124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

Fields: The Will To Play Another Day

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- For all the emotions Tiger Woods has engendered over the past decade or so, vulnerability hasn't been one of them. That changed this weekend at the U.S. Open. Even as he was producing another highlight tape on the back nine both Friday and Saturday at Torrey Pines' South Course, his recently repaired left knee was causing obvious discomfort.

It made one look past the winces toward the future. Tiger is human. Tiger can't do what he does forever.

Then, a day later, on a sunny Sunday, after some choppy holes that made it look like the Open would reward Rocco Mediate with an unlikely title, Woods beared down on a 12-footer for birdie on the 18th hole that meant everything.

In the media center, a voice from the back, from someone watching a different television feed from the rest of the room, rose in excitement. Woods had done what he does better than anyone else -- stilling himself amid the waves of pressure that sink so many to make the putt and earn a spot in a Monday playoff against the genial Mediate, who is seeking to become the U.S. Open's oldest winner at 45 years and change.

Tiger can't do what he does forever, but he had survived to work another day with one of his best moments in a career full of them. Having found a way to play another day, it is hard to imagine Woods not finding a way to win tomorrow.

-- Bill Fields