Rocco Mediate still basking in glow of Torrey Pines

By Associated PressJune 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
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2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Rocco Mediate arrived at Bethpage Blacks driving range Tuesday moments after Tiger Woods left, settling in one spot away from where the reigning U.S. Open champion practiced.
 
Talk about fitting.
 
Mediate will forever be remembered as being right beside Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open, where not even a mano-a-mano 18-hole Monday playoff was enough to break their tie and the worlds No. 1 player ultimately prevailed on the 91st hole.
 
The greatest memory of my golfing career, Mediate said.
 
Hes relived that memory every day since. The 46-year-old Pennsylvanian gave Woods all he wanted at Torrey Pines, succumbing only to a combination of Tiger moments ' like the birdie putt on the 72nd hole that left Woods thrusting fists in the air, then another birdie on the 18th hole Monday to extend the playoff.
 
He never performed better with club in hand than in that glorious week last summer. When this years Open starts Thursday on Long Island, Mediate will enter a major championship carrying the burden of expectation for the first time.
 
I know what its going to be like and Im ready, Mediate said. I love that stuff. Its not going to be like a shock to me. I think its going to be loud and its going to be a lot of fun. And if Im playing good, its going to be ridiculously fun. So theres a little extra heat on me. I like that feeling.
 
Sure seems like thats the case.
 
He was at Bethpages practice area for about three hours Tuesday, spending probably no more than 45 minutes hitting balls. He held his wedge like a baseball bat for a few moments. Hed talk before chipping, after chipping and, in many cases, while chipping. He engaged a few fans, shook hands with friends, checked a couple text messages.
 
I dont take myself so damn seriously, most of the time, Mediate said.
 
Of course, thats not to suggest he didnt want that Open ' or this one ' badly.
 
He took 76 shots in that 19-hole Monday playoff a year ago, and doesnt like two of them: a wayward 6-iron on the first hole, and a putt on the 18th hole that never broke and kept Woods hope of a 14th major alive. Theyre the ones that stick with him, not the pulled drive on the sudden-death hole or the second shot out of the sand that struck the grandstand.
 
Instead, those are moments he embraces. He picked up the ball that struck the stands and happily pantomimed throwing it to the green, hardly buckling in the pressure cooker that accompanies a major championship battle against perhaps the best golfer of all time.
 
It was just a pretty incredible week, said Woods, who played that week with a broken leg and blown-out knee ligament, injuries that required season-ending surgery shortly after Torrey Pines.
 
Mediate thought so as well, even when the putt he needed to send the day to a 20th hole slid past the right side of the cup.
 
He walked over to Woods, wrapped his opponent in a hug, and has basked in the afterglow that rarely follows a loss ever since.
 
It was a big deal to a lot of people, Mediate said. It was a big deal to me. I enjoy that. It meant a lot to me. I really havent talked to Tiger about it, but being that hes won 14, it probably didnt mean as much to him.
 
Mediate started getting a full appreciation of what it meant months later, when a Texas man who lost his daughter in a car crash shortly before last years U.S. Open sent him a letter and explained his familys plight. The man, John Ray, had never heard of Mediate before that week at Torrey Pines, yet found himself rooting for the underdog.
 
You showed me that it is possible to lose and yet not be beaten, Ray wrote.
 
To Mediate, that meant as much, if not more, than the gargantuan silver cup he would have hoisted if hed taken Woods down.
 
He got something from that, Mediate said. I think that was cool.
 
His Q-rating has soared in the last 12 months. Hes no longer anonymous in restaurants and coffee shops, even among people whove never picked up a golf club.
 
The peoples champion, indeed.
 
So where would it be more fitting than a public course like Bethpage Black for Mediate, who wears the blue-collar label as well as any pro golfer, to win a major? He knows there will be no shortage of people behind the ropes and in the stands just waiting to bellow Rocco! whenever he hits one close, just as they did at Torrey Pines.
 
Maybe I can do one better this year, Mediate said.
 
Related Links:
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  • Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

    By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

    Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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    LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

    The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

    LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

    "The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

    It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

    "He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

    After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

    The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

    At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

    But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

    What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm