidding me?
Heck, we were impressed when we thought it was just soreness from his April arthroscopic surgery, maybe a rusty hinge, at most some cartilage floating around and sticking the wrong direction into the wrong joint at the wrong time when he grimaced and nearly went down after a few of his high-torque tee shots. Armed with just that speculative and faulty health report, we were already calling this the greatest National Open victory ever.
Folks, he was PLAYING ON ONE LEG! The other one, the one that absorbs all the twisting and strain and stress of the golf swing was just along for the walk and must have felt as if somebody was whacking it with a hatchet.
There are people parking in handicap spots at this very instant and riding around Wal-Mart in those little power scooters who aren't as disabled as Tiger Woods was over five recent days at Torrey Pines.
And he won the United States Open Golf Championship!
Oh, he has left us gasping and gaping before. He knocked out hallowed Augusta National and rendered it obsolete at the '97 Masters. He won the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach by a staggering 15 shots. Fifteen! A month after that, he played 72 holes at St. Andrews where there are, by actual count, 38,714 bunkers and did not hit one shot into one of them while winning the British Open by eight strokes.
So, nothing should surprise us. Well, almost nothing.
According to information on his Web site, Woods ruptured his ACL while running shortly after last summer's British Open. He kept playing and won five of his next six starts, including the PGA and Tour championships. Then he won his first four tournaments of 2008. After finishing second at the Masters he had the arthroscopic surgery to clean out loose cartilage in the hope that he could make it through this year, a Ryder Cup year, before having to deal with the ACL.
Apparently, even Tiger's mind can't conquer all matter.
But it conquered the inconceivable in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
It conquered some pain-fueled, wayward drives into places beyond the spectators and produced some of the most incredible recovery shots and breath-taking putts we'll ever see. Will we ever forget the eagle at No. 13 in the third round? Why would we ever want to?
My goodness, on the final three days, including Monday's playoff, Tiger came to the 18th hole each time trailing by one shot. He went eagle-birdie-birdie.
On one leg. To win the United States Open.
It's official. Tiger Woods is golf's greatest player, greatest competitor, and greatest champion of all time.
Mr. Nicklaus, will you do the honors, please?
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