For my money the best tiebreaker in all of sports is the one-on-one showdown over a full round of golf at the U.S. Open. That, folks, is as pure as it gets - one round and mano y mano.
Argue all you want. Go ahead and waste your breath because you are wrong. The U.S. Open tiebreaker is the best there is because the participants actually play the entire match. There is no silly exhibition like in college football or the NHL where a watered-down skills competition decides the winner. Unlike the NFL the winner isn't decided by a coin toss or by a role player.
Instead, to decide the winner of the U.S. Open golf tournament after four rounds have been played to a tie, the participants play golf. No chipping competition or a putting contest or even a reward for the best driving abilities - instead the winner is determined by the ability to play golf.
At its core, golf is a sport all about endurance and like most endurance sports golf is a game in which improvement comes to those patient enough to put in the time, discipline and sacrifice. It's about putting oneself in position for the next shot and then the shot after that as opposed to right now. Fortunately the pace of the game gives the player a chance to think about future shots with all of the walking and quiet meditation.
And yes, golf is a game best played by walking. Otherwise, what's the point?
But like endurance sports where improvement comes over time and practice, golf is sport that one can rarely master. Even Tiger Woods, probably the best golfer who ever lived, has to learn the art of humility on the course. That because golf, like most endurance sports, exposes every flaw and weakness. It's like marathon running that way in that imperfections are chewed up and snarfed back out into the dirt.
So to send Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate - the ultimate PGA Tour grinder - back out onto the souped-up (yet fair) Torrey Pines links for 18 more holes is about as good as it gets in sports. Also, maybe an 18-hole playoff - or 19 as it turned out to be with Woods prevailing by a shot - is the only chance a player like Mediate had. A 23-year touring pro ranked as the 158th best player in the world, Mediate said his only chance to ever win a major was here and now.
He nearly pulled it off.
The good part was we all got to watch Tiger Woods persevere after getting pushed around by Rocco. Woods needed every dramatic shot he made just to get into Monday's playoff. Just the 18th hole at Torrey by itself was center stage for three of the most dramatic shots in recent golf history for three days in a row. Those were three holes that Woods played eagle, birdie, birdie just to be able to have a chance.
Without the 18-hole playoff we don't get that.
Better yet, the U.S. Open tiebreaker is played on a Monday morning when people normally are at work or watching soap operas. Instead of manufactured hype and over-wrought production, we got sports.
Pure and simple.
Speaking of overwrought, manufactured, phony and annoying, what's with all these Red Sox fans?
Maybe the Inquirer'sBob Ford knows?
Nevertheless, the press box here at the Bank is filthy with folks who have ventured out of the proverbial woodwork in order to take a gander at the crowded Red Sox bandwagon. But what they won't be able to decipher is a difference between the Sox and the New York Yankees. After all, when teams throw around that kind of cash it all just blends together.