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June 25, 2008

Rocco Mediate

STEWART MOORE: Like to thank members of the media for taking time out of their day for this national teleconference with our recent runner-up in the U.S. Open, Rocco Mediate. Rocco, why don't we just start off. What a whirlwind nine days you must have had coming into this week. Certainly a new hero in America, so to speak. Why don't you just take us through the past week and coming into today to the Buick Open?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, I had a bazillion media requests, which is fine. It was cool. I enjoyed all of them. Got to do the Jay Leno Show that Tuesday, which was really wild. Lovely, lovely guy he is. I had a blast.
Did all that media last week, and then did some TV stuff that Tuesday, Leno Tuesday night. Did some more stuff on Wednesday. I believe I went to Pennsylvania Thursday or Friday. I think it was Friday. My kids -- a buddy of mine brought my kids up to Greensburg, hung out with them three or four days. They got to see some media stuff, and they had fun with that.
Went up to CVS to Billy's tournament up in Providence or Bill Barrington, excuse me. It was the first time I was out in public with other fans. They were just amazing. They were screaming and hollering, and I signed a million autographs. It was a lot of fun.
Came in last night, and did the Pro-Am this morning. It was the same on the Pro-Am day. A bunch of people followed. It was unbelievable. I can't believe what I'm seeing.
STEWART MOORE: Okay. We'll take questions from the media.

Q. Do you think you could ever truly wrap your head around what happened? Not only at Torrey Pines but across the country, and especially here in western P.A. where people were in offices and bars were just glued to the television set Sunday and Monday?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't have -- it's been unbelievable. But I look at it and I think about why it happened. I've had some time, and, you know what the answer is? They wanted a match. They wanted to see -- we know how good Tiger is. We know what he's done. He's going to do it. He's going to break the record when he comes back, and it's going to be great. I'm one of his biggest fans. All that stuff, everybody knows.
But they wanted to see somebody challenge him, you know. Even though I didn't beat him, they still loved the challenge. I know I loved the challenge, and I know Tiger loved the challenge. I just think that's what everybody wanted to see, especially from a 45-year-old. I mean, seriously.
It was written about by many people. I just had a conversation with Phillie some of the things were that I was going to get myself killed. It wasn't going to be a match. It was going to be a waste of time. I never thought that. Not for one second was I afraid I was going to lose. Even when I was down, I thought I was going to get back.
You kind of think that way. I just don't -- I think that's why it went nuts, because someone actually stood up to him. Although he still beat me. We know that. People may forget that, but I did lose the U.S. Open. I did not win. But I think that's what they wanted, and they got it.

Q. You're still obviously in a bit of the after glow of the U.S. Open, and rightfully so. But down the road on the horizon, I guess you're think a little more about the Ryder Cup team?

Q. How important is that in your own personal ranking of importance? Have you spoken to Captain Azinger about the possibilities?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Paul and I have become very good friends. I told him two years ago I wanted to be on his team. This year didn't start out very well for me. So I have talked to him about it.
But bottom line, I've got to play good golf the next couple of months. There's no other way. I don't want him to have to think about picking me. I don't want that. I just want to be able to make the team, and I can. I'm very close. It's all on me, which is what you want.
If I go out and play good for the next couple of months, couple of tournaments here and there, I should make it. You know, that's how it's got to be.
But it's definitely a monster goal. I'm close. I got myself in there somehow over the last month. I'd love to get on that team. Because, who knows. I'm 45. I may not have another chance. Maybe I'll have one more, but I'd love to do it, especially in the United States.

Q. Those of us in the media have written a lot about how Tiger needs somebody to challenge him, and Jack and Arnie said that they need somebody to challenge him. I've said, well, it's not like people aren't trying, you know?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Right, right.

Q. If you were giving someone advice on how to challenge or how to compete with Tiger, what would you tell them to do?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Isn't that funny that you're talking to me and I'm the one who challenged him the most (laughing). That's kind of funny. You know, I always say that nobody can stop you from hitting a golf shot, nobody. I always say that if Tiger and I were going to get in a fist fight, I'm going to get my butt kicked for sure. But in golf on a U.S. Open golf course, especially a major championship golf course, especially an Open, par is always going to do something no matter who you're playing against.
If you can convince yourself that you can shoot one or two under, even, one over depending on the weather on a U.S. Open golf course playoff day, you can win the golf tournament. He can't stop you from doing that. Nobody can. Only you can.
So I almost think that I don't know why you wouldn't want to play and put your game -- I don't care how you got to the playoff or how old you are -- why wouldn't you want to put your game up against him and try as hard as you can to beat him? You know? I don't know why you wouldn't want to do that. I think it's mostly attitude.
I've always respected him. I'm a huge fan. I love the way he plays, I love what he's done. I love all that stuff. Doesn't mean I don't want to beat him though. I think that's the key to at least -- you've obviously got to have your game with you, too. You can think anything you want, but if you don't have your game, it doesn't matter.
I always say he either brings the best out of you or the worst out of you when you play against him. I always want to tell my kids or whoever that I went up against Tiger and I gave him this. And I beat him in Phoenix a few years back. And we already had the coolest playoff ever.
That's how I look at it. It's an opportunity. You don't get many opportunities to beat him, and you very rarely do beat him. But you've got to get opportunities and then relish every second of it, and I did relish every second I had on that Monday. It was great.

