Mediates Major Change

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KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The new year brings with it changes, but few more surprising than the one Rocco Mediate has displayed in preparation for the Mercedes Championships.
 
As Jeff Sluman put it, Mediate is driving with two hands on the wheel. In other words, he has switched to a conventional putter.
 
The 40-year-old was the first player to win a PGA Tour event with a long putter when he captured his first title in the 1991 Doral-Ryder Open. He has since won four more times, including once in three of the last four seasons.
 
Mediate made the change from short to long over a decade ago for health reasons. I couldnt practice with (the conventional putter) because of my back, thats why I went to the long putter, he explained.
 
So why after all the success with the unconventional method would he make the switch back? Mediate says hes in the best shape of his life. He also added that the flatstick is a long, short putter, measuring at 39 inches.
 
My back is in the same position as it is with the long putter, he said. And, for some reason, I can line (the ball) up better with it.
 
Mediate has been practicing with the foreign device for over a month now and admits hes pretty nervous to display his new method in competition ' not necessarily because of the results but because of the abuse.
 
Ive been getting a lot of ribbing this week ' Vijay (Singh, who uses the belly putter) has been busting me hard, Mediate said. The putting parts pretty easy, its just hearing the crap the guys gotta say ' its ridiculous.
 
Life of Riley
 
Chris Riley didnt make any equipment changes in the off-season, but he did make one new addition.
 
I got married about three weeks ago on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Riley said. We had the jazz band leading all the way down to Pat OBriens.
 
The 29-year-old married LPGA player and Louisianan Michelle Louviere on December 14.
 
Tee Times
 
Defending champion Sergio Garcia will tee off in the final group in Thursdays first round. Thats because the tee times are in reverse order of when players won last year.
 
Garcia will tee off at 1:20 PM local time (6:20 PM ET) alongside Jerry Kelly, who won the second tournament of 2002, the Sony Open. Jonathan Byrd and Luke Donald, who won the final two events last season, will tee off first at 10:30 AM local time.
 
Related Links
  • Rocco Mediate Bio
  • Full Coverage of the Mercedes Championships