Farmers Insurance Open 2013: Tiger Woods' Bittersweet Return to Torrey Pines

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 15:  Tiger Woods reacts to his birdie putt on the 18th green to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate during the final round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 15, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If you’ve followed golf at all over the past five years, it’s impossible to look at Torrey Pines and not immediately think back to Tiger Woods’ epic victory at the 2008 U.S. Open.

And if you’ve been a longtime follower of the game, it’s also difficult not to look back at Woods’ 2008 victory without trying to place at least some historical perspective on the event as we near his return to the course for the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open.

The 2008 U.S. Open was one of the few golf tournaments in history that had everything a golf fan could ever want.

It had arguably the greatest golfer in history attempting to overcome a fairly severe physical injury to defeat the top golfers on the face of the planet on an incredibly difficult track.

Astute observers also realized that this would likely be one last major win before Woods would be forced to take a significant break from the game.

The 2008 U.S. Open had the unlikely “everyman” challenger in Rocco Mediate. Mediate didn’t look like an athlete, didn’t have a pretty swing, struggled with back pain and knew full well that he was bucking the odds each day he remained in contention.

He was a lovable character in this intense drama unfolding along the scenic California coast. Fans could look at Mediate and say, “Wow, he’s not much different from me, and he’s somehow battling Tiger Woods for the U.S. Open title.”

It was the first time that a major championship on the West Coast had been televised in prime time.  

And just when you thought the drama had finally reached a peak on Sunday afternoon, Woods sunk a 15-foot putt to force an 18-hole Monday playoff. And just when you thought the drama had finally reached a peak on Monday afternoon, Woods and Mediate tied through 18 holes and were forced to compete in a sudden-death playoff, which Woods won on the first hole.

The 2008 U.S. Open will go down as one of Woods’ top three major championship wins, and it would likely crack the top 10 of any ardent golf fan’s list of greatest all-time major championships.  

However, looking back nearly five years later, the event also carries with it a touch of gloom.

We didn’t know it at the time—or maybe deep down inside we did—that Woods’ 2008 U.S. Open victory would be the last time we saw him truly dominate the game.

Everything in life has a beginning, middle and end.

Whether we are talking about our physical health, a business, a brand, a product or a sports team, they all have a growth period, a peak and then a decline.

A golfer’s career is no different. Golfers will more often than not have a growth period, a prime which culminates in a career peak and then a decline down the backside of the mountain.

The 2008 U.S. Open was Woods’ last major championship victory.

Although his career is not over by any means, as each year passes it is looking more and more likely that Woods’ 2008 victory will wind up marking the peak of his career before the start of a long decline.

And as we look back at the 2008 U.S. Open, the historical significance of this golf tournament continues to evolve.

In the two years following the tournament, we looked back at it as a fantastic golf tournament which captured that attention of the nation.

As we got three and four years removed from the tournament, we looked back at it as Woods’ last major championship title and began asking, “When will he win again?”

As we are now nearly five years removed from the tournament and Woods heads towards the twilight of his career, the 2008 U.S. Open is looking more like a pivotal event in the game’s history that will wind up marking the true end of an era.

The 2013 Farmers Insurance Open, which will begin Thursday, Jan. 24 at Torrey Pines, could be viewed as a bittersweet event for both Woods and legions of fans.

It is a sweet event in that it brings back memories of one of the greatest major championships ever played. But it could also be viewed as a bitter event for Woods and his fans because with each passing year, the 2008 U.S. Open is looking more and more like the event that history will point to as the end of the Tiger Woods Era.


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