Kent Bush: Tiger continues to write his legend

Kent Bush

Subtle differences changed the story from one of the all-time upsets in the history of sports to chapter 14 of the Legend of Tiger Woods.

It was Rocco vs. Tiger - not Rocky vs. Apollo. It was golf - not the sweet science.

But it still had all the makings of a prizefight between the heavily favored champ and an upstart who didn't seem to deserve his spot in the fight. Unfortunately for Rocco Mediate, his ending was the same as Rocky's.

Mediate, like the Italian Stallion before him, landed some huge shots on the chin. But at the end of this epic battle, the champ came out on top -- despite being the worse for wear. Tiger Woods' wounded knee could keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

Also, like Rocky, Mediate is waiting for his rematch.

"I almost got it done," Mediate said after the match. When asked if he would tell his grandkids about the day's battle, he said, "I hope I tell them about the next time when I beat him."

The 45-year-old Mediate, who held the lead in the Masters in 2006 when his ailing back gave out, has won five times in his career.

He led Woods two days in a row headed to the 18th tee. Both times, Woods smashed Mediate's hopes with a birdie to extend the match.

Mediate, whose happy-go-lucky demeanor seemed to help him overcome the pressure of playing the best player to ever lace up the spikes, finally deferred to his destiny and became the latest victim to take on Woods head-to-head with the title on the line.

His wayward drive on the first sudden-death playoff hole led to a poor second shot and a third shot that left him with a tough par putt. When his putt slid past the hole, his fate was sealed.

"I never quit. I never quit," Mediate said. "I've been beaten down a few times and came back, and I got what I wanted. I got a chance to beat the best player in the world. And I came up just a touch short. I don't know what else to say. They wanted a show, they got one."

Here are some interesting facts and figures from one of the finest golf tournaments ever:

• Woods won $1.35 million for his trouble. Perhaps the reason Mediate's spirits stayed high was because he brought home $810,000 as the runner up. He will jump from No. 126 on the money list to No. 48. The first ever winner of the U.S. Open in 1895 took home $150 and a gold medal. The last place finisher at this year's tournament received $2,000.

• There were 11 entrants in the first U.S. Open. Mediate was one of 11 players who tied for the last seven spots in the U.S. Open during a local qualifier. Mediate was one of the seven who won a spot in the tournament. He made the most of that chance.

• Tickets were first sold in 1922. In 2008, more than 24,000 attended Monday's mid-morning match.

• It was Woods' 14th major championship. He has now won all four majors at least three times.

• Derby's Woody Austin made the cut and tied for 71st. He made $14,306. With one more solid tournament, he'll eclipse the $1 million mark for 2008.

Augusta Gazette