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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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.