Featured Golf News
Rocco Out to Defend Frys.com Open Title
Rocco Mediate got his first win on the PGA Tour since 2002 in last year's Frys.com Open. That made it 19 years since his first victory - one of six in his 26-year career - in the 1991 Doral-Ryder Open, where he beat Curtis Strange in a playoff.
Mediate's win last year wasn't looking too promising beforehand as he'd torn a tendon in his forearm the previous Sunday. Yet he gutted it out over 72 holes, edging Bo Van Pelt and Alex Prugh by a shot, finishing at 15-under 269 and getting a two-year Tour exemption while sparing himself from having to go through arduous Q-School to retain his card.
Mediate called the win "life-saving," while adding, "I was kind of, for lack of a better term, screwed if I didn't pull that thing off."
Mediate is perhaps as well known for his garrulous personality - which has led him to be an on-course reporter for the Golf Channel - and his epic head-to-head duel with Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
After ending regulation tied with Woods at 1-under, the two endured an 18-hole Monday playoff, at the end of which they were still tied. On the 91st hole, Woods, who learned later he had a broken leg, won with a birdie. Woods hasn't won in the U.S. since then, and is still looking for his 15th major title.
Coincidentally, Woods is returning to the Tour for the $5 million Frys.com Open, which starts Thursday at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif.
The 48-year-old Mediate is entering the tournament much like last year - with a torn tendon in his left arm, the same exact injury he had in 2010. During a wide-ranking session with reporters Tuesday, Mediate touched on that sore subject, along with what it means for Woods to get back on the PGA Tour and a variety of other topics. Here's what he had to say during his Q&A.
MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome our defending champion at the Frys.com Open, Rocco Mediate. Rocco, if you could kind of talk about your thoughts coming back to where you had a pretty impressive win last year.
ROCCO MEDIATE: It was a life-saving win, actually. Life-saving. I mean I say that. That's a fact. I tore the tendon of the forearm the Sunday before this match. I think we're a little early this year, aren't we? But last year I pulled a bag off the thing at the airport, and something happened. So I got through and then I was out for nine or ten weeks after that. So I couldn't go to Tour school after that. I was going to go out and play a practice round on Wednesday morning because I wasn't at the first tee that afternoon like tomorrow. And I thought, it's too cold. I'm not going, and then that happened. So I was kind of, for lack of a better term, screwed if I didn't pull that thing off. Obviously I wasn't thinking about that all week, but it happened. So that's why I'm able to still sit here. So that's cool.
Q. Are people aware that you were the first guy to come out with the long putter?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think a lot of people are. But the funny thing is back then, in 19 -- I remember Jim Farree, who was one of my first teachers actually. I was at Long Cove in Hilton Head in 1990. I just wasn't putting it good. I never had yips problems. I just wasn't putting that good. He goes, you gotta try this thing. I said all right, and I tried it. And I came out in '91 with it, and I know Lietzke used it then, but then I won and I had like six straight Top 10s or five straight Top 10s and I won Doral. And I was the antichrist then in the putting world. And now look at it now. Yeah, I was the antichrist. People, I mean trust me, I had a lot of interesting comments about the putter, as you probably remember. So now, look at it now. So it's interesting. I'm trying to do something special, though. I'm now on the little belly putter right now. So you tell me if I'm wrong. I've won with the long and won with the short, which was a goal of mine. I got it done last year here. And if I win with the belly, unprecedented. It would be a triple crown. So we'll see. You never know.
Q. Rocco, what's been going on with your game this year?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I've been injured all year. It's been a nightmare.
Q. What is it exactly?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's a torn tendon in the left -- kind of like -- I don't know, it's right here, and I've had a couple of CRPs and stuff done to it. It's better. It's a lot better now in the last couple weeks. And tendons do not like to heal.
