No Place Like the Desert for Rocco

By George WhiteJanuary 20, 2003, 5:00 pm
Rocco Mediate has this thing about Phoenix. The thing is this: put him on the TPC of Scottsdale course and he turns into the greatest golfer who ever lived.
It doesnt matter that he was raised nearly 3,000 miles east of here, in the Pittsburgh area. It doesnt matter that he has a back that looks as though it was taped together like an erector set. It doesnt matter that his 17-year career has been fairly ' well, average. All you need to know is that once he lands at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, he is transformed magically into a golfer that even Tiger Woods cant touch.
He won here in 1999. He had runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2001. He still finished in the top 20 in 2002, even though he started out no better than one-over 72.
Woods, in case you might have forgotten, played in Phoenix in 1999. He played the final two rounds with Mediate, as a matter of fact. David Duval was in the field, and he had just finished shooting his 59 days earlier near Palm Springs, at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. And ' there was Mediate, No. 111 in the world ranking, who hadnt won in six years since 1993 at Greensboro, who in the meantime had undergone serious back surgery.
In 1999, Mediate started with a 69, solid but fairly unimpressive. The second round startled a few folks, Rocco firing a 67 in the cold Phoenix chill to grab the lead by a couple of strokes over Woods. The third round was his best, Mediate firing a 66.
So he entered the final stroll around the TPC with a six-shot lead. The rest of the shell-shocked crowd had watched in stunned silence while Mediate calmly went about his business.
Playing front of a crowd that was loudly pro-Tiger ' nothing unusual there ' the question quickly became if Mediate could maintain his composure. A fan almost unraveled him on the 12th hole, which could have been worse except for Woods calmly imploring him to shake it off.
At that point his once-imposing lead had dwindled to a precarious three strokes, but then found a birdie lurking in his bag at the par-5 13th to steady the nerves. And from there he managed to hold it together against Woods and Justin Leonard, who finished in second place two strokes back.
Tiger, incidentally, was part of a bizarre scene at that par-5 13th that has never been seen since, nor likely will be repeated anytime soon in the future.
He lined a drive off-center and off the fairway, the ball finally settling in the desert behind a 1,000-pound boulder. But a PGA Tour officially ' correctly ' ruled that the boulder could be moved, and a dozen fans from the gallery promptly stepped up and pitched in, huffing and puffing while move the offending obstacle out of the way.
Woods eventually birdied the hole. Jack Nicklaus, watching the telecast, said it is an advantage that a superstar such as Tiger has ' and one that, incidentally, a lot of the games greats have had in the past.
That boulder was put there as part of a decoration for the golf course, he said. Its a nice place to have people around to be able to move it for you, but thats perfectly fair.
Perhaps it is only fitting that Mediate went on to win, despite the fans impromptu involvement. But after all, Phoenix had been very good to him. A bogey on 14 followed his birdie on 13, and a timely par on 16 preceded a birdie on the 17th. Rocco had only to find the fairway with a 3-wood on 18 ' he did it with ease ' and this one was gift-wrapped for him.
Related Links:
  • Rocco Mediate's Bio
  • TGCLINK PAGE=11101 SELECT=6168>Full Coverage of the Phoenix Open
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.