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Tiger's drought turns 10
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods holds on to his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. - photo by ASSCOCIATED PRESS

Hank Haney first noticed something wrong when Tiger Woods got up from the dinner table to get something to drink and stopped suddenly, bent over with his eyes closed and then held the position until he could keep walking.

"I remember thinking, 'That's not a good sign,'" said Haney, his swing coach of four years.

The timing wasn't great, either.

It was a month after Woods had surgery for the third time on his left knee. It was three weeks before the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Haney had come to Florida to start preparations for the Open, only to find out that Woods heard a crack below his left knee while hitting a 5-iron from a downhill lie a few days earlier. His doctor came to the house on May 31 to go over results from an MRI — shredded ligaments in his left knee, a double stress fracture in his lower leg.

The first round of the U.S. Open was 13 days away.

"My immediate thought was I had the rest of the year off," Haney said.

Woods had other ideas.

"He said, 'I'm playing in the U.S. Open and I'm going to win it,'" Haney said. "Either me or him asked the doctor what would happen if he played, and it was just a question of how much pain he could endure. That preceded him saying, 'Let's go practice.' And he left him sitting there on the couch."

It was 10 years ago that Woods, having not walked 18 holes since the Masters, endured 91 holes of the U.S. Open that included three double bogeys on the opening hole at Torrey Pines, a 12-foot birdie to force a playoff and more pain than he cares to remember.

That major — his last one at the moment — remains the greatest testament of his will to win.

Woods had not played since the Masters, and Mike Davis of the USGA was getting nervous. He had decided to put the top three players in the world — Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott — in the same group for the opening two rounds. Davis heard from Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, before the pairings were released. He told Davis that Woods was planning to play and would be in San Diego. That was as far as he could go.

"He essentially told me what was going on with Tiger's leg," Davis said. "He said, 'Hardly anyone knows about this, please don't say anything to the USGA.' I didn't tell anyone, but I remember looking at Mark and saying, 'So he's going to play on a broken leg?'"

Woods opened with a double bogey, made another double on the back nine and shot 72, four shots behind. In the second round, he shot 30 on the front nine (he started on No. 10) for a 68 that left him one shot behind Stuart Appleby going into the weekend. It was clear he was hurting, but no one knew the degree.

The U.S. Open went to prime time on Saturday, and so did Woods. The third round ended at 10 p.m. on the East Coast, and Woods dazzled with a 60-foot eagle putt, a chip that flew into the cup for birdie on No. 17 and an eagle on the par-5 18th for a one-shot lead.

But he began revealing some of the hurt, especially when his left knee buckled on certain tee shots.

"I was able to convince myself that the shots were going to hurt, yeah, because my leg was busted," Woods said. "But I could make a golf swing at impact. Post impact is when I was going to feel it. And I just convinced myself to go ahead and suck it up and hit the shot. It's going to hurt afterward, but I can still hit a good shot."

Not only had Woods never lost a 54-hole lead in a major, he had never trailed going to the 18th hole. But he was one shot down to Rocco Mediate, a 45-year-old with back trouble. Needing a birdie on the last hole to force a playoff, Woods was in the rough, 101 yards from the hole. 

He went with a 60-degree wedge and it came out perfectly, 12 feet to the right of the cup. The putt wobbled and bounced and tumbled and swirled in the high side of the cup, and Woods furiously pumped both arms as he looked to the sky.

Woods needed one more rally, one more birdie on the 18th, in the Monday playoff against Mediate, and then he won on the 19th hole — No. 7 — when Mediate pulled his approach near the grandstand and made bogey.

Woods knew it was his last event of the year, maybe longer.

"I was sitting on the plane ready to take off to go home when he called me," Haney said. "He said, 'Great job this week, thanks for all your help.' And then he said, 'We're done for the year. I'm getting my knee operated on next week. I'll be in touch.'

That was his 14th major, four short of catching Jack Nicklaus. Few could have predicted that 10 years later, he would not have added to the total.

Woods had reconstructive surgery on his left knee a week later. The following year, he lost a 54-hole lead in a major for the first time when Y.E. Yang beat him at the PGA Championship. The greater collapse was off the course toward the end of 2009 when Woods was caught in multiple extramarital affairs that led to divorce. And right when his life and game were starting to stabilize, his back broke down and required four surgeries.

To win another major might be his greatest accomplishment considering all he's been through.

For now, winning a U.S. Open on one leg remains an unimaginable feat.

"One, I don't know how he managed to get around. And two, he won the tournament," Scott said. "He had that ability to will putts into the hole, and will trophies into his hand."