Q. Is that the same injury from before this tournament?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. Exact same one. It's absolutely tearing me up. So it's hard to do. I mean my back is perfect. I haven't had any problems for I don't know how many years. So that's cool. But I'm pretty good right now. I don't have any worries right now.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Huge. No. It's beyond -- because I couldn't have played Tour school last year. I couldn't go, because even if I -- if I missed the putt to win and I get in the playoff, there's obviously I could win that, but there's a one in three chance that I can't win it. And you never know, and that happens. And if then if I don't win, I don't have enough money anyway to get to -- I think I might have had enough to get to the final. I don't remember. I don't think I did. I was done. I shot a couple of 70s in Vegas. I was starting to do real good there, and I went back and got an MRI and there were 6 or 7,000 strands torn, little pinhole tears. It wasn't torn like surgery torn, but it was close. So I took the next eight or nine weeks off. And it's been tough. So I'm not done yet.
Q. Rocco, some of us weren't here last year. Can you take us back to the 17th hole and talk about the hole a little bit and then just kind of what went on there?
ROCCO MEDIATE: That was ridiculous when you think about it. It was absolutely almost in the stupid category right there. But 17 is obviously a risk-reward hole for certain people. Like the back tee nobody drives on that green, I don't think. We played the front tee the last two days, I believe. I'm pretty sure. But I can't drive 280 in the air. Can't do it. It's like 275 carry, I think, something like that. So I can't do that, so it doesn't really affect me. I just lay up with whatever and go forward. And even the last day I made a putt on 16 to get tied with Bo. He almost chipped in, which that would have been over on 16. But he just made a beautiful pitch on 16 that far that actually should have went in.
So I make the putt and I go to 17, and then I'm up first. "Hit driver, hit driver." I'm like, and do what with my driver? What am I going to do, hit it to the left bunker and make 5 or in the water? Which one do you want me to do? So I hit a 5-iron obviously and 120 yards to the pin, but those guys, Alex drove it a foot from the hole and Bo hit it 20 feet. So that's the kind of hole that is. Only a few guys -- I don't think anybody from the back tee -- I don't know how long it is from the back tee, to tell you the truth. I don't know of anybody that could drive on that greens. I mean I'm sure there's some guys. These guys are crazy out there now. And I think that was a cool tee box because it changed the entire situation because if you're one or two back, unless you lay up in the fairway and do stupid things like I did, then you can make a change.
So I think it's a really cool -- the green's pretty simple. It's got a backboard behind it, so there's some room for error. But it's a neat finish, because you got those tough holes. You got 16, which is a good 3 and then 18 which I think is the hardest driving hole on the golf course, on 18. But that sandwiched in there, it's really cool how it worked out.
Q. Where do you think you found your mojo on the course last year?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I started to play good coming in. Like three weeks before I started to actually play like a professional for a while, which was nice. And I remember I -- I think John Deere was before this. I made a hole-in-one at John Deere with a 4-iron, and I played pretty good there. I finished like 20 or something. I don't remember. That was pretty good for me because I hadn't been playing worth -- I still was hurting. And then at Mississippi I made a sand wedge -- a 90-yard sand wedge on the last hole of the tournament for three. Things were going in from everywhere. And I played good at Sea Island, pretty good at Sea Island. I was hitting it really good.
I just wasn't -- like I said last year, Scotty Piercy talked to me at Mississippi about putting. The little guys talking about a few things and got me onto something I really wasn't paying attention to because obviously I didn't know. And I was with the short putter. And that started to kick in in Mississippi, and all of a sudden I come here, because I was hitting it good all the time. I just couldn't make it at all. Then I got here, which is a good striker's golf course. You can't kind of fake it here. It's kind of nasty. And I was on that part. And all of a sudden I started making putts and then the rest happened.
