Down to his last stroke on Sunday, Woods holed a 12-foot birdie putt that curled into the right side of the cup on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate, who could only watch on TV as Woods delivered another epic moment in an Open loaded with them.
Mediate, trying to become the oldest champion at age 45, two-putted for par from above the ridge for an even-par 71 to finish at 1-under 283, the first time since 2004 that someone broke par in a U.S. Open.
It looked like it might be good enough when Woods and Lee Westwood of England, both one shot behind, hit into the bunker on each side of the fairway on the 527-yard closing hole and had to lay up.
Westwood's 15-foot birdie putt never had a chance, losing speed and turning away. He shot 73.
From an unpredictable lie in the right rough, Woods gouged a wedge out to 12 feet right of the pin. He started to backpedal as the putt neared the hole, paused to make sure it was in, then curled and pumped both fists toward him with his head to the sky.
"Unbelievable. I knew he'd make it," Mediate said as he watched from a scoring room.
Woods shot 73 and will be in a playoff for the third time in a major, this one 18 holes of stroke play on Monday.
The 50,000 fans at Torrey Pines, who thought they had seen it all during a most remarkable week, now get a little bit more.