Still In the Mix Rocco Remaining Realistic

By Associated PressJune 14, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Rocco Mediate, professional golfer.
 
Rocco Mediate, everyman.
 
Rocco Mediate sports writer?
 
He played all three to stunningly good effect Saturday at the U.S. Open, never more hilariously than when he tucked himself into a gaggle of reporters, post-round, while the leader, Tiger Woods, was fielding questions.
 
Mr. Woods, Mr. Woods, Mr. Woods, are you insane? Are you out of your mind? Mediate said.
 
Yes, the guy gets it, which means he wont take any offense to the notion that he has almost no chance Sunday, even though he played well enough in the third round to technically put himself in contention.
 
A 45-year-old trying to turn an accomplished career into something more, Mediate guesses he hit one really bad shot all day. But all that got him was a round of 1-over 72 and a two-shot deficit to the worlds best player, and best closer.
 
Woods has never lost a major when hes had the lead going into the last round.
 
Mediate has never won a major.
 
You never know, he said. But itll take something crazy.
 
If something crazy is to happen, though, Mediate will have to answer this troubling question: What more can he possibly do?
 
He came into the toughest test in golf knowing hed have to hit lots of fairways: Accuracy from long distances, which is where Mediate often hits his approaches from, is nearly impossible from the tangly rough at Torrey Pines. Check. He hit nine of 14.
 
He came in knowing hed have to hit greens from those fairways, because scrambling isnt exactly what you want to be doing at a U.S. Open. Check. He hit 15 of 18.
 
Avoiding huge numbers? He did that everywhere but No. 15, where he made a double-bogey and had the gallery looking like a bunch of tennis fans'watching Mediate go from one side of the green, to the other, then back again before shot No. 6 finally dropped. After leading all day, it was the double-bogey that finally dropped him down the leaderboard.
 
I made one little mistake and I got ripped. Thats what the Open does to you, he said.
 
But he accomplished another goal'coming back from adversity, making a birdie on No. 17 and finishing with a par to stay within site of Woods.
 
Woods played one group in front of him and Mediate can chalk up another moral victory for not getting rattled from hearing the crowd roar again and again as the worlds best player put on one of his best shows ever.
 
Nine times out of 10, yeah, hes probably going to kick my butt, Mediate said. Its that one time youre looking for.
 
Mediate will not get what he really wanted, which is to play in the final group with Woods on Sunday. Lee Westwood, at 2 under, gets that honor.
 
But the fact that Mediate doesnt shy from that challenge, that he acknowledges the reality of this game, this week, his career, is what makes him a fan favorite'an almost certain bet to be covering the sport for TV when he decides to hang it up.
 
I think its because I remind people of themselves, Mediate said. Im just an everyday person whos a bit on the crazy side.
 
He has been in the hunt in these things before. Two years ago at the Masters, he actually was tied for the lead in the final round.
 
But my back-back went bye-bye in the car that day, Mediate said.
 
The injury effectively gave him no chance, and when he dumped three balls into Raes Creek on No. 12 to make a 10, the rest of the day was elementary.
 
He is not currently dealing with any of the back pain that has been the biggest hurdle over a nearly 25-year career that has included four victories, around $14 million in earnings but nothing close to a signature win.
 
Hes been playing better of late, finishing sixth in the Memorial, winning one of the seven final spots in an 11-man playoff at the U.S. Open qualifier, then coming to San Diego to play in what he calls his favorite tournament.
 
He knows he doesnt have many chances left like this.
 
Id like to play in three or four or five more Opens. Id love to, he said. But to get close to the lead, it doesnt happen every time, especially when youre 45-and-a-half years old.
 
Which is what has made this week so sweet so far.
 
Or bittersweet? Even he knows how its probably going to turn out.
 

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    Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

    Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

    Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

    “I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

    Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

    The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

    “If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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    Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

    Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

    Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

    7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

    Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

    Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.


    12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

    This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.


    1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

    This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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    Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

    There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


    Purse: $7 million

    Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

    Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.


    Notables in the field

    Jordan Spieth

    • Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

    • 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

    • Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)


    Brooks Koepka

    • Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

    • First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

    • First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)


    Justin Thomas

    • Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

    • Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)


    Rory McIlroy

    • Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

    • Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)


    Jason Day

    • Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

    • Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season


    Patrick Reed

    • Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

    • Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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    Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

    The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

    Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

    “It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

    “It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

    USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

    Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

    “It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”