Liotta: Tiger Woods is as good as sports gets

He may stand four majors shy of the record he seeks in the record books, but Tiger Woods knocked Jack Nicklaus off one of my pedestals last week with that U.S. Open victory.

For more than 22 years, I’d held firm that the 1986 Masters — won by Nicklaus with an improbable Sunday charge at the age of 46 — was the greatest golf tournament I’d ever witnessed. As of Monday afternoon, I’ve been saying that last week was better — the best golf tournament I’ve ever seen.

An occasional weekend watcher of the PGA Tour, I tuned in Friday and wound up seeing every one of the final 73 holes played by Woods, saw every swing, every putt. Each time another drama was played out, I was reminded just how rewarding a sporting event can be when I carve out enough time to really get involved, to really pay attention.

Whether it’s following every play, every pitch or every swing, when it has my undivided attention it becomes so much more rewarding than just catching the highlights at the end of the evening.

I wound up spending four days planning my life around watching the tournament and it was worth every adjustment — as good as the Giants’ 2002 run to the World Series.

The way Friday’s second round unraveled into Tiger’s back nine of 30. The way Saturday’s third round erupted into a pair of eagles and a holed-out chip shot for birdie. The way Sunday’s round crescendoed with Tiger’s playoff-forcing putt on the final hole.

Even the everybody-knows-Tiger-is-going-to-win playoff played dramatic to the end, with Tiger forced to watch as Rocco Mediate putted for the win on the 18th hole of the playoff, only to miss. Tiger winning on the first playoff hole felt like a great movie coming to an end.

I counted out Tiger at least half a dozen times and professed him to be a sure winner another half-dozen times. While I realize most athletes or favorite teams can’t match Tiger’s ability to come through, last week’s U.S. Open reminded me that when sporting events do live up to what we hope they can be, they’re worth waiting for.

Even if it takes 22 years.

Random thoughts

» I’m gaining more respect for Bruce Bochy with every game the Giants play.

» I understand the excitement, but the Chicago Cubs have a whole lot of baseball to play before they do away with that curse of theirs, and going all the way to the seventh game of a World Series won’t undo it. They’ve got to win it all to end the waiting. Right, Giants fans?

» If Woods and Phil Mickelson proved there’s quite a spread between No. 1 and No. 2 in the golf world, Adam Scott proved there are light years between the first two guys and No. 3.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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