- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The late, great Jim McKay would love to tell you about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But it’s hard to argue that there were anything but winners during the recent five-day marathon of golf at Torrey Pines.

OK, it’s a given Rocco Mediate probably will wake up in the middle of the night now and again wish he could have sank one more putt or landed the ball in one more fairway. But he will be the last to admit it. When events like the 2008 U.S. Open happen, the only people who lose are those who forgot to watch.

Here’s a look at the biggest winners from this year’s U.S. Open (other than Tiger):

For a while there, it seemed like every time CBS or Fox was showing the NFL or the baseball playoffs, NBC would have some low-rated stuff like beach volleyball or one of those golf skills challenges. But with this U.S. Open, NBC got one of the most dramatic sporting events of the last decade for five days - with much of the action in prime time. The tournament was the highest-rated since 2002, and yesterday’s coverage of the Monday playoff scored a 7.6 rating - an amazing number for something that took place in the middle of a weekday.

Woods has collected more than $200 million from Nike over the years, and he’s probably underpaid. Nike had some great commercials - including one featuring Woods’ father, Earl - and its swoosh logo might have set a record for being viewed by the most eyeballs.

No, he didn’t win the tournament. But he came across so likeable and down-to-earth that he should cash in with a few extra endorsements. He’s older, which hurts his marketability. But if he’s savvy, he could land a commercial or two that plays on his oh-so-close second place. (How about one of those MasterCard commercials?)

Hours after the U.S. Open ended, the golf equipment manufacturer put out a news release congratulating “Callaway Golf Staff Professional Rocco Mediate” for his U.S. Open performance. It went on to explain which Callaway clubs Mediate used and mentioned his Callaway attire and footwear. Aside from Nike, no golf company got more exposure over five days.

Consider that Mediate was wearing long sleeves and a sweater vest and looked perfectly comfortable. Consider that his caddy was wearing shorts and seemed equally content. It was a nice reminder of the “it’s between 68 and 72 all-year round” phenomenon that San Diego likes to tout. The playoff Monday gave the city an extra little boost of spending from golf patrons, and what’s more, Torrey Pines looked absolutely gorgeous, and the city got great publicity every time someone reminded viewers that it’s a public course with green fees for as little as $25.

Probably the most memorable commercial came courtesy of the St. Paul, Minn., insurance company. The ad for the Travelers Championship featured a golf fan stealing a piece of fairway grass, tending to it on his way home and then planting it in his front yard. The scene with the guy moving the grass to the sunny area of his car’s passenger seat was particularly clever.

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