For anyone who thinks they have to be a fan of the game of golf to appreciate greatness in the sport, hopefully they were watching the U. S. Open this past week. If you watched what Tiger Woods did at Torrey Pines in San Diego this weekend, you would quickly realize you don’t have to love golf, or even sports for that matter to understand the true greatness of the man. Now, even though I feel extremely old at 33 years of age, I didn’t get to see the greatness of many of the athletes that transcended sports over the first half of the last century. I never saw Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Babe Diedrikson-Zaharius or even Jim Thorpe take being an athlete to a level that goes well beyond sports. However, I did grow up squarely in the Michael Jordan era, and I have lived through the remarkable days of Lance Armstrong. And what I have seen from Tiger Woods is arguably the most incredible run as an athlete that this planet has ever seen, regardless of the era, the competition and any other factor that goes in to the water cooler debates on sports. Over the past 11 or 12 years, Tiger has already left his mark on not only the golfing landscape, but as an athlete in general. What he has done in the game of golf is nothing short of anything Ruth, Jordan, Gretzky or even Ali accomplished in their time. Tiger has done it all in his time as a professional golfer, and if he had walked away from the game at age 32, he would have gone down with only Jack Nicklaus as the greatest to ever play the game, and, if he had walked away, he would be considered one of the five greatest athletes of all time. That’s pretty legendary stuff. But Tiger isn’t even close to walking away from his sport or our culture, even with a knee injury that will now keep him out of golf for the rest of 2008. Tiger announced on Wednesday that he is having season-ending knee surgery to repair an ACL tear to his left knee. Instead, this past weekend, Tiger gave us another glimpse of what the greatest athlete to ever exist does, and that’s not only win, but win in dramatic and this time, courageous fashion. The U.S. Open is known as the toughest golf tournament in the world, and that’s even if your name is Tiger Woods. The courses are set up for the players to fail and fail miserably. Tiger’s final score of 1-under-par this week at Torrey Pines was only the second time in the last six U.S. Open’s that the winning score was under par, and he needed 91 holes, not 72 to get there. Then there was and is the knee injury, the fact that he hadn’t played in a tournament since April, the fact that he didn’t even come close to practicing for a major like he normally does and you have the makings of a remarkable story. As we learned on Wednesday, Tiger not only played and won the U.S, Open on a bad knee, but also a doublestress fracture in his left leg. And he did it walking 91 holes on the longest U.S. Open course in history. Are you kidding me? All of those factors make it stunning enough that he won the U.S. Open this week. But the story doesn’t end there. Injuries aside, Tiger needed to birdie the final hole on Sunday just to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate, a great player who pushed Woods every step of the way. And what did Woods do, he made the birdie putt, and then he did it again on Monday to stay alive and force a sudden-death hole in his 18-hole playoff with Mediate. Standing over those putts, one stroke behind, some argue that 90 percent of the professional golfers on the planet would have missed those putts and Mediate would have been drinking champagne out of U.S. Open trophy right now. But like his good friend Jordan did with basketball game son the line, Woods doesn’t seem to miss when the putts, the drives or the bunker shots matter the most. He doesn’t seem to ever miss when everything he is striving for is on the line and when the pressure is at his highest point. And that’s part of what makes him what he is, simply one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known. What Tiger did this week at Torrey Pines is nothing short of legendary, and that’s tough to comprehend considering all of the legendary feats Tiger already has on his resume. And why we should appreciate his greatness even more is because we won't get to see it again until at least the start of the 2009 PGA season. Make no mistake about it, Tiger is going to be missed, not only by his fans, but by the entire sports landscape, because his greatness and his sheer genius on a golf course captivates us time and time again. But that’s why he is Tiger Woods and that’s why you don’t have to love the game of golf, or even be a sports nut like me to appreciate just how lucky we are to live in era in which he exists. Tiger is remarkable, he defies logic and conventional wisdom, and one thing is certain, with the greatness of Woods shining through now more than ever, as long as he can fix his knee, retain his health and return to form next year, we may not of even seen his absolute best yet.