Rocco's rant: Tiger will win 25 majors

By Jason SobelApril 2, 2012, 1:49 pm

He’s outspoken. He’s loquacious. He’s been one of the game’s best quotes for years.

Rocco Mediate is one of the few professional golfers to whom a reporter can pose a single question, then get out of the way and just hope the tape recorder doesn’t run out of battery power.

In fact, that’s exactly what I did in advance of the Masters, a tournament about which Mediate knows plenty. He’s competed in 10 of  ’em and just a half-dozen years ago, he held the outright lead while playing the ninth hole – until his game left him and a balky back arrived, resulting in a T-36 finish.

Mediate isn’t in the field this time, but as always, he has an opinion on the upcoming proceedings, especially with Tiger Woods emerging as the betting favorite. The two own a special bond, with the latter holding off the former in a sudden-death playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open, generally regarded as one of the greatest wins of Woods’ illustrious career, if not the singular greatest.

In regard to this edition of the Masters, I asked Mediate one simple query, then sat back and let him do his usual thing.

Q: So, who do you like this week?

A: Believe it or not, I like Mr. Woods. I like him because of this: I was very critical, as most people know, back in August or October of last year. All on Mr. Foley, whom I’ve gotten to know a little bit about – not personally, but I’ve read up on him. And I’ve been watching Tiger like I do all the time. … I remember I said back then, ‘If Tiger gets the club back up in the air like it’s supposed to be instead of around his (butt), he’s going to be back to normal.’ Now, is he back to normal? No, he’s not. But the club is getting up more and in a better place. Sean has done a really good job with him. I want to talk with Sean; he’s figured him out. Not that he didn’t know it, but he tried to get rid of this other stuff that was in him before from whomever – and that’s not an easy thing to do.

You saw what happened [at Bay Hill] and a few weeks before that at the Honda. All of a sudden, the shots were looking more like they used to. I see a lot of things that most people don’t see, because I watch everything. Now, we know he’s putting better, but he always putts good. He had a couple of months or years of normalcy, let’s say. Too bad, that’s how it is. But when the ball starts going in the vicinity of where he’s looking, everybody else – in layman’s terms -- is (screwed).

You saw it on Sunday at Bay Hill. … He had a one-shot lead going into Sunday and won by five. Kind of eerie, isn’t it? We need to have Mr. Woods – actually The Kid; I call him The Kid because I’m 500 years older than he is – do exactly what he’s doing right now. When he gets to Augusta, if the ball is going kind of where he’s looking, everybody else is playing for second. … When he wins a golf tournament, especially after the last couple of years that he’s gone through and the bull that he’s heard – and from me, too; I’m guilty of that – if he pulls that off, it’s genius. It’s what we need in our sport.

If you look, over the last couple of years, when he’s been off the map, no one is taking the reins. It’s not good, I don’t like it. Every sport has a dominant guy. When they don’t, it becomes kind of boring. … Look at the Honda Classic, for example. I was there. There were 150,000-160,000 people coming to watch golf. Who do you think they came to watch? Name one other guy. Throw Rory McIlroy in there, but out of 160,000, maybe 10,000 came to see him.

Now, Rory is amazing. I love Rory. … I’m just saying that Tiger moves the needle. No one else moves the needle – he is the needle! Rory is going to be a great player, I love everything about him. He’s one of the sweetest kids in the world, great family, but no one is Tiger, man. No one. … If this guy goes away, we’ve got a problem – a big problem. … I want him to win 100 majors.

My point is, if I’m one of these kids – one of these top-10 or top-20 players in the world – I want him at his best. I need him at his best. Because I want to try to beat him. Even if I don’t beat him, I want to get a shot at it. Do you think Rory McIlroy wouldn’t want to play against Tiger when he’s playing his best in the final round of the U.S. Open? He’d better want to do it – and I’m sure he would. Same with all of these other great players, but as you saw on Sunday at Bay Hill, it didn’t happen. Tiger played a reasonably good round. He played good enough to beat everybody. That’s what he does. Only 72 times. So once he gets that taste again, he’s going back to what he knows.

I’ve said this for years: If he can figure out how to drive his ball a little bit better, he’s going to win 25 majors. I’m telling you right now, he’s going to win way more than 18. … Just because he’s 36 now, he’s stronger and better than he has ever been. He just had a physical problem, that’s it. I mean, the mental stuff was obviously not good. But his ball was going sideways not because of mental problems, but because of physical motions.

Foley – and I’m going to say this right to his face – has gotten it done. I don’t know Sean, but I’ll give him credit. I said some stupid (stuff). I mean, it wasn’t stupid, it was just like, ‘Come on, dude. From where the club is, the ball is going to go sideways.’ Now he’s hitting down and the ball is kind of going where he’s looking.

I have no reason to say it. I haven’t talked to Tiger; it’s not like I’m his best friend. I’m not saying it for any reason other than that’s what I’m watching. I watch a lot and I see a lot of things that are going on. I’ve been out here 27 years and I know what’s going on. It’s like in that movie ‘A Few Good Men’: We want him on that wall, we need him on that wall. When he puts the numbers up, guys get better. It’s that simple. What’s going to happen to these top-10 guys when he starts winning two or three out of every four? They get better.

Tiger has never really had to prove people wrong, because he was always the best guy. Over the last few years, all of a sudden Tiger has dropped to No. 40 or 50 in the world, which is a joke – I mean, even when he is playing his worst, I still think he’s the top player in the world. 

Now here’s the danger: Before, everybody knew he was the best guy. Now he knows he’s still the best player. Everybody until a few weeks ago was like, ‘He can’t do this, he can’t do that, he won’t win again, he won’t win another major’ – which is a joke, a complete joke. All of a sudden, he beats a pretty good field at Bay Hill and everybody’s going, ‘Uh-oh. What are we going to do now?’ … His major career is over? He’ll never beat Jack’s record? Bull.

He just proved something (at Bay Hill) to everybody, including himself. He still had to win. You can know how good you are, but who cares? He put the numbers up under very difficult conditions. It wasn’t an easy golf course. I don’t care if he’s won there 40 times; he’s still got to make the ball go where he’s looking and he did it. Again. I was very happy to see that happen. I was ecstatic. And Mr. Foley should be ecstatic, too, because everybody, including me, thought that this was the wrong guy. What do we know? We don’t know anything.

I think at Augusta National he is the dude to beat. Now you give this guy confidence, that’s trouble for everybody else. Because when he gets a taste of that, these other guys are done. I’m telling you. He’s only won there four times; he should have won 10 by now, but he’s only won four. … I want to see him do it again, because I think he can do what everybody thinks he can’t do right now. If he can keep his driver in play, it’s over. That’s all she wrote.

He’s No. 1 in the driving statistic. … That’s what he was before, back in the early 2000s. A guy with that much power and speed, and an ability to hit fairways again? … He’s the strongest, best guy. He’s not unbeatable, but toe-to-toe, play him 10 times and he’ll win nine. That’s if he knows where the ball is going – and he kind of does right now.

He’s the No. 2 golfer all-time right now, at least statistically. … I want to see him be that guy like he was last week. I want to watch it. I want to watch him do his thing at Augusta, because it’s good for him and it’s good for our game.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.