Q. You've obviously spoken candidly about your admiration of Tiger as you just did.

Q. A lot of people have written about what the Tour is going to be like without the guy that so clearly moves the needle more than anybody else?

Q. What do you think? What is the Tour going to be like the rest of the year? How difficult will it be without the guy who has obviously become the face of it?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Right. Any time your best player is not able to play for six to eight months it's not a good situation. Our Tour's doing great. We're doing fine. It's going to go on just fine, but it's going to be missing its number one guy, okay. So that's just what it is.
It's a shame that this happened. It's going to be good for him in the long run. But it opens up two majors. I look at it this way; two guys are going to win these next two majors without having to look him in the eye, and it's different.
Am I going to say it's easier? Yeah, it's easier. It's easier to win a major without him anywhere around. It has to happen that way.
But say I get in ten more majors in my life and I get in the final group five times, I want it to be with him. I want to know what I got against the best. I may be running out of time here, but I got to see what I had against him, and that was the most fun I've ever had in my life.
That is the difference. You're going to see two majors not won by him because he's not going to be in them. It's going to be a little different way of happening, and nobody has to look him in the eye. And that's a big deal. That's the most fun I've ever had doing that.
In a regular event, you have so many good players out here. There are some entertaining players and we're fine. But he's missed, big time.

Q. First I had to ask you, as great as you played there's a little what-if sometimes after the fact. You talk about that 90th hole run you had. But walking up to the 91st hole, the TV showed you with your arm around Mike Davis kind of talking to him. I was wondering was that anything about him about the decision to use the dogleg right on a hole that just didn't work for you very well?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You know, I truthfully don't remember what I said to him. It very well could have been that. I don't remember that. I was so into it. I was talking to him all day about the set-up of the golf course.
That hole gave me a little fit all week. I don't know why. You don't have to cut it off that hole. I just could never get comfortable off that hole. I hit in that bunker three days and the right edge of the fairway two days. So I just didn't hit a very good tee shot. But I would have loved it to have been some other hole, to tell you the truth.

Q. They mentioned also that you've been working with Eddie Merrins, and I think you've applied to Bel-Air. Actually, we know that your home in Tuscany is up for sale. Are you looking at leaving the area or maybe just leaving Tuscany?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, not really looking. The Bel-Air thing's on hold. Eddie and I just talk a lot. The man teaching me is Jimmy Ballard. Rick Smith and I have worked for 25 years, but Jimmy's been working with me for four straight years. He's the one who turned my back problem around.
Rick and I talk about that a lot, too. But Jimmy is who got me over the last couple of years to be able to play again and improving my golf swing. Eddie and I have worked on putting, for sure, definitely some putting and pitching. People think he's my instructor; he is not. He just helps me out with that stuff.

Q. So you guys are not planning on leaving southwest Florida then?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Not for a while, that's if we do at all. But going to do something different with the house. We're not very sure yet.

Q. Okay, thanks.
ROCCO MEDIATE: You got it.

Q. Can you talk about the role, maybe the small one or whatever, that Calusa Pines has played in this? I know you found your caddie there and I know you've played a lot out there, and you've spoken highly of the club.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, Calusa is the number one ranked private club in Florida, which is a pretty big honor. And our greens and pitching areas around our greens are as good or better than most Tour stops.
So when I come out and go to Calusa and practice, especially before I go out to the West coast or during the March-April season and during the October-November, the greens speeds are around 12 and 13, somewhere in that area. When I go to a Tour event, they're slower. So it's easier to adjust to that. When going to majors, it's just the same.
We can get our green speeds up to the same speeds. And Gary Chensoff, the owner, just makes it perfect all the time. Perfect golf course, great training course for me, and a great membership.
But it makes a big difference to practice on a course with that much class and shot quality. Then you go to a Tour event and it's just the same, at worst, it's just the same. Usually Calusa's so good, it's remarkable. It's a hidden gem. More and more people are learning about it. The green sites make it as good as it gets. It gets you ready for everything.

Q. What about finding Matt out there also?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, Matty and I worked out there. He caddies me a lot. I'd walk four, five days a week. I'd play 8:00 first off and whoever we were playing with. Then we went out to Sherwood.
I played in Tiger's Pro-Am in Sherwood this year, and he caddied for me. You know, it just worked out to where we called him and said, Do you want to work? And he goes, Okay. And that was the end. He's done an absolutely fantastic job. Fantastic job. He caught on quick and he's very good. Under the gun, he's been great. So I'm very pleased how that worked out.

