Tiger Woods famously won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines with a broken leg but most golf fans know that story, right? What some may not know, however, is that the 82-time PGA Tour winner played what was probably the worst nine holes of his adult life — actually, probably the worst nine holes since he was about three — not too long before winning his 14th major championship.
Tiger Woods won his first four events in 2008 but didn’t play between The Masters and U.S. Open
Tiger Woods began the 2008 PGA Tour season on an absolute roll. After finishing the ’07 campaign with four wins in five tournaments, Woods opened the ’08 season with a victory at the Buick Invitational, his sixth win at Torrey Pines, the course that would obviously serve as the host of the U.S. Open later in the year.
Tiger then won the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic in his next start, followed that up with a victory at the WGC-Match Play event, and then won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill for the fifth time. His overall winning streak stopped at six as he finished fifth at the WGC-CA Championship before taking solo second at The Masters.
However, between The Masters and U.S. Open, Woods didn’t play a single round of competitive golf as he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair some damaged cartilage.
Tiger Woods shot 54 on nine holes ahead of the 2008 U.S. Open
In May 2008, Tiger Woods was informed he had two stress fractures of the left tibia and was advised to rest for at least six weeks, which meant he would have missed the U.S. Open. But with America’s national championship being played at Torrey Pines, where Woods was obviously comfortable and knew how to win, that simply wasn’t an option.
So while he wasn’t playing competitive rounds on the PGA Tour, he was still putting in work to prepare for the season’s second major, which included a nine-hole practice round at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, California, which was his home course for a time. It was the first time he’d played any type of round since The Masters and he went out wearing a knee brace as he was obviously in a lot of pain. And things simply did not go well as Tiger once explained to Time.
“Well, the problem was, knee braces don’t allow you to rotate—a golf swing, you need to rotate. So I went out and played nine holes. I think I’m a pretty good golfer—you know what, I think I’m a damn good golfer—but when I went out there on my home course and I lost eight balls in nine holes.
“I shot 54, not long before the U.S. Open, and I’m grinding my butt off, and I said, O.K., you’re the No. 1 player in the world, and you just lost eight balls on a home course that you could play blindfolded, and I shot a 54. This is going to be an interesting week.”Tiger Woods
And an interesting week it certainly was.
He went on to win his 14th major in a playoff over Rocco Mediate
Following the first round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Tiger Woods was four shots back of the lead following a 1-over round of 72 but was just one back at the halfway point after a second-round 68, which included a 30 on the front nine, just one shot short of the U.S. Open record and 24 shots better than that disastrous nine at Big Canyon.
Woods shot a 1-under 70 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round and drained a dramatic 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole to force an 18-hole Monday playoff with Rocco Mediate, which actually turned into 19 holes with Tiger coming out on top after Mediate bogeyed the first extra hole.
The win was Tiger Woods’ 14th major championship — he famously wouldn’t win another for 11 years — and it was revealed later that he’d also been dealing with a torn ACL. He underwent surgery eight days after his U.S. Open victory and didn’t return to competitive golf until March 2009. No word on if he had anymore 50-plus nine-hole rounds during that time off.