In 2008 Tiger Woods won the 14th of his 15 major titles in spectacular fashion. Steve Carroll revisits Torrey Pines' epic first hosting of the US Open

Tiger Woods hasn’t walked 18 holes since The Masters.

His left knee is missing its anterior cruciate ligament. Worse still, he’s suffered two stress fractures in the same leg.

He can barely walk, is spraying shots all over the golf course in practice, and displaying a pain-racked grimace that would become familiar to everyone over a week of pressure-packed competition.

There was no way he could possibly do it. “I’ve heard that before,” said Woods in the run-up.

Somehow, he defied everyone – doctors, family and expectation – to pull off one of the greatest triumphs of his career.

It’s been more than a decade since Tiger claimed his 14th major title at the US Open at Torrey Pines – finally wearing out a stubborn Rocco Mediate after 91 holes of sensational golf.

The tournament had everything. Using transcripts of interviews from the time, we relive his epic climax…

Woods tops the leaderboard at 3-under going into the final round, leading Lee Westwood by a shot and Mediate by two.

He’s won every major championship where he’s at least shared a lead going into the last day but starts with a damaging double bogey.

He loses another shot at the second but rallies with birdies at 9 and 11, only to bogey the 13th.

Mediate shoots a steady 71 but pars the last hole. Westwood can’t birdie the final par 5 either and misses out by a shot.

That leaves Woods with 12 feet for a birdie at the 18th to force a play-off…

Woods: “That was actually one of the worst parts of the green.

“It’s so bumpy down there. And I just kept telling myself two and a half balls outside the right, but make sure you stay committed to it, make a pure stroke and if it plinkos in, or plinkos out it doesn’t matter, as long as I make a pure stroke.

“And I did. I hit it good. It took forever to break, but it finally snuck in there at the end. It’s just like, hey, we got one more day. I gave myself a chance.”

Mediate: “It was the most amazing day of golf I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never been there like that before.

“And I just found out what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter how you get it in, you’ve just got to get it in and trust what you’ve worked on your whole life.

“There’s no technical anything going on, it’s all make the ball go where you want it to go. It’s amazing.

“The thing that’s most amazing is the man I’m going to play tomorrow has won 13 of these. It’s amazing how much it takes. I gave all of what I had today and I can’t complain.

“I knew he’d make that putt.”

Tiger Woods

If Tiger expects Mediate to go away in the play-off, he is surprised.

Leading by three after 10 holes, his rival birdies three in a row from 13 to 15 and holds a one-stroke advantage down the last.

But, just like the day before, Mediate can only par and Woods birdies to force sudden death. A par at the 7th brings to an end an exhilarating tournament.

Woods: “I don’t know how it even got this far, but I’m very, very fortunate to have played 91 holes and then come out on top.”

Mediate: “I threw everything I had, everything I had. He had to burn the last to stay in it again and he did it. He’s remarkable. But I hung. I came out there in the middle, was three back, and I really didn’t play that poorly.”

Woods: “I missed that putt there at 14, I felt like I was still in control of the tournament until I missed that putt.

“Then all of a sudden, okay, here we go. Now it’s a ball game. Now we are all tied up. He hit the putt there at 15 and if it doesn’t hit the hole it’s 10 or 12 feet by.

“But he hit it dead centre and it went in. I missed mine on the top side and it was going a lot slower and it still went four feet by.

“I was like, ‘Oh, here we go. If I miss this putt, the tournament’s over’. I made that, thought I made the next one at 16. It’s, ‘Oh, geez, here we go’.

“I need something. I need to birdie the last two holes’. And it came down to 18. Roc made a mistake, didn’t put the ball in the fairway, didn’t give himself a chance to go for it in two.

“I did and I figured at least put myself in a position where if I had to make a long one, at least I was in a position to make one.

“I wasn’t going after that pin, but at least give myself a chance to, if I had to make a putt, if he stuffed it in there, at least I had a chance.

“And I played a little conservative on my second shot. And then Roc hit it over there about 18 feet and when he did that I knew four was probably going to get me into a play-off. Sorry, play-off, play-off.”

Mediate: “The putt on 18 … I said to myself, ‘You’ve waited your whole life for it. Don’t lag it. Just give it speed.’ I just yanked it a touch. A little nervy. But I can’t complain. I did the best I could.”

Woods: “I’m glad I’m done. I’m done. I really don’t feel like playing any more. [My knee] is a bit sore. All I can say is the atmosphere is what kept me going.

“The tournament, being a major championship here at Torrey Pines, all the people, I couldn’t ever quit in front of these people. It wasn’t going to happen.”

Mediate: “I never quit. And I’ve been beaten down a few times and came back and I got what I wanted. I got a chance to beat the best player in the world and I came up just a touch short. But I think I had him scared once, which was great. He just said ‘great fight’ to me and that makes it a little better. I think.”

Tiger Woods vs Rocco Mediate: The epic 2008 US Open play-off 

Hole 1 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (E) 
Mediate: 5 (+1) 

Hole 2 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (E) 
Mediate: 4 (+1) 

Hole 3 (Par 3) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 2 (E) 

Hole 4 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 4 (E) 

Hole 5 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 5 (+1) 

Hole 6 (Par 4) 
Woods: 3 (E) 
Mediate: 4 (+1) 

Hole 7 (Par 4) 
Woods: 3 (-1) 
Mediate: 4 (+1) 

Hole 8 (Par 3) 
Woods: 4 (E) 
Mediate: 3 (+1) 

Hole 9 (Par 5) 
Woods: 5 (E) 
Mediate: 6 (+2) 

Hole 10 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (E) 
Mediate: 5 (+3) 

Hole 11 (Par 3) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 5 (+3) 

Hole 12 (Par 4) 
Woods: 5 (+2) 
Mediate: 4 (+3) 

Hole 13 (Par 5) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 4 (+2) 

Hole 14 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 3 (+1) 

Hole 15 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 3 (E) 

Hole 16 (Par 3) 
Woods: 3 (+1) 
Mediate: 3 (E) 

Hole 17 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (+1) 
Mediate: 4 (E) 

Hole 18 (Par 5) 
Woods: 4 (E) 
Mediate: 5 (E) 

Sudden-death play-off: 

Hole 7 (Par 4) 
Woods: 4 (E) 
Mediate: 5 (+1) 

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