Its a golfing town in need of some affection, too. The top players, winded after the sprint to The Masters, stayed away. So the fans, considerably fewer than in years past, have embraced the affable Mediate. His easy smile and working mans name stamp him as the regular guy to whom anyone can easily relate. Plus, while many were questioning the strength of the field, Roccos always had nothing but nice things to say about a tournament he first won in 1993.
Rocco believes that Greensboros move to a fall date next year, combined with a major purse increase, will strengthen the field as players look to make the top 30 on the money list, thereby earning a spot in the Tour Championship. He also thinks that if a few changes can be made to the greens that Fuzzy Zoeller reworked in the 1990s, then Forest Oaks would be a gem.
In the meantime, Rocco shouldnt be discounted for the upcoming U.S. Open at Bethpage. The principal reason is his ability to drive the ball in the fairway, a must at any U.S. Open. And while hed certainly like to put a major on his expanding resume, Rocco doesnt need it to validate his existence. Hes content to leave his legacy on his three boys, who flew in from Ponte Vedra on Saturday night with Roccos wife, Linda.
As for his place in the game, Roccos now got five victories and a spot inside the top 20 in the world. Not too bad for the son of a Western Pennsylvania barber. Interestingly, hes had almost two distinct phases of his career ' the one before the 1994 back injury that yielded two wins and the one after, which has now produced three victories. To his credit, Rocco shed nearly 60 pounds since the early '90s. In the last year, he eschewed weightlifting because he always felt sore. Now, he maintains his solid build with rigorous aerobic work and plenty of stretching.
Is Rocco in the same category as Woods and Mickelson and the other glamour names? Hes quick to point out that hes not. But hes damn good, and appreciative of all that hes achieved without being arrogant. Going forward, Greensboro would no doubt be thrilled if some of those bigger names showed up. Even if they do, the truth is that theyll be no one in the field more loved than Rocco Mediate.