Arguably the most clutch 72nd hole putt in Major Championship history – followed with an iconic, unrestrained celebration, which was equal parts elation and a release of tension – Tiger Woods wrapped up his 14th Major title 13 years ago at Torrey Pines.
His victory in 2008 was built on a foundation of remarkable moments of inspiration, intertwined with confounding mistakes and a very, very dodgy left leg. Woods was playing with a torn ACL and a double stress fracture of his tibia he sustained during recovery from knee surgery, which he had undergone after a runner-up finish at The Masters earlier that year. This wasn’t known during the week and only came to light two days later when Woods announced he was having another round of surgery and would miss the rest of 2008, including that year’s Ryder Cup at Valhalla.
Woods’ immortal putt was the final shot of the regulation 72 holes of the U.S. Open, and the birdie meant he would force a play-off with Rocco Mediate who had earlier set the clubhouse target. On a draining final day, England’s Lee Westwood held the lead as he made the turn with Woods in the final pair on the course. Three bogeys over his next four holes left Westwood needing to catch up and he nearly pulled level on the 72nd hole, leaving his 15-foot birdie putt eight inches short moments before Woods sank his to match Mediate. The following day Woods and Mediate came back for 18 holes and, again, couldn’t be separated with both shooting 71. The sudden-death play-off began on the 7th, and after Mediate found a fairway bunker and struggled for par, Woods two-putted for victory.