Tiger Woods made yet another clutch birdie at 18, then parred the first hole of sudden-death to subdue determined challenger Rocco Mediate and win the 108th US Open golf championship.
Woods, who had forced the 18-hole playoff for the crown with a birdie at the 72nd hole on Sunday evening, worked the magic again on Monday to claim his third US Open title and the 14th major championship of his career.
<b1>"I think this is probably the best ever," said Woods, who willed himself to the victory despite debilitating pain in his surgically repaired left knee.
"All things considered, I don't know how I ended up in this position," added Woods, who hadn't even walked 18 holes since the Masters until Thursday. "It was a long week. A lot of doubt, a lot of questions going into the week. And here we are, 91 holes later."
A see-saw battle saw Mediate up by one stroke on the 18th tee. But Woods was not to be denied.
With his birdie he matched Mediate's even-par 71 on the Torrey Pines South course, sending the playoff to sudden death for just the third time since the tournament adopted the format in 1954.
They returned to the par-four seventh, where Mediate was in trouble off the tee, while Woods found the fairway.
Mediate's bunker shot fell in front of a grandstand in a mandatory drop zone.
As Woods waited by the green to putt, Mediate's chip rolled past the pin, leaving Woods to putt first for the championship.
Woods just missed, putting the pressure on Mediate to keep the playoff alive, but he missed his 18-footer.
"Today was just unreal," Woods said. "It just kept ebbing and flowing, back and forth, back and forth."
Woods appeared poised to turn the back nine into a victory parade when he took a three-stroke lead through 10. But Woods bogeyed 11 and 12 to see his cushion sliced to one stroke.
Both birdied 13, then Woods bogeyed the next — his par putt lipping out — while Mediate birdied and they were even heading into the final four holes.
"I felt like I was still in control of the tournament until I missed that putt (at 14)," Woods said. "Then all of a sudden, OK, here we go. Now it's a ball game. Now we're all tied up."
At the 15th, Mediate put his second shot from the fairway 25 feet from the pin. Woods, in a bunker, allowed himself to smile when he saw his sand shot left him inside his opponent.
But Mediate curled in his birdie putt, and Woods couldn't make his shorter one, and they headed to 16 with Mediate holding a one-shot lead.
"He hit that putt there at 15, and if it doesn't hit the hole it's like 10, 20 feet by," Woods said. "But he hit it dead center and it went in."
Woods nearly erased the deficit at 16, where his 50-foot birdie attempt was headed straight for the center of the cup but stopped one roll short.
"It came down to 18," Woods said. "Rock made a mistake, didn't put the ball in the fairway, didn't give himself a chance to go for it in two."
At 45 years and five months, Mediate was seeking to become the oldest US Open champion and the oldest first-time winner of any major.
"I'm sure I scared him," said Mediate, who has been hindered by back trouble through much of a 23-year career.
Woods, who moved one step closer to Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles, posted his third playoff victory in a major. At the 2000 US PGA Championship he beat Bob May in a three-hole playoff, and he beat Chris DiMarco at the first hole of sudden-death at the 2005 Masters.