Like I've said to a lot of people, I'd pretty much made all the putts I could make for three and a half days. Half the round on Sunday I was horrible. I holed four shots from the fairway and I still got a 5-footer to win. Think about that for a second. I mean the last day became like yesterday. It was 85 every day. It was perfect for me. I'm old and all that stuff, and then I woke up the next morning and I'm like, really? You're going to do this to me now? It's 50 and raining. So I had a really tough time. But that's really -- it was just interesting how it all played out because it saved my ass, for lack of a better word.
Q. This is the fall. How do you feel about coming in -- when you go out there and play a practice round tomorrow morning, how do you feel about coming in this year?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I feel good because I think I'm hitting it better than last year. I've been hurt all year, so I haven't been able to do anything. And I went to a different putter which I'm doing really good at. Ricky Smith and I have been working on that a lot. He mentioned that to me. He didn't know that I listened. He goes, hey, will you give me a shot at the belly putter? I said, no, I'm not going to use a belly putter. I was okay with the other one.
So when I was at Cameron's place a couple weeks ago, I said, just make me one. So it's pretty good. Last week was my first week, and I putted really nicely with it. So we'll see how it goes. And I know I made a comment last year in a teeny weeny press room about that big, there was like three chairs in it. I wonder why it's changed. I don't know. Couldn't imagine that. And I never tell the guy I'm starting to putt really good. I just hope I have a putt that matters. And why am I saying it has to matter. I had to have the 5-footer that matters. It's interesting how that all happened. People don't know. I haven't told the story about if I missed, I'm not sitting here. It's that simple. Because I don't have any -- I couldn't go to Tour school. What else can you say? Huge week.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Not as much. No disrespect, by the way. But -- and I've said this, and I'll say it again. I'm not even tired of saying it. In my opinion, and I've been around for 27 years January 1st, by the way. You can't do what he did because no one ever has. The kids are good. Trust me. They're good, but to replace something -- if you notice the No. 1 rankings how they've gone, when Tiger had the No. 1 ranking, he had it by like a million points. Okay. Now it switches, and he won 13 -- 14 majors. If you look at the No. 1 ranking, the guys that are in there, I'm just trying to think if they won more majors than me, and I don't think they did. That bothers me a little bit. That bothers me, because when you set the bar that high, when he was setting it that high as he did for how many years in a row, since he was 19? 21? He was 21 when he won in Augusta. What do you say about that?
These kids are phenomenal. They're good kids, but to hold that bar like he did, it's not going to happen. I don't care what anybody says. And I'm not like some authority on this thing, but I watch everything very closely, especially with Tiger. Because I like what he's done for us. I like when he's in the field and he's playing his best because it gives you an opportunity to beat the best guy. No. 1 rankings changed more in the last whatever many years than it's changed in 13 or 14 or 15 years. So I look at it that way. You know, there's nobody more -- I mean besides himself and the people around him, that wants him to get back on top more than I do, because it makes our game better, because no one's holding the bar where it needs to be. They're not doing it. And they have the opportunity more than they'll ever have it again.
If he gets his golf swing back, that game's over. Trust me. That game is over. Because he knows that once he figures out where his ball is going, it's over. He's already proved it a million -- 70 -- how many times? 71 times, in 14 majors. If he would have -- and someone else -- if he would have kept the same pace up that he had even before Torrey, because Torrey wasn't himself, I mean obviously the broken leg part. But he just wasn't himself. I saw it at Pinehurst in '05. I played with him the final round there too at the U.S. Open. I saw the same thing happen. I saw it going sideways. I thought what the hell is going on with this guy.
Now, people may take offense to that, but I watched -- as a fellow professional I saw the thing going, wait a minute. Guys don't do that. He only finished like fourth, but you know what I mean. I was telling Brandon, my caddy, I went, something's definitely not right with this guy. So if he figures out where it's going, the ball game is over again.
ROCCO MEDIATE: 100 percent, I think, yeah. This is the strongest, most brutal mentally -- mental person in the entire history of this game, as you know that. So I don't think that's really bothering him. He just doesn't know where -- obviously lately, and going to statistics, you look at statistics and go wait a second. This guy was the best -- he was pretty much the Top 10 of every single category we had. But he's not anymore. That tells me a story. Why is that happening? Why does he keep breaking?
