June 14, 2008–Torrey Pines–10:30 PST–Tiger Woods could be on the way to his third U.S. Open win, and the 14th major victory of his career. He is 13 for 13 when he enters the final round of a major with the lead or tied for the lead, and heading into Sunday he is one stroke in the clear. But the big question surrounding Tiger's invincibility is his left knee, and if it can hold up for 18 more holes. Tiger appeared to aggravate the knee several times during the Saturday round, so now the most valuable player on Team Tiger could be Las Vegas physical therapist Keith Kleven (pictured), who is reportedly in San Diego working with Tiger at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Kleven has worked with Tiger for more than a decade, and says that he is one of strongest and fittest athletes he has ever seen. Now Tiger will need to use all of that strength to add another legendary performance to his resume. "In overall balance and structure, he probably exceeds all world-class athletes that I work with," says Kleven. "We have done a lot of things that I haven't done with others. He is very gifted."
Kleven also serves as the official team therapist for the UNLV Men's Golf Team, in addition to working with other world class athletes like Greg and Mike Maddux, among others. Fellow PGA Tour player Mark O' Meara is also a client, and a very good friend of Tiger's. He was a big key in putting Tiger together with Kleven many years ago. Plus, Woods came very close to attending UNLV and playing golf for the Rebels and Head Coach Dwaine Knight, and was introduced to Kleven during the recruiting process. UNLV won the NCAA Golf Championship in 1998.
Woods doesn't talk much about the specifics of his workouts with Kleven, but does publicly recognize Kleven and his importance to his overall success. In a press conference prior to this U.S. Open, Tiger discussed how he and Kleven have been working on the rehab process following the surgery he had two days after the Masters.
"Keith and I started working probably four or five days out, post-op, and then we've worked pretty good since then to try to get this thing organized so I can play," said Woods, before adding that the rehab routine was different than his normal workouts. "When (you) come off of having a surgery done, you can't go all out. I'm not real good at that. I like to go all out and that's all I know. So holding back the reins is a little more difficult for me to do."
Woods also spoke about the knee following his third round, and responded to a question about how it felt as compared to after the previous two rounds.
"More sore," said Woods, succinctly. "As soon as I get out of here I'll ice the thing."
Woods went on to say that it does affect his swing on the golf course, but somehow he continues to put up magical moments, including two eagles and a birdie on the final six holes of Saturday's round.
"It does affect it," said Woods. "There are certain shots I'll feel it. And you can't say it's the drive, you can't say it's a wedge, because I don't know which one it's going to happen on.
"I just keep telling myself that if it grabs me and if I get that shooting pain, I get it, but it's always after impact. So go ahead and just make the proper swing if I can."
Kleven went into private practice in Las Vegas in 1973, and was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He has also worked with U.S. Olympic teams and with such boxers as Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson.
Woods' first public appearance following the surgery came at Tiger Jam XI, a fundraising event for the Tiger Woods Foundation that was held in Las Vegas.
PHOTO: Courtesy Keith Kleven website