2001 US Open - Rocco Mediate News Conference Transcript
Q. Two questions: Outside you said that you almost decided not to play this week, but you said it wasn't a back problem. Can you tell us what that was about? And the long putt you made for birdie, the approach you hit really was, without doubt, you don't have a shot. Can you talk about that hole?
ROCCO MEDIATE: First thing is I just had something weird in my hip, my left hip. And on Thursday morning I really almost couldn't play. And I'm so sick of this happening, because it's happened since I've been hurt. My caddy kind of convinced me, he said -- because I was almost going to withdraw. I really didn't want to make a fool of myself, because this golf course will do that quickly. And I got it around unbelievably. I was shocked. I couldn't believe I shot 1-over par. He said, 'If you get it around today, maybe the next couple of days, who knows.' So now he looks real smart. That's what happened. But it's not a serious thing, it was just a weird little thing came up. And it's pretty much gone now. 16, I hit a pretty good drive, really. The left bunker is not bad. I can't drive it far enough to get it up in the left bunker as far as chipping out and stuff. I hit a pretty good drive, just kicked left. And it was just a regular old 6-iron and I hit a pretty good shot there. And then I was just trying to lag up there close, and it fell in. It happens every once in a while. But it was kind of cool.
Q. Rocco, you said out there that you've never been under the kind of pressure that you know you're going to be under tomorrow. What's the closest you've come to what you imagine tomorrow will be like, and what do you remember about how you handled it?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You know, I don't know that I've been in anything like tomorrow. I was close -- I was like in 7th or 8th place going into the final round at Augusta. But that wasn't like this. We weren't going to beat Tiger, so it didn't matter where you were, really, or at least I wasn't. There's nothing that could prepare me, except for myself. Like I said, I was talking outside, I felt -- I knew I was close to the lead coming in the back 9 and I felt really good, even though I hit a few bad shots, I got it up-and-down. I think those shots are the most nerve-wracking, the shot on 17 -- the bunker shot on 14 was silly. I didn't think I could get it within 20 feet and I hit it 10. That's where I'm most -- I felt like I was going to be most nervy, and it was pretty fun. I just took myself out of what was going on and just played. I've got to do that all day tomorrow. So it will be tough. It will be fun.
Q. Rocco, of the players within three or four strokes of the lead I believe you're the only one whose caddy has won a major, is that just trivia or is there value there?
ROCCO MEDIATE: There's definitely value. One thing Pete does for me, and I think all good caddies do, and it's not just Pete, but one thing he does the best for me is makes the most intensive shots seem normal. His demeanor never changes. Very rarely gets excited. A couple of times I got him a little excited out there today. But it takes some kind of weird thing happening, like the putt on 16 or shot on 17 for him to get excited whatsoever. He doesn't let that happen. That bleeds into me. I'm not calm most of the time, I'm up-and-down all the time. But I've gotten better over the 16 years I've been out here. And today I showed myself and Pete that. He's taught me very well the last three years to keep it where I'm going -- like on 18 Phil kind of said, 'Who's away?' I said, 'I am', and I felt like I was holding him up. And Pete goes, 'Slow down, relax, it's not a big deal.' And I hit a really good 3-iron. Stuff like that, little things like that, immeasurable things, who knows what they mean. I don't know.
Q. Two things, Rocco. First, how long was the putt on 16, exactly?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, the pin was 16 yards on, and I was about five, six paces into the green. So 30 feet, something like that. Somebody said it was 75 feet, I said, 'No, it wasn't'.
Q. Talk about Stewart Cink, and how you think he's going to hold up.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Stewart's game was built for this kind of golf tournament. I don't know him well, I don't know him that well, but his golf swing and game seem to be built for the U.S. Open, because he's steady, steady, steady, steady, boring, down the middle. He's very good. I'm not surprised he's up there at all. I think he's been a good player since he came out on Tour. And I'm not surprised at how he's playing. I don't know how he played today. I know he shot good, but I'm sure there wasn't many mistakes tee-to-green for him, because he's really good tee-to-green.
