9 Things You May Have Forgotten About 2008 U.S. Open
January 21, 2021 Liberty Corner, N.J. By Michael Trostel, USGA
Playing on one healthy leg, a tenacious Tiger Woods outlasted Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in one of the most memorable U.S. Opens in history. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

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It seems hard to believe it has been nearly 13 years since Tiger Woods’ dramatic victory in the 2008 U.S. Open. His 12-foot birdie putt to force an 18-hole playoff – and subsequent reaction – is on the Mount Rushmore of “Did he just do that?!” moments that have come to define his career.

But beyond the fractured tibia and torn ACL, buried beneath the double-armed fist pump and guttural scream that followed his clutch putt, is a U.S. Open worthy of our attention even before Tiger made it one for the ages with his Sunday heroics and subsequent victory over Rocco Mediate.

With the championship returning to Torrey Pines in June, we wanted to remind you of a few other occurrences that may have flown under the radar.

Tiger played his opening hole at 7 over par for the week

Yes, you read that correctly – SEVEN over par. He made three double bogeys on the first hole (Rounds 1, 3 and 4) and a bogey on the 10th hole when he started on the back nine in Round 2. Even Woods, who is typically uber-focused during competition, poked fun at himself in the playoff, raising both arms in mock jubilation when he walked off the first tee after hitting the fairway.

This was the first U.S. Open for Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler

Both players advanced through the Columbus, Ohio, sectional qualifier and made the cut. Fowler, still an amateur, was tied for seventh after a 1-under 70 in the opening round, but faded to finish T-60. Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, led the field in driving distance at Torrey Pines and finished T-48. 2014 champion Martin Kaymer also made his U.S. Open debut that week, finishing T-53.

Tiger shot an inward-nine 30 on Friday afternoon

After four bogeys on his outward nine, Woods stood at 3 over for the championship and appeared more likely to miss the cut than threaten the lead. Then he reeled off four birdies over his next five holes (Nos. 1-5) and closed with another birdie on the ninth for a 5-under 30 to tie for second place. How rare is a 30 in the U.S. Open? It was the first time any player had done it in seven years, or more than 2,800 rounds.

Stuart Appleby was the 36-hole leader

The Australian sank a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to take the lead heading into the weekend. His two-day total of 3-under 139 was one stroke ahead of Woods, Mediate and Robert Karlsson. It was a rare leader-board sighting in the U.S. Open for Appleby, who entered the week having missed seven of his previous nine cuts in the championship. He faded quickly on Saturday, making three bogeys and a double bogey over his first six holes, and finished the championship T-36.

Lee Westwood, a three-time runner-up in majors, came up one stroke short of joining the 18-hole playoff with eventual winner Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

Tiger made two eagles and a chip-in birdie over his last six holes on Saturday

OK, you probably didn’t forget this part, but it’s worth noting because of how electric Torrey Pines was that evening. Coming off a bogey at the 12th that dropped him to 1 over for the championship and five off the lead, Woods proceeded to sink a 65-foot eagle putt at the 13th, chip in for birdie at the 17th, then make another eagle putt on the 18th to surge into the lead. It is just the fifth time in the past half century a player made multiple eagles on the same nine in a U.S. Open.

Phil Mickelson made a 9 on the 13th hole

San Diego native Phil Mickelson has finished runner-up a record six times in the U.S. Open, but this was not one of those close calls. In front of his hometown fans, Lefty made a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 13th hole in Round 3. From the middle of the fairway, 30 yards short of the green in two, Mickelson spun his lob wedge off the front of the green three consecutive times, then three-putted after finally keeping it on the putting surface. Lefty rallied with a 3-under 68 on Sunday to finish T-18.

Lee Westwood nearly joined Tiger and Rocco in the playoff

As the competitors made the turn on Sunday afternoon, neither Tiger nor Rocco held the lead. They both trailed Lee Westwood, whose birdie on the ninth hole put him one ahead of Woods and two up on Mediate. Three bogeys over his next four holes left Westwood playing from behind, but he nearly pulled even again on the 72nd hole, leaving his 15-foot birdie putt agonizingly short just moments before Woods drained his. Through 2020, Westwood has competed in 84 majors without a win, second-most of all time behind Jay Haas (87).

This was the most recent U.S. Open playoff

There have been 33 U.S. Open playoffs, but none since 2008. The current 12-year stretch without a playoff is the longest drought in the championship’s 120-year history. Additionally, the Monday duel between Tiger and Rocco is likely to be the last 18-hole playoff in championship history with the change to a two-hole aggregate format in 2018.

It was Tiger’s first U.S. Open as a father

With the exception of 2020, the final round of every U.S. Open since 1976 has been scheduled for Father’s Day. While Tiger had won two previous U.S. Opens (2000 and 2002), this one must have had extra special meaning, as his daughter, Sam Alexis, was born in the summer of 2007. Now a father of two – his son Charlie was born in 2009 – Woods will look to celebrate with both his children this Father’s Day at Torrey Pines.

Mike Trostel is the executive producer of content for the USGA. Email him at mtrostel@usga.org.