Posts Tagged ‘2008 U.S. Open’

 

The 2008 U.S. Open was a fantastic event to cover.

Hard to believe it is already the 10th anniversary of the best event I ever covered.

Eat your heart out, Super Bowls. Stand in the corner, World Series. And you, college sporting events, are definitely smalltime.

Sorry Michael Phelps and U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. Sad to say even the Rose Bowl doesn’t top the list.

Oh Maui Invitational, not even you. Despite spending 4 1/2 days in paradise.

The winner in a clear rout is the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

What a spectacular event. What a terrific week. What a career highlight.

And yeah, about 5,000 times less hassle than Super Bowl Week.

Torrey Pines South was immaculate, much sharper and brighter than the usually stellar condition it was in for regular PGA events. And with the famous cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean next to the course on a sun-splashed day, it was hard to get me to go back to the media workroom even when it was time for free food (oh yeah, more on the workroom later).

Ten years later, it is still summed up the same way it was then: What a memorable five days and 91 holes of golf.

Even more memorable now that it still remains the last major title won by Tiger Woods.

Hard to forget all the limping around the course he did and those occasional gasps and grabbing of his left knee after he hit a shot due to the pain in his leg.

Woods prevented Rocco Mediate from winning in 72 holes by knocking in the clutch birdie putt that lipped the hole before dropping in on 18. He fist-pumped so hard I was surprised his arm didn’t fly off and join me in the bleachers right above the hole.

Then Woods battled Mediate for 19 holes on the Monday playoff round and just when it appeared Mediate was going to earn the biggest achievement of his career, Woods sunk a birdie putt on 18 (hole 90) to force a sudden death playoff.

I had rushed to the seventh hole – site of the playoff – and was in good position for the ending. That being able to go inside the ropes thing when you are a media member is pretty handy.

Sometimes it is hard to spot the golf ball when it is struck from 300 yards in front of you but I could immediately tell Mediate’s second shot was a disaster. It landed in the grandstands on the side of the course and that pretty much sealed the deal. A short time later, Woods knocked in the winning putt and it was time to head to the interview area and then on to the workroom.

You knew it was a major deal in the moment — heck, it is the U.S. Open — but everything became even bigger when it was revealed a few days later that Woods was playing with a broken leg and that his knee injury was actually a torn ACL.

It sunk in immediately like, ‘Tiger won a major at Torrey Pines with a torn ACL and a broken leg.’

It is an ever bigger story here in 10-year anniversary week since it remains Woods’ last major title.

As per covering it, wow, it exceeded all my expectations. Yahoo Sports! made a deal with our newspaper and each day one of our stories were featured on the Yahoo website. Three of the five days, it was my story selected, and I’m not even a golf writer.

Pretty sure it came down to the topic and the quality of writing.

I found two of the articles just searching around but when I paste them here in a link, they are dead. A third one, about Phil Mickelson melting down on the 13th hole, is a dead link from the start.

Oh yeah, so while I was hustling all over Torrey Pines for five days getting great scene-setting material and live tidbits and seeing things from 20 feet away that others either saw on television or never saw, there were at least 50 reporters that never left the media workroom.

Nobody is expecting these guys and gals to walk all 18 holes for five straight days but spending the entire tournament in the workroom — in immaculate weather mind you, not frigid or humid conditions — at the FREAKING U.S. OPEN is a disservice to their viewers or readers.

So great, those guys saw exactly what the TV viewer did and got the same media pack quotes every other reporter did but your golf fanatic wants a deeper storyline and craves more than what he or she watched on TV.

I feel for those guys because they missed one great time out on the Torrey Pines course. A few of them could have shed some pounds with all that walking around. Ohhh, got it, being there to pile in more cholesterol-loaded bites in the stomach trumps being where the action is.

Can you imagine somebody covering the NBA Finals spending the entire game underneath the stands in a media workroom? Apparently, some of the golf reporters do that every single week.

No wonder most golf articles are among the most boring in all of sports.

Regardless, it was the best event I covered for a newspaper that no longer exists. I covered Super Bowls, World Series, Olympic trials, national team soccer, Maui Invitational, more than a dozen college bowl games, over 35 NCAA basketball tournament games, double-digit NFL playoff games, college football games at Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, etc., not to mention games in more than half of the NFL stadiums.  (Probably forgetting some things too).

But guess what? Covering the 2008 U.S. Open will forever be known as the best sporting event I ever covered.

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The world stopped for nearly 15 minutes on Friday morning just because Tiger Woods spoke.

The golf icon apologized for his behavior several times and appeared remorseful, embarrassed and determined to overcome his demons while speaking in front of a room full of supporters and friends, as well as a national television audience.

“I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior,” Woods said early in his speech that represents his first public-speaking comments since his once-flawless image disintegrated under the weight of numerous extramarital sexual affairs.

Woods said he felt entitled to do whatever he wanted and felt he could get away with it. He vowed to “start living a life of integrity.”