Q. Did you spank one into the gallery on the par-5?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, on 13 I was trying to go completely insane vertical with a 4-iron and I pulled it a tad. And I was going over that bunker, there. And I hit a guy right in the, whatever, shin. And it stopped in the rough. And it would have probably been much worse if it didn't hit him, but it was in a pretty nasty spot. I said, 'Did anybody get hurt?' And it was a big welt. I felt terrible. I hit this silly up-and-down thing over the bunker. I went over and said, 'Do you even want this? I wouldn't want it if he hit me.' And he said, 'Oh, thanks.' I said 'I'm very sorry.' How can I stop it? They're all so crowded there, and they couldn't hear us, anyway. I think he saved me at least a shot. Who knows.
Q. What are you most happy about over these first three rounds, the way you've hit the ball or the way your short game has been?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I'm happy about how I've handled the entire situation. I've hit it good in spots and I've hit it in crazy spots, and that's just me. But my short game, my putting has kept me alive. And that's what I've done better this year than I've ever done. As far as the way I've handled it, I haven't gotten too excited or down or up, I'm just trying to -- I'm not trying to get -- I've got one more hard day tomorrow, and I'm going to try to do my best to win this thing. It's going to be tough. I've never had a shot at it, and I'm never going to have much more. I'll only play another 10 or 15 years. I probably won't have six more chances to win the Open, who knows.
RAND JERRIS: Could you take a couple of moments and walk us through your birdies and bogeys for the round.
ROCCO MEDIATE: What did I birdie? I birdied 6. I had an 8-iron about ten feet, maybe. Real nice 8-iron. And then I bogeyed 10. I hit it in the left rough, this far in the left rough, dead. And I almost made par. I missed about a 10-footer for par, I hit a pretty good chip. Hit it close on 11 to about six feet. And I pushed it up over the bunker on 13, and made about a 4-footer, right over a big spike mark, just huge. 16, I made the silly 30-footer over the hump, broke six or seven feet.
Q. What did you hit on that?
ROCCO MEDIATE: 8-iron.
Q. Does Tiger's struggles on this course this week give the rest of the players a different feeling about their chances in any way?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know what they think, but it doesn't make any difference to me. If Tiger is up there leading by whatever, then we don't have any chance to win. But if he's close, there is a chance to win. I mean, maybe some guys don't think that, but I do. I enjoy that situation playing with him. Not that I play with him that many times in the hunt in any major. But in other tournaments I have, and I've enjoyed it. And I played my best golf that day. The fact that he's not, I never noticed. He's just showing that you that every blue moon he becomes human. And this is one of those weeks. I don't know what he shot today. 69. So who knows, he might have a 62 in his bag, I don't know. If anybody can -- but that's here nor there, it's just a matter of going out tomorrow and getting the job done somehow.
Q. How much of your ability to handle the situation is because you've been out here a while?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I'm sorry, I was in a daze. Say that one more time?
Q. How much of your ability to handle the situation is the fact that you've 38 and you've been out here a while and been doing it a while?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I've been there enough times and I've been in enough tournaments to know what makes me work. I've just got to take my -- I don't know how to explain it. When I get a little excited out there I'll tend to swing harder. Probably most of us do, not just me. And if I can catch that and try to slow things down as far as not slow, but slow everything else, my tempo and everything down, I perform pretty good. And I'm learning that. The 18th tee shot was a prime example. I mean, I was just trying to put it up that left side with a low draw. And I just went through it and I did exactly what I wanted to do. I felt like if I hit it high it would go through the fairway, because I hit it almost through the fairway this morning. And then the 3-iron was the same way. I'm learning now more. Yeah, I'm 38, and I've been out here a while, and I've been semi-successful, I'm way more successful than I thought I'd ever be. I should be able to do that by now. And tomorrow, yeah, if anybody tells you it's just another tournament, they're lying, it's not another tournament, it's the Open. And I'll treat it as such.
Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile
Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.
The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.
"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."
He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).
Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.
“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."
Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.
Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.
Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.
The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.
McIlroy gets back on track
There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:
He is well ahead of schedule.
Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.
“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”
To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”
And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.
After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out.
Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.
“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”
The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.
The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)
But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.
Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.
Everything in his life is lined up.
Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.