ROCCO MEDIATE: He owns the mental side of it. But on the physical side -- here's what I would say. You can mentally think certain things, right, in golf, but if you physically can't do it, I don't care what you think. That's how I feel. And I could be wrong. That's how I feel. So if physics isn't working -- and golf swing is physics. I'm not a technical person whatsoever, as most of you know. But if the club is in the wrong place, the ball won't go where you're looking, I assure you. I don't care who you are. And that's the problem. So once that gets back with him, he's going to go back to where -- he'll be better -- I think he can be better than he was before. He's smarter.
Q. You've kind of pecked around some of the edges of what I was going to ask. The aura that was there for all that time just seems to be, you know, at least somewhat diminished now. Do you think if that comes back -- we've had 35 rookies this year and a couple of years' worth of guys that don't have any scar tissue with him and no negative personal interaction with him, but the rules have changed a little bit for the guy. He's really gotta to some degree start over with a large contingent of these guys.
ROCCO MEDIATE: If he gets to where he knows his ball's going, it won't matter. This is a complete killer. We've seen it. He's absolutely -- once he gets that in his -- once he gets the bit in his mouth, as they say, he doesn't fit it. Never has. So once he gets -- if he can find his ball again, if he gets that club up where it belongs, trust me, he is not done yet. I haven't talked to him. I don't remember the last time I talked to him. It's not like I'm talking from experience. I'm just saying what I see, and I see everything. I watch everything out here.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, one leg and a half. A leg and a half. And if you think about it, how did he win that event? Did he win it physically or mentally? Think about what he did. I saw shots from that man in Torrey Pines that I couldn't even imagine hitting. But he never even -- he just kept walking, whatever. That's greatness. Unfortunately it happened that week. It would've been nice if it wasn't greatness that week, but it was. So my point is I've always been a fan. I'm always going to be a fan. You know, things I said a month or so ago, that was how I feel. I mean if he's mad or he's angry, I don't really care. I mean if it does anything -- because you gotta look at what the ball is doing. It's simple. If it's going crooked, there's a problem. A lot. We all hit them crooked. Believe me. But hopefully he figures it out because we need him, period. We've got to have him where he was before. As a Tour we do.
Q. You just answered one of my questions. You haven't spoken to Tiger -
ROCCO MEDIATE: Not a word.
Q. -- in the last few weeks?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Not at all. I didn't expect to either.
Q. Have you heard anything or gotten any feedback on what you said, all this media? And the other question, not related, what did you think about his pick in the Presidents Cup?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, I would pick him for any cup. I wouldn't care if he had a broken leg, for God's sake. It wouldn't matter because he still has -- he always will have the aura that he has about him. He's an intimidating person to be around. He really is. And if you let him -- that's how he -- in fact, when he was his best, there was no chance. So I don't know how to explain it. It's been a pleasure being in the same era that he's been in, and it's made me better a lot of times. Obviously you can't sustain that, what he's done. No one has sustained it ever. Think about that. Ever. In the history of golf in one has sustained what he's done. Because that's all he knows. And now, I know what he's -- I don't know what he's up to, but I know he's thinking he knows he can still do it. Of course he does. Or he'd quit. Guaranteed. So if he figures it out, you guys will have -- it'll be very interesting to see what happens. I hope he does what I know he can do. So we'll see.
Q. Rocco, do you think you're in the majority or the minority of guys on Tour that want him to get back on top? I'm sure there's a lot of players that have relished in the fact that he's not what he once was?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't buy that. I don't know. I don't talk to anybody else about it because I don't really care what they think. Why -- but I remember talking to Randy Johnson a few months back. We were playing at Whistle Rock. I was playing with a few guys there, and I said, let me ask you a question. When you went up against the best hitter in baseball at the time you pitched, what did you want to do? He goes, I wanted to strike them out or get them to pop out or whatever. I go, of course you did. So as a professional golfer or even at my age, or even whenever you play against him, whenever he came out here, in '96, of course I want that opportunity.
