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Walking with Tiger Woods at 2008 US Open was one for memory books

If you were lucky enough to find yourself standing by the seventh green of Torrey Pines’ south course on the afternoon of June 16, 2008, you were struck by the sounds of silence. Hang gliders hovered nearby, waves crashed onto the beach below, and thousands of people who had rushed to the grandstand willed themselves not to cough.

Tiger Woods had made a curling putt on the crusty 18th green on the 72nd hole Sunday of the U.S. Open to force an 18-hole Monday playoff with Rocco Mediate. When they remained tied after 90 holes, they shifted from the 18th green to the nearby seventh tee to begin a sudden-death playoff.

As they approached the seventh green, both appeared solemn. Mediate had spent the tournament chuckling like a guy who had won a “Play Golf With Tiger’’ sweepstakes. As a reporter with inside-the-rope privileges, I had squatted by the 16th tee box earlier Monday, and Mediate had chatted up a few of us and joked with his caddie, while nearby Tiger stared into the distance.

Now, on the 91st hole, the tournament was about to end. Mediate had pulled his drive and his approach, forcing him to take a drop near the grandstand. At the end of five days of spectacular, dramatic golf, Mediate bogeyed while Woods made a routine par, then hugged his caddie, Steve Williams, in relief.

Woods was 32. He had just won his 14th major title, leaving him four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record. The penultimate paragraph in a column on Woods in the Star Tribune the next day read: “There are five majors remaining before Hazeltine National hosts the 2009 PGA Championship. If Woods wins three of the next five, he could tie Nicklaus in Minnesota.”

That hardly seemed implausible. Woods had won 14

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