Sunday, June 19


At 3:00pm EDT this afternoon, one of championship golf's most improbable pairings ever will set out on Donald Ross' masterpiece of golf course architecture --Pinehurst #2 -- with one of the gentlemen, South Africa's Retief Goosen, likely to enter the record books as one of only five men in the history of the game to win three or more United States Open Championships and with the other, Jason Gore, likely to win over our hearts for finishing bloodied, but unbowed. This is Apollo Creed versus Rocky Balboa, but with Rocky this time around in the Triple X Sansabelt slacks!

Hard to imagine that it has come to this, but a no-name golfer ranked 818th in the world is in the final pairing of the day, just three strokes behind the man leading the tournament, the man he'll keep company with for 18 holes of grueling championship golf -- a man who already has two U.S. Open Championship trophies on his mantle and is currently ranked 5th in the world of professional golf. Oh, to be sure, Jason Gore has won before -- he won the Albertson's Boise Open on the Nationwide Tour in 2002 (professional golf's equivalent of the "Minor Leagues"). Now there's a bit of trivia for you! But, seriously ...

Can you believe this?!?!

Like Rocky Balboa, all Jason Gore is asking of himself this afternoon is that he doesn't embarrass himself and let Pinehurst #2 and its slick, mushroom-cap greens deliver a knock-out punch.

The unflappable defending-champ Goosen is no surprise whatsoever, precision ball striker and putting artist that he is, but one would have expected Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh or Phil Michelson to be teeing the ball up with him at 3:00pm today, not a round-belly guy who drove to the tournament in a car without air conditioning and had his and his wife's clothing, along with his car stereo, stolen along the way. They even stole Jason's underwear, which he laughed about saying the thieves would find his size boxer shorts a bit disappointing. Were that set of circumstances not unsettling enough, his 8-month old son has infections in both ears! Have you ever been out-of-town with a sick baby on your hands trying to find a doctor who will make a house call to a Best Western motel? Talk about being up against it.

Truly, this is one Gore who when he loses the Big One today will have actually won something -- something big and terribly important: the knowledge that he gave it his all and with a dignity and self-deprecating style that won over every no-namer in the gallery and in the television audience who ever dreamed of just one special moment in the sun. No hanging chads for this Gore; and let's hope no hanging putts either.

Jason, take dead aim!