Tiger Woods hailed his dramatic US Open victory as the greatest achievement of his illustrious career after overcoming knee problems to take his 14th major title.
Playing his first tournament in nine weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery two days after a second-place finish at the Masters, Woods battled the pain to score a memorable play-off victory over Rocco Mediate which went into sudden death after 18 extra holes at Torrey Pines.
On top of the injury, Mediate pushed the world number one to the 91st hole of the tournament having twice had a chance to take the title himself and, at 45, become the oldest first-time winner in major history.
Woods, 32, birdied the 18th hole on Sunday and yesterday to keep his title hopes alive and rob Mediate of victory and add another major championship to an honour roll begun 11 years ago at the 1997 Masters.
“I think this is probably the best ever,” Woods said.
“All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position to be honest with you.
“It was a long week. There was a lot of doubt, a lot of questions going into the week, and here we are 91 holes later.
“It’s either this one or my first one (which is the best). This week had a lot of doubt to it, to be honest with you. I hadn’t walked 18 holes until the first round here since Augusta.
“You keep playing, you just keep going forward and there’s no finish line, you just keep pushing and pushing and I did all week.”
Woods also admitted he had had to overcome erratic play as he got each of the four rounds of regulation play under way.
“I had such a great starts every day,” he said with a laugh.
“I had four double (bogeys) this week, three eagles, a few three-putts, a couple of snipes off the tees, a couple of slices, some bombs, anything and everything happened this week.
“For some reason it just happened, through all that, all those ups and downs, I ended up being one-under par for 91 holes.
“It’s been just an amazing week.”
Woods said he would “shut down” and spend time resting his knee but added he hoped to be back in action at Royal Birkdale in Southport for the Open Championship, starting on July 17.
“I’ll take a little time off,” he said, before being asked if the Open would be his next tournament.
“I hope so,” he replied.
After staying alive with a 15-foot putt on Sunday, Woods again birdied the last to stop 45-year-old qualifier Mediate becoming the championship’s oldest winner.
They were both round in level-par 71s as a result, Mediate having come from three down after 10 to lead by one on the final tee.
Woods birdied the last to take it to sudden death and his his opponent, ranked 158th in the world, bogeyed the first extra hole after missing the green with his approach.
The world number one made it a remarkable five straight victories at the San Diego venue and took his on-course career earnings through the $US100m (€64m) mark.
His play-off record now, though, is a stunning 16-3 – and, of course, he has maintained his record of winning every single major he has led after 54 holes.
Mediate remained upbeat despite defeat, saying: “I’m sure that I scared him.
“I’ve never had more fun, it’s just amazing. He’s hard to beat. I threw everything I had, the kitchen sink, everything right at him.”