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And the winner of the 108th U.S. Open is … Torrey Pines.

Tiger Woods finally got the best of the field at the 108th U.S. Open on Monday afternoon, but he never got the best of the old public course by the Pacific Ocean that took its place as one of the toughest tests of golf anywhere.

This was the hardest work Woods had to put in to claim one of his 14 major titles.

It took 91 holes and five days to decide this thing — four regulation rounds, an 18-hole playoff and a sudden-death hole. Not until then could the best player on the planet put it away. Woods, despite his flair for the dramatics, even had to settle for a par putt to win it.

Old Torrey Pines made Woods’ last birdie try come up short so that he had a tap-in for par. Moments later Rocco Mediate’s attempt for par to force a second sudden-death playoff hole slid above the cup and clinched the win for Woods.

Woods and Mediate played four rounds at 1-under par — the only players in the field to break even-par 284 — to set up Monday’s 18-hole playoff that also ended in a tie.

Woods is now four major titles shy of the Jack Nicklaus’ record total of 18. Woods may very well pass Nicklaus’ total soon, but I’m not ready to call him the best player of all-time.

There hasn’t been an Arnold Palmer (seven career majors), a Gary Player (nine), a Lee Trevino (six) or a Tom Watsons (eight) that Nicklaus battled for Woods to hold off to win major titles. Heck, not even a Nick Faldo (six) or Seve Ballesteros (five).

For his 14th major, Woods, playing on a bum knee just six weeks after surgery, only needed to outplay a 45-year-old ranked 158th in the world and without a career major.

Gary Player says if you gave Nicklaus in his day the equipment Woods plays with now, Nicklaus has more game than Woods. I say if you give Nicklaus the competition Woods faces, he would have more than 18 majors.

But back to my first point: The real winner of this U.S. Open was Torrey Pines now that it takes its place among America’s great golf courses and past sites of a U.S. Open.

The distinction was always there for San Diego to take, but it didn’t happen until Jay Rains had the vision to put together a bid for the U.S. Open. This was only the second time the U.S. Open has been played on a public course, but it won’t be the last.

And it won’t take long to get it back here after the way this tournament played out before huge crowds, scenic settings and the overtime put in by one of the game’s all-time greats before he could hoist the championship trophy.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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