Now, if I play him ten weekends in a row, he's probably going to take me out eight or nine times. But what about the other one? What about the other one? I want to see -- guys should relish the fact that they get to play against, in my opinion, the best player that ever walked on the grass. Okay. So the major thing isn't done yet, but if he gets his ball where he wants to get it, it'll be done. He's not even close to done yet in my opinion. So I don't know what the majority is. It would be sad to me to think that people are happy that he's struggling like that. It would be sad, as players, because yeah, I want to beat him, but I'd rather beat him when he's like the guy.
I won in Phoenix in '99. I'll tell you a story about that. It was very interesting. And he was the No. 1 ranked player in the world, I'm pretty sure, for like the last thousand years, until a couple years ago. And I'd been out of back surgery a couple years, and I played with him on Saturday, shot a 65 or something. I had a six-shot lead going into Sunday, and I didn't sleep for like a second on Saturday night. And I went out, and anyway, I remember I told my caddy, I said, if I hit every fairway and green, he can't beat me today. Anyway, I won the event. He played a pretty good round. Justin Leonard shot a really good round, and I won, I think, by two shots. And the thing I remember most about that is he said to me, "it's nice to see you back." He sees everything, too. So I got the trophy and the money, but that was more important, because the No. 1 guy noticed something.
So you're looking back, so I can say forever that I beat the No. 1 player in the world that week. I told my boys, I said, hey, I beat him that week. Unfortunately he got the bigger trophy than I have in '99. But still, you know, you respect that. Even at the Open in '08 I felt like when I woke up in the morning I'm going to get him. I knew in my heart I was going to beat him, because I was hitting my ball where I was looking pretty much all the time. And on the U.S. Open course I'd seen what he's been doing, he's been doing crazy stuff like he always did back then. And I knew that, but I didn't care. I relished the fact that I got to play against the No. 1 ranked player in the world for our national open. Are you kidding me? You can't even dream that stuff.
So I look at it that way, because how many opportunities do you have? If I was a major league baseball pitcher, I'd want to go against Barry Bonds every other batter, see if I could beat him. I don't know. Call me crazy.
Q. Rocco, you mentioned there's nobody now setting the bar the way Tiger did. Is that a cyclical thing or is it complacency?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know if it's complacency. These guys work their butts off. There's so many good players. I don't even know half of them, there's so many good players. But you can't -- what he did, and now that he's fallen a little bit, that he's fallen down a little bit and he's become actually a slight bit human over the last couple years, we realize what he's done, because back when he was doing it, it was just that was just what he did. It was like not even a big deal. He's got a three-shot lead, well, the game's over so you guys were kind of bored probably. What are you going to do? There's no excitement. He beat the crap out of everybody all the time.
What, did he have a 40 percent run there for a few years? That's stupid if you think about it. Who's ever done that? Nobody has done that. And that's my point. I'd love to see him get back to where he was before. I would love to. It's sad that he's been hurt this many times and that's from the motion of his golf swing. Period. I don't care what anybody says. You can put him right here. But I can prove my point. And I hope he gets back, and I'm really happy he's playing here because it's huge for this event and huge for the Fall Series, and it tells you a little story about him. Because he's not going to do anything he doesn't want to do. He can do anything he wants.