Q. It was only five or six years ago that you were ranked 12th or 13th in the world.

Q. Do you ever allow yourself to think what if the back hadn't blown up again?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, you know, you think about it. But you know, it's like what good would that do me? I'd love to think of how many tournaments would I have won? Or would I have done this? Or would I have won the Masters in '06 if it didn't go? I have to say I would have, but you never know. Anyway, if I didn't blow up the back.
So, yeah, it's kind of -- it's kind of you look back, but it doesn't really bother me. I've come back from it with Cindy's help. It's just been an amazing change in my body, and it's worked quite well.
I think I can go for -- I can play into my 50's on this Tour. I swear to God I can.

Q. The back is better now than it's been in quite some time?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Ever. It's still obviously a touchy subject. It's still touchy. There are still some problems, but they're being monitored so well. She's holding me together pretty good with this stuff.

Q. You were on television so much. You were on television all day on Monday. A lot of people got to watch you. But surely there are a couple of moments or scenes that happened that no one saw that only you were a part of and that are maybe somehow very meaningful and memorable to you now. What would a couple of those be?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You mean on Monday?

Q. Just throughout the week that you just find you can't stop thinking about.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Just wanting to be in that situation. I told so many people that over the next -- I'm trying to think. I remember telling Cindy who is my physical therapist and she travels just about every week - I told her I at least want Tiger one more time, just one more time, and that came true.
So it was like a moment of like we looked at each other and thought can you believe this is happening? Because I got him. And now I want him one more time now. I don't want to stop now because I enjoyed that so much. That was a special moment of something that you dream about. Then all of a sudden, a week or two after you say that, it's happening. It was like surreal. I can't even explain it.
Then even on the first tee that day on Monday I told my caddie, Matt, I said, Matt, take this in, Man. This is the most -- you'll never see this happen again.
I don't really feel like I'll ever be in a Monday playoff with Tiger again. Maybe a Sunday showdown, but not a Monday playoff. I don't think that will happen again. But just I couldn't believe the things that unfolded, and I was just talking about them two weeks ago.

Q. A lot on of PGA TOUR players have said they would pay to see Tiger play, which is an unusual admission. You're obviously a big fan of the game.

Q. How much will you watch golf in the next six months? Will you watch it differently or will you lose some interest when you're not playing?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I always like to watch. When I'm home if I'm not playing or whatever, it depends. If some of my buddies are doing well, I watch. But I still watch the Golf Channel all the time. I watch to see what's going on in my sport. I like to know what the guys are up to. I like to see some of the new guys I don't know that well. I keep up on it.
So I'll watch it. Obviously, no matter when Tiger's playing if I'm not there or whatever, if it's a major I'm not in or something, I'm always watching. I love it. I love it.
But I certainly won't watch any less. I'll still watch. But he's definitely the most exciting of all of us.

Q. Can you sort of articulate as a Tour player why -- I mean, obviously, his talent and achievement speaks for itself. But why is he so compelling to watch for you?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Because of how he handles the most intensive situations. It's like a lot of the times in the Monday playoff I was trying to be like him. In other words, hit a putt like he would hit this putt. Like the putt I had on the 90th hole. Hit a putt like he would hit it. Give it speed, give it speed. If you miss it, who cares. Make the next one. That's what he thinks. He doesn't even care about the next shot. He's not attached to it. Everybody else is. That's what makes him separate. He doesn't care where it goes. He just does it again.
That's what I try to think about. That's why I like to watch him. Even the putt to go get in the playoffs. Think about that for a second. Nobody else ever makes that putt but him. And when it went in, that's what I thought it was going to do.
Would I have liked to have won? Yes. I would have liked to have made another birdie and taken it out of his hands. That's what I would have liked to have done. But when he puts it in his hands, it's hard to beat him.

Q. Just a short follow-up on the next two majors coming up. You said they would be easier because they won't have to look Tiger in the eye. Do you think they'll be looked at -- the winners will be looked at as winners of a diminished title? And if you were one of the guys that could win one of them, would it be somehow in your eyes historically slightly lesser?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't think so. Obviously, you want to win any golf tournament when the best player is there, but he can't be there. That won't diminish it. It's just going to be a little different for whoever is in that situation because he's not on your back. You know what I mean?
So I don't think it will diminish at all from the British and the PGA, no. But I think it will be a different feeling of going in there. Not that whoever is in the final pairing will have it easy. It's still hard to win a major because it's mentally hard against yourself. That's how much I learned. But that's a lot easier than having him breathing down your neck, too.

Q. So there will be no asterisk then?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, I don't think so. But some people may put that in there, sure.
STEWART MOORE: Rocco, thank you so much for your time. Thank you members of the media for taking part in this conference call. Rocco, good luck this week.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Thank you, guys.

End of FastScripts

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