Still In the Mix Rocco Remaining Realistic

By Associated PressJune 14, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Rocco Mediate, professional golfer.
 
Rocco Mediate, everyman.
 
Rocco Mediate sports writer?
 
He played all three to stunningly good effect Saturday at the U.S. Open, never more hilariously than when he tucked himself into a gaggle of reporters, post-round, while the leader, Tiger Woods, was fielding questions.
 
Mr. Woods, Mr. Woods, Mr. Woods, are you insane? Are you out of your mind? Mediate said.
 
Yes, the guy gets it, which means he wont take any offense to the notion that he has almost no chance Sunday, even though he played well enough in the third round to technically put himself in contention.
 
A 45-year-old trying to turn an accomplished career into something more, Mediate guesses he hit one really bad shot all day. But all that got him was a round of 1-over 72 and a two-shot deficit to the worlds best player, and best closer.
 
Woods has never lost a major when hes had the lead going into the last round.
 
Mediate has never won a major.
 
You never know, he said. But itll take something crazy.
 
If something crazy is to happen, though, Mediate will have to answer this troubling question: What more can he possibly do?
 
He came into the toughest test in golf knowing hed have to hit lots of fairways: Accuracy from long distances, which is where Mediate often hits his approaches from, is nearly impossible from the tangly rough at Torrey Pines. Check. He hit nine of 14.
 
He came in knowing hed have to hit greens from those fairways, because scrambling isnt exactly what you want to be doing at a U.S. Open. Check. He hit 15 of 18.
 
Avoiding huge numbers? He did that everywhere but No. 15, where he made a double-bogey and had the gallery looking like a bunch of tennis fans'watching Mediate go from one side of the green, to the other, then back again before shot No. 6 finally dropped. After leading all day, it was the double-bogey that finally dropped him down the leaderboard.
 
I made one little mistake and I got ripped. Thats what the Open does to you, he said.
 
But he accomplished another goal'coming back from adversity, making a birdie on No. 17 and finishing with a par to stay within site of Woods.
 
Woods played one group in front of him and Mediate can chalk up another moral victory for not getting rattled from hearing the crowd roar again and again as the worlds best player put on one of his best shows ever.
 
Nine times out of 10, yeah, hes probably going to kick my butt, Mediate said. Its that one time youre looking for.
 
Mediate will not get what he really wanted, which is to play in the final group with Woods on Sunday. Lee Westwood, at 2 under, gets that honor.
 
But the fact that Mediate doesnt shy from that challenge, that he acknowledges the reality of this game, this week, his career, is what makes him a fan favorite'an almost certain bet to be covering the sport for TV when he decides to hang it up.
 
I think its because I remind people of themselves, Mediate said. Im just an everyday person whos a bit on the crazy side.
 
He has been in the hunt in these things before. Two years ago at the Masters, he actually was tied for the lead in the final round.
 
But my back-back went bye-bye in the car that day, Mediate said.
 
The injury effectively gave him no chance, and when he dumped three balls into Raes Creek on No. 12 to make a 10, the rest of the day was elementary.
 
He is not currently dealing with any of the back pain that has been the biggest hurdle over a nearly 25-year career that has included four victories, around $14 million in earnings but nothing close to a signature win.
 
Hes been playing better of late, finishing sixth in the Memorial, winning one of the seven final spots in an 11-man playoff at the U.S. Open qualifier, then coming to San Diego to play in what he calls his favorite tournament.
 
He knows he doesnt have many chances left like this.
 
Id like to play in three or four or five more Opens. Id love to, he said. But to get close to the lead, it doesnt happen every time, especially when youre 45-and-a-half years old.
 
Which is what has made this week so sweet so far.
 
Or bittersweet? Even he knows how its probably going to turn out.
 

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

    Getty Images

    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

    Getty Images

    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.