ROCCO MEDIATE: You know, not knowing obviously the whole story, because all that we know is what we read, so we really don't know what happened, but to become what he's become, you have to be the strongest mental person that ever walked on the planet. But it's a physical thing, what's been happening to him. Now if you think he's going to hit his ball -- if he sees a fairway, in his mind I'm hitting the fairway. But it's not happening. And it's the physical motion that's causing the problem, period. Now, of course there's some damage, I would think. If that happened -- well, no one would care if that happened to me. But if that happened, of course there's some mental damage up there somewhere, but this is the strongest mental -- I mean am I right or am I wrong? I mean call me crazy. Who's been stronger mentally than this kid? I still call him a kid because I'm 13 years older than he is. He's a kid. No disrespect, but he's still a kid to me. So if you look at it that way, I don't know. I don't think that's the root of the evil. I really don't. In fact, I know it isn't.
ROCCO MEDIATE: A child. He's one of us. I love Rickie Fowler. He's just the nicest kid and one of the most respectful kids I've ever met. But it's good to have Tiger in the field. I hope he comes and does what he knows he can do. I hope his knee's okay.
Q. Not to keep focusing on Tiger, but you've been and probably are his greatest supporter. Why would you say that is?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You know, I don't know. I love my sport. I have the best job that I could ever imagine for over, God, 26 years, 27 years pretty soon. And I get to play against these unbelievable players and kids, and these kids are so much better than we were when we came out. I mean it's ridiculous how good they are. But we need him to be him. You always have to have your best guy. If someone would have stepped up -- and it's hard to step up. This game's hard. That just goes to show. I mean how good is Mickelson? I mean, oh, my god. Think about it. He's one of the Top 10 or 15 greatest players ever. I mean look at all these guys that are up there, I mean they're all good.
I mean Westwood's a phenomenal -- I mean they're all good. I mean Luke Donald is Mr. I finish in the top 10 every week I play. That's how it's going to be. But they have as many majors as I do. And that's zero. And when he set that bar in winning all these golf tournaments, in my opinion if he would have stayed with what he used to do, he'd have 30 by now. Minimum. Am I right or am I wrong? What do you think? He was winning them two at a clip. Doesn't matter because he just -- and that's what happened. But he's the kind of guy who doesn't sit still, obviously. He wants to change and try to get better. Sometimes we all try to do that, all of us. But sometimes -- look at Paddy Harrington. He won three majors in two years, and he went I think I'll change everything. I mean come on. Why wouldn't he want to just keep doing that? I mean if I played good in an event, I'm going, well, I'll just work on my putting and I'll work on my chipping because the other stuff is obviously working. What the hell is going on with this guy?
Look at Mick Finch. He won the British Open in '91 at Birkdale by like seven shots, 64, 65 on the weekend. And I remember Pete Bender, who's caddying for me this week, goes -- we're on the airplane, he goes, do you think that was a fluke? But it's a major championship. There's no flukes. I mean very few, I guess maybe there's some. Because you have to hit your ball and you look at blah, blah, blah, all that stuff. And he went and changed everything. And the rest is history. I don't understand. If something works, just keep working on it. You know, maybe that's why I -- you know, I don't know. I wouldn't want Tiger's gig. I'd like to have it for a couple months. That's about it. Because you can't go anywhere or do anything. It's a tough deal. It's one he signed up for but it's a tough deal.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Right. Any time. April, May, June, it would be good to be the best guy, and then whatever, because I like to do whatever. People don't realize, you know, especially as recognizable as he is, how difficult it is. Yeah, he makes lots of money and he doesn't have to worry about anything ever as far as money or whatever. But that ain't the whole thing. It's a hard deal. But not knowing him that well, obviously just seeing him when I see him, he'll be back. He's got to figure it out. He can't check keep it up that way. He can't keep it up that way.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. It was absolutely stunning. It was absolutely stunning. I've never been there before. So it was really cool. It was fun. The greens were ridiculous. The Frys are good people. They do a good job. I was telling somebody outside, I said, I want to come here just to hang out for a few days, not play golf, because the hotel is ridiculously cool. It's just a really neat place. They treat us really good here. The whole area, you know, it's really nice. It's really a nice place. The people are fantastic, and I think all the players love it. I mean I haven't heard a negative comment about the place since last year.
MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, Rocco. Good luck.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.