As Woods put it, his behavior over time will be the true barometer on whether or not he’s a changed man. He emphasized that he was the one at fault for the predicament he’s in.

“I was unfaithful,” said Woods, who has made millions of endorsement dollars by cultivating a family man image. “I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable and I am the only person to blame.”

Woods displayed anger when he referenced accounts of what happened in regards to the early-morning car crash outside his home that began his downfall. He said reports that his wife, Elin Nordegren, had hit him were “fabricated.”

“There has never been an incident of domestic violence in our marriage. Ever,” said Woods, stopping just short of doing the Rafael Palmeiro finger-wagging steroids denial to Congress.

Woods said he will be returning to therapy for sex addiction and didn’t reveal a definite timetable for his return to golf.

“I do plan to return to golf one day,” Woods said. “I just don’t know when that day will be. I don’t rule out that it will be this year.”

One thing I found interesting is that Woods didn’t ask his friends and colleagues in the room to forgive him, but expressed hope that someday they would be able to “believe in him again.” It was an admission that he knows how deeply he has disappointed people that have supported him over the years.

After he finished his statement, Woods exchanged a long hug with his mother. He exchanged greetings with five other people and then left the room. His wife wasn’t in the room.

Though he didn’t take questions about his situation, Woods took the first step towards rebuilding his public image. His speech ran more than twice as long as expected and he seemed to deliver a public self-challenge during it.

“It’s not what you achieve in life that matters, it’s what you overcome,” Woods said.

Tiger has been a big-time achiever on the golf course and will forever be known as one of the game’s all-time greats. I witnessed firsthand his tremendous 91-hole 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines with a painful leg injury, but also saw glimpses of his arrogant side and staged press conference behavior that you’d often hear about in media circles.

He has a relentless competitive streak when a golf tournament is there for the taking. Now he’ll get a chance to rise to the challenge of overcoming the mess he’s made of his personal life.

And based on what Woods revealed Friday, he has a lot to overcome.

Tiger Woods and his conglomerate of PR flacks and other bobos (advisors doesn’t seem to fit) are more interested in delivering spin than revealing the truth about the golf icon’s weird car accident in the middle of the night last Friday. That alone tells you there’s a lot more to the story.

And that Woods is scared out of his mind that whatever it is will eventually leak out.

Regardless, his reputation is now buried in the sand trap and there’s nothing he can do but settle for a triple bogey. And now with at least one woman ready to come out of the woodwork and reveal details about a 31-month affair, those scratches on Woods’ face (did they come from the car crash or his wife?) are about to dig deeper under the surface.

The National Enquirer reported that Woods had an affair with a person named Rachel Uchitel — sorry, can’t refer to her as a woman when she looks more like Mick Jagger than a female — and TMZ reported that the car crash occurred after Woods’ wife (Elin Nordegren) got upset about the alleged affair.

So perhaps that truly is why Woods crashed into a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree in the early hours of Friday morning (good thing Woods isn’t a NASCAR driver if he  can’t do a better job leaving his own driveway). I’m guessing Woods wasn’t speeding away to stand in line for “Black Friday” merchandise and I’m also pretty sure he wasn’t late for a seasonal job at Best Buy.

Now there’s another woman, Jaimee Grubbs, going public about her affair with Woods, reportedly telling a magazine about having sex with Woods 20 times and having over 300 text messages from him. Sounds like Grubbs has stars in her eyes — and dollar signs — and is trying to cash in on the controversy.

Bet you right now she eventually poses in Playboy for some major coin.

As for Woods, I don’t understand why he wouldn’t talk to police about a minor accident like this. It tells you that he has something to hide about what happened regarding the crash or what occurred shortly before the accident. It is almost comical — not to mention very odd — that Woods’ wife allegedly smashed the car window with a golf club to help get Woods out of the car.

Something tells me she was chasing Woods with the golf club BEFORE the crash.

Anyway, Woods goes to great lengths to protect his privacy but perception often becomes reality. And the perception is that Woods is hiding something since he’s gone into hiding as opposed to being a stand-up guy and facing questions.

He’s about to find that network and entertainment reporters are going to press for answers a lot more aggressively than the golf writers who hang on his every word and throw softball questions at him from tourney to tourney.

I saw Woods in action live while covering the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. You may recall he won that tournament on the 91th hole — outdueling Rocco Mediate — while playing with major knee and lower-leg injuries. It was an incredible performance.

But I also saw that every press briefing he held was in a controlled environment. There were no one-on-one opportunities with Woods — as there were with nearly everyone else — and he seemed to want to get things over with as quickly as possible. He also would find an opportunity to make a jab or say something funny off a question, figuring the humorous comment would be the sound bite shown on television.

You know — because it’s all about the image. There are sponsors to appease and nothing matters more than keeping the Woods’ empire happy as the dollars flow in.

Well, Woods has some cleaning up of the image to do because right now, it’s buried in the rough. It looks like Tiger’s private life has been caught by the tail — or is it the tale?