Rock Solid Mediate Gets Another Chance

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2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Rocco Mediate knows hell be the answer to a trivia question someday.
 
Which trivia question? Thats still up for grabs.
 
Hell either go down as the first player to beat Tiger Woods one on one in a major, or the first one to lose to Woods in an 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open.
 
The way Mediate sees it, anything is possible'a reality proven by the fact that he was somehow still standing Sunday, preparing for 18 holes against the worlds best player after the fourth, but not final, round at Torrey Pines.
 
You better watch yourself tomorrow, pal, Mediate said to Woods' jokingly, of course'as the two crossed paths in the interview room. See. Look. Hes nervous.
 
A 45-year-old walking definition of a PGA TOUR journeyman, Mediate will, as always, take the opportunity, but not himself, seriously when they tee off Monday.
 
Trying to become the oldest player to win a U.S. Open, he will be a heavy underdog, but thats nothing new. Nobody is ever favored against Woods, and a 23-year veteran with five career wins isnt going to break that trend.
 
Nevertheless, Mediate doesnt shirk from the challenge. Before the tournament started, he told his friends that his dream was to be playing in the final group with Woods.
 
Better late than never.
 
To go up against the best player in the world and have a chance to beat him, theres nothing more you would ask for as a professional golfer, period, said Mediate, who shot even-par 71.
 
Well, if he were feeling greedy, he may have asked to win this thing without having to go through four hours, man-on-man against Woods. Mediate had his chances. He missed a four-foot putt on 13 and a five-footer on 15 that could have made the difference between the tie at 1-under 283 and the victory. He also had a 30-footer on 18 that barely missed. Make any of those, and he wouldve been holding the trophy Sunday night.
 
But this was no time, he said, to look back at missed opportunities.
 
I have nothing to lose, going against Tiger Woods, Mediate said. I want to see what Ive got against the man. I know what hes got.
 
Its hard to imagine Mediate wont have a few fans out there in what figures to be a small gallery, thinned by the realities of a playoff contested on Monday morning.
 
Woods is Superman. Mediate is Everyman. Hes the kind of guy who pays attention to the fans when they shout his name, who plays to the cameras on those rare times when theyre following him, who speaks his mind, acts a little crazy.
 
Just a normal dude, he calls himself. I talk more, whatever, and Ill give them crap if they give me crap. Thats what they want.
 
This dream'playing against Tiger for a chance at the national championship ' basically came out of nowhere for Mediate, who now has a chance to be remembered for much more than that peace-sign belt buckle he wore Sunday.
 
He has had back problems on and off through his career, and could blame that back for a meltdown in the final round of the Masters two years ago. He shared the lead there on Sunday, but his back was toast and the most memorable thing from that round was the 10 he made on No. 12 after dumping three balls into Raes Creek.
 
I still have some things to settle there, he said, acknowledging that this finish gets him invited back for 2009.
 
He has plenty to play for in 2008, too, and can set aside thoughts of retirement for now. Just last year, he was dabbling on the TV side, gearing up for what should be a successful career as an ex-jock analyst someday.
 
He found a physical therapist who worked on the back. It got better and so did his game.
 
Now, he insists, he really is living the dream. He gets a day of golf with Tiger Woods.
 
Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, I guess, Mediate said. But its great. How much better can this get?
 
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