America loves a Cinderella story, and there was ample reason to hope that Rocco Mediate would fit the glass slipper.
He is amiable, easy-going and obviously talented, although he ranks "only" 158th on the roster of professional golfers. He had to survive a sudden-death playoff even to qualify for the U.S. Open. And, at 45 years, 6 months old, he would have been the oldest Open champion in the history of the tournament.
But it was not to be. Also competing was one Tiger Woods.
Ironically, if Woods were not the world's finest golfer, he, too, might have qualified as something of a Cinderella. He hadn't played since undergoing knee surgery April 15, and the knee clearly was bothering him throughout the Open. Doctors had warned him that he risked further injury by playing, but he ignored them.
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And people wondered whether he would be up to such a gruelling competition.
He allayed any doubt with a remarkable performance, capped perhaps by the 12-foot birdie putt on the final stroke of regulation play that forced Monday's playoff with Mediate. That ended in a sudden-death playoff after they ended 18 holes tied at 71, and Mediate bogeyed the next hole to lose it.
Woods now joins Jack Nicklaus as the only two players to capture the career Grand Slam three times. Woods also moved within four of the record 18 professional majors that Nicklaus won, and Woods has plenty of time to catch and surpass the Golden Bear.
It would be easy to fall into an "anyone but Tiger" rut if Woods were obnoxious, ill-tempered, rude to fans or a jerk when out of the spotlight. But he is none of those things.
Perhaps the worst that can be said about him is that he is too methodical, too centered, too self-disciplined to be genuinely likable in the same mold as, say, Arnold Palmer. But even that criticism seems a bit peevish.
Woods exists in a realm of his own. His accomplishments are unassailable. And he just keeps doing it, again and again, bum knee or not.
All we can do is stand back in awe and applaud him while we count our blessings for the privilege of witnessing one of the greatest athletes in history.
There aren't many unused superlatives left to describe the accomplishments of Tiger Woods.