Rocco Mediate is the last man Tiger Woods vanquished in a major, but it never dampened Mediate's affection for the player he calls "the greatest golfer to ever walk on grass - even if he quit today."
In the wake of Woods' news conference Tuesday at the Hero World Challenge in The Bahamas - where the 14-time major champion said he had no timetable for a return from a third back procedure - Mediate minced no words about what he sees as Woods' problem and solution.
"It was a simple prediction to see what would happen to this kid," Mediate, who had back surgery in 1994, said in a telephone interview. "The way he moves the club has destroyed one of the most in-shape people on earth. But I can assure you one thing. I can make him understand what it will take to get the stress off the body. I can't compare anything to this man, but one thing I can tell you is that I came back from back surgery that was supposed to be the end of my golf life."
Mediate, who lost to Woods in a Monday playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, says they haven't spoken in years, but that hasn't stopped him from rooting for his national championship rival.
"I'm [angry] that he doesn't have 28 majors," Mediate said. "I'm sick to my stomach. I would like to say something to him, just 45 minutes to an hour. He's very fixable and can get back to winning. He'll never ask me, but he's not through yet unless he keeps doing what he's doing. If he talked to somebody who had a back issue he might get something out of it."
Asked what specifically the fix was, Mediate said he prefered to tell Woods himself.
For much of his career, Mediate has had to play with what he calls "a destroyed lumbar spine." He's tried Pilates and acupuncture, and worked with various physical trainers. If the issue is the back, Mediate says, "I've been there. I know how to help him take stress off his back."
Mediate acknowleged that he didn't know if he'd get the opportunity to speak to Woods, who has had a long line of players offering tips on everything from the golf swing to health to putting during his seven-year major drought.
But if given the chance he felt certain he could get Woods right.
"This guy is one of the strongest guys on the planet - it's so simple," Mediate said. "I want to see Tiger down the last nine holes with the big guns, with Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. I want to see what happens when Tiger is Tiger."