Rocco Mediate inspired everyone with a performance in the 2008 U.S. Open that reminds us all that even the very best can be beaten. But alas, like the unknown inventor of 6-up, he was just one short.
Maybe it was destiny that enabled Tiger Woods to win with a broken leg. Maybe Woods is better on one leg than all the others are with all limbs functioning except maybe their heads.
Winning an Open isn't easy. Several thousand try every year and only one is left standing or limping. But was this year's Open, the most courageous performance? If it wasn't, there maybe only one other but you have to be old enough to remember 58 years ago.
In 1950, Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open at Merion defeating Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff. What made the win remarkable was the fact that Hogan had been in an automobile head on collision with a bus in 1949 that left him with a double fracture of his pelvis, a fractured collarbone, left ankle fracture, and chipped rib and the prognosis of never walking again, let alone playing golf.
In order to play, Hogan would get up hours early just to soak and then wrap his legs to be able to walk. In the 1950 Open, months after the accident, the finals were 36 holes, not 18 as they are today so after passing this test Hogan played another 18 holes to win in the playoff the next day.
Both wins are remarkable. Wood's 91-hole win was seen mostly in evening prime time television with millions fixated on every inch of wiggling putt and then wincing after each thrust of the driver left him doubled over in pain. One spectator in Hogan's gallery, Hy Peskin, created the photograph of Hogan hitting a one-iron to the final hole which led to the playoff. Hogan memorialized in black and white. Woods seen world wide in his high definition red shirt.
If there is a lesson to learn from these two U.S. Opens, maybe it is courage. Maybe these two great golfers give us an insight into greatness. While greatness is rare, the ingredients are common. Talent, hard work, determination and most important - belief in yourself. In a time when many of today's athletes appear to defer to the opinions of teachers, gurus, and sundry hangers-on, we can all learn a lesson in trusting yourself.
If Hogan had listened to his doctors, when they said he would never walk again, the world would have missed the greatest ball striker ever. And if Woods had listened to his doctors, the world would have missed the greatest U.S. Open ever.