One choice we don't want to make

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This was one for both the aged and the ages.

Tiger Woods' thrilling comeback win in Monday's 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open against 45-year-old Rocco Mediate was as good as it gets -- in any sport. It was back-and-forth, neck-and-neck until the very last hole -- and beyond, as the players needed an extra, 91st , hole to determine the winner.

And none of it would have been necessary if not for Woods' clutch, lip-skimming 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th on Sunday to tie surprise leader Mediate and force a playoff on Monday.

And talk about a daytime drama! No soap opera could have offered as much suspense, as Woods and Mediate traded shots and leads as the pressure made Mediate "nervous as a cat."

Woods, who seems to bottle and sell such moments, concluded it was the most gratifying of his 14 major tournament wins, second all-time to Jack Nicklaus' 18.

It was no less satisfying for the thousands of fans fortunate enough to follow the heavyweight match along the bluffs of Torrey Pines in San Diego. They witnessed one of the sport's great finishes.

It's going to be hard for U.S. Open officials to justify dropping its old-fashioned 18-hole playoff system after Monday's gripping finish.

Many, including Chronicle sports columnist Scott Michaux, have argued that the system is antiquated, hard on players and unfair to fans who plunk down their dollars on Sundays in full expectation of seeing a winner.

As exhilarating as Monday's playoff was, it may have ironically provided yet another reason for its demise: Tiger Woods struggled to finish the regular 72 holes this past weekend on his thrice-repaired left knee. Having to play an extra 19 holes on Monday could not have helped.

Certainly, one tournament won't make or break a knee that's gone under the knife three times, most recently just days after the Masters in April.

But U.S. Open officials will need to consider even a remote possibility that by extending the tournament by 18 holes, they may have had a hand in shortening the career of arguably golf's greatest player ever.

Ultimately, asked to choose between extending Woods' career and keeping the kind of history-making 18-hole playoff we saw on Monday, we'd be glad to leave even the best 18 holes to history. We'd rather not choose, though.

Comments (9) Add comment
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shivas
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shivas 06/18/08 - 09:49 am
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The Open will always have an

The Open will always have an 18 hole play-off. anything less will no longer be the Open.

dashiel
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dashiel 06/18/08 - 10:03 am
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I was in complete agreement

I was in complete agreement with Mr. Michaux, but then came Monday's dramatic playoff, some of the best televised golf in recent memory. Now, like you, this is one choice I wouldn't want to make. If it takes great risk and inconvenience to produce such magnificent play, I'm now prone to believe it's worth it.

junebug
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junebug 06/18/08 - 10:33 am
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No one forced Tiger to play.

No one forced Tiger to play. He knew the rules and the condition of his knee before play began. What does Michaux want next? The tournament shortened to 54 holes? Leave it the great test of golf that it is!

sjgraci
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sjgraci 06/18/08 - 10:35 am
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Tiger Woods is the greatest

Tiger Woods is the greatest athlete in the world.

weekapaug05
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weekapaug05 06/18/08 - 11:01 am
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I disagree sjgraci, he is by

I disagree sjgraci, he is by no means the greatest athlete in the world. He's the best golfer in the world, but definately not the greatest athlete.

christian134
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christian134 06/18/08 - 11:44 am
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Congratulations

Congratulations Tiger.....Great game....:-)

sjgraci
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sjgraci 06/18/08 - 12:17 pm
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Just announced Tiger is out

Just announced Tiger is out for the rest of the year due to a fracture in his leg. Not only did Tiger beat Rocco on one leg (a true handicap) on one of the toughest golf courses in the world, he beat the entire field. He is the greatest athlete in the world. Only the greatest athletes ever do what he does. Jordan, Ali, Gretzky, Armstrong were the best athletes in their day. No one is better to the degree in any sport right now than Tiger. The Great One, Gretzky, agrees, Tiger is the greatest athlete in the world. I'm not even a fan. I was pulling hard for Rocco. I just have huge respect and am in awe at what he is capable of doing that no one else in the world even comes close to.

ruleoflaw
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ruleoflaw 06/18/08 - 01:30 pm
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sjgraci, you may think Tiger

sjgraci, you may think Tiger is the greatest athlete in the world, but you cannot prove it. He certainly is the greatest golfer currently, and may prove in the future to be the winningest golfer of all time. But you can't even say with certainty that he would have beaten any given golfer (Jones, Nicklaus, Hogan, Palmer, etc) in their heyday. It would be fun to watch, but unfortunately we will never see the matchup..........

spotted_assassin
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spotted_assassin 06/18/08 - 08:38 pm
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ruleoflaw, Nicklaus and

ruleoflaw, Nicklaus and Palmer are in awe of his skills. THEY will tell you that he is the greatest to ever play the game! I think he could have a bag with only 3 clubs and at least win at least 1 tournament.
NO other person has dominated their sport like Tiger has...and once he breaks the record, he's done. No Champions Tour for him! You better enjoy his greatness now, because in 5 years, we will be referring to it in the past tense.

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