Rocco I Think I Had Him a Little Scared Once

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2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Powerless to put Tiger Woods away and exhausted from this U.S. Open that would not end, Rocco Mediate plopped down above bunker on the 18th green, crisscrossed his legs and scribbled down his score.
 
The 91st hole would have to wait.
 
Woods, who had just birdied No. 18 to force a playoff for the second straight day, chuckled as the 45-year-old Mediate caught his breath.
 
Mediates quest to become the oldest golfer to win a major came to a crashing end on the first hole of sudden death Monday when Woods secured his 14th major.
 
An appreciative crowd that cheered Woods victory burst into one more chant of Rocco! Rocco! Rocco! for the underdog with the peace sign belt buckle and gift of gab who plays the crowd, if not always the course, like Lee Trevino.
 
It was unbelievable, Mediate said. Yeah, this is huge for me.
 
Not only because he vaulted from 158th in the world ranking into the top 50 or because he wont have to go through a qualifier next year like he had to just to get into this years Open.
 
But because he proved something to himself just a year removed from commentating on the GOLF CHANNEL and contemplating retirement from competitive golf because of a bad back.
 
It just showed me that I still can compete and I want to keep competing, Mediate said. I never quit. I never quit, and Ive been beaten down a few times.
 
So, hes not going to lament this loss very long.
 
I got what I wanted, Mediate said. I got a chance to beat the best man in the world, and I came up just a touch short. But I think I had him a little scared once, which was great. He just said Great fight! to me and that makes it a little better, I think.
 
Woods blew an early three-stroke lead before he carbon-copied his Sunday birdie on 18 that forced Mondays 18-hole playoff. Mediate, who missed his long shot birdie putt on 18'I was nervous as a cat'sank his three-footer for par to force sudden death.
 
On the first hole, the par-4 seventh, the oceanside course that bested every other golfer here save for Woods finally got to Mediate.
 
I almost, I just about got him, Mediate said. But I had trouble with that seventh hole tee shot all week and I hooked it again in that bunker and I caught it in a horrible place.
 
But no regrets, he insisted.
 
My heart is all over the golf course. I have nothing left, Mediate said.
 
Mediate put himself in a position to win when he birdied the 13th through 15th holes, capping his run with a 25-foot putt that put him a stroke ahead of Woods.
 
Oh, my God, that was ridiculous, Mediate said. Yeah, Ive never had more fun. Ive never its just amazing. Hes hard to beat. I threw everything I had, the kitchen sink, everything, right at him. I was three down through 10. It could have been over pretty quick and he hit that ball in the bunker, not that I felt he was going to, like, bogey but its not the easiest shot and I hit a good shot, and all of a sudden bang, bang, bang, I pick up three, four shots and in a few holes and Im one up.
 
But this is Tiger Woods.
 
In a playoff.
 
At a major.
 
And this was Rocco Mediate.
 
In a playoff.
 
At a major.
 
Going up against Woods with so much on the line was the one thing Mediate said would be a career-capper.
 
But I want to do it again now, he acknowledged.
 
Hes so remarkable. We had a great time and its just I like the way I handled it 1-up with three to play, Mediate said. I hit pretty good shots.
 
And he had a 20-foot putt for birdie on 18 that would have won it, too.
 
But he couldnt pull it off.
 
And so Woods, after stepping back when a seagulls shadow interrupted his focus, sank his birdie putt.
 
Its like a prize fight, Mediate said. No one even expected me to be (here) that long or survive and he had to birdie the last again to tie me. Again. And he did it. Its amazing.
 
Woods insisted he isnt one of those who only now can appreciate Mediates grit.
 
I already knew that about Rocco. Hes not only one of the nicest guys, but people dont realize how much of a competitor he is, Woods said.
 
They should now.
 
He reminds me a lot of Trevino how he plays: just talking and enjoying it and smiling and having a great time with it, Woods said. But when it comes down to it, when its time to hit the shot, he goes into his own little world. People dont realize that. After he does hit the shot he comes out and goes, Blah, blah, blah, having a good time. But right before each shot he gets into his own little zone.
 
And its pretty cool to see.
 
Aside from his $810,000 consolation, Mediate is left with the knowledge that he made the limping Woods work 19 extra holes to win his 14th major.
 
It was an honor being out there, Mediate said. And Im sure I scared him. I did good today.
 

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