October 29, 2003
PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Rocco, thanks for joining us coming off a Top-10 last week at the FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World after having to withdraw from a couple of tournaments including your defending championship at Greensboro. Let's talk about the state of your health right now, let's talk about the last few weeks.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I played good the last month and a half when I finished a tournament. I played just fine. In Vegas and Disney I was hurt. Not Disney; Greensboro. I'm good now. A little weary, beat. I played a lot of golf in the last few weeks. The schedule I have played this year, I'm estatic to be in the position I'm in. It's kind of a bit of a surprise.
Q. A lot to play, 30th on the money list, if you can play well or improve yourself, you got a lot to play for at the TOUR Championship?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, I have a chance. In September I was 60th or 70th. So to have this opportunity is good. I just need to take advantage of it. I'm beat up a little bit, but I'm ready to go. I love the golf course.
Q. Early in your career were you ever on a spot of some of these other guys in terms of the 125 level?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No.
Q. You can't relate to them at all?
ROCCO MEDIATE: The first year I knew I was going to lose my card, the first tournament I started out at Pebble Beach. I did. I walked up and down the range and I said I've got no prayer here. These guys are way too good. That whole year I was disappointed in the middle of the year. I made one cut. I made my first cut at Pebble, and I didn't make another one until April or May. One of those two. I knew it was tough to take. I knew deep down, Rick Smith and I started working big time then. Give me something I could play, and I went back to school and been here ever since.
Q. No close calls?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, I was never in that situation. I am happy I wasn't. I would look at it this way. If you are 125th or 126th or 120th or whatever, you obviously haven't played really well this year yet. So I feel like I would be due for something good. I don't ever want to be in that position. That's how I would look at it. If I'm that far down I must not have played very well yet.
Q. How bad do you want to get in the TOUR Championship?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It would be my first two times in a row. So that would be nice. Like I said, I didn't expect to be in this situation, the way I took a lot of time off. I didn't play a lot.
All of a sudden I came back out, and here we are. So it would be nice to finish it off for sure. I won't be happy for a day or two. It's been a good year.
I accomplished what I wanted to, especially with the boys at home. I definitely want to finish it off now that I'm here. I certainly want to take advantage of it. I have my destiny in my hands which is a good place to be. I would rather be here than somewhere else. I'm not going to root for the guys behind me to play bad. I want to play good enough to make it. If somebody kicks my butt, so be it.
Q. Look ahead instead of back?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes. I'm actually disappointed Freddy withdrew. They just told me. We almost played great last Sunday but we just kind of didn't. We were close. We kind of looked at each other and said, "Let's just get this down next week." I was very disappointed. I know how he feels with the back.
I'm not one of those kinds of people. I don't know who is closest to me now. I'm certainly not wishing any bad stuff. I want to play my way and do it instead of get lucky and stay here.
Q. What does the TOUR Championship give you beyond a shot at a big purse?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know. The Top-30 seems to have a little ring to it.
Q. You don't have anything with Callaway, or Thermacare?
ROCCO MEDIATE: A little bit with Callaway but nothing to -- it would be nice.
Q. Santa still comes this year?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes. It would definitely be fine. But I just want to get in there because I have never done it twice. Being in the Top-30, or however high up you get to finish, if you get to the TOUR Championship, it's nice out here with these guys, especially with the limited schedule that I play. Trust me; I'm estatic to be where my position is. I held my world ranking and everything else. That's good, I'm happy with that.
Q. You sound like it's kind of a lofty goal through three rounds at the Deustche Bank; what in your game has sparked?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I just started to practice and play again. I didn't do anything when I was home with the kids. It's like I tell everybody, the people that are around you, say why in the hell aren't you playing? What are you doing? I said, you know what, I have been out here 18 years. I'm allowed to not want to play. I'm tired. I'm allowed.
I'm fortunate to be in the job that I am to do that, but I can do that. I'm very fortunate that way, but I'm allowed to do it. Since I have been injured it's been non-stop for nine straight years working out this, practicing, playing, I'm like, I need to take a breath. So I did.
And so far, like I have been saying, my evil plan has worked so far. Now if I can pull it off this week, it will have completely have worked. 95 percent of it has worked. If I don't make it this week, I still did a pretty good job.
I still have the Shark Shootout and The Warburg Cup coming up right after that. So I played a pretty big schedule for me. That's the most golf I've played in years, the last two months.
Q. You know you are getting old when you play in The Warburg Cup.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, I do. Fortunately they picked me, but unfortunately they picked me. I'm old enough to be in it. But it will be fun. I thought that was cool. I never played in an event like that.
Q. Since the UBS came, they dropped The Warburg?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know what that is.
Q. You played the J.C. Penney a few times?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Many times. Every year it was here.
Q. It's different obviously because-?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Different grass.
Q. The course is longer-?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Different grass. Yes.
Q. Can you talk about the worthiness of the test this week?
ROCCO MEDIATE: This golf course is all you want. It's all you want. The rough is good as you want to have it. The greens are phenomenal. They are going to be fast, especially down grain. They're firm. They are going to be firm. This morning it wasn't that firm. This is all the course you want. This course is good.
Q. The rough is like what?
ROCCO MEDIATE: The rough is, you know, your pretty much toast coming into these greens. It's only three inches high. What's the toughest part is around the greens. That's the toughest part. These greens got some slope. There is nothing -- you know, I guess they didn't have rough last year from what I understand.
Q. It was a hundred degrees, too.
ROCCO MEDIATE: It will make a big difference this year with the rough, I hope. I have always loved this course, the Bermuda grass. I liked it before but it's kind of neat to see it now.
Q. Is it a big mindset difference last week to this week when you are in a tournament where you know you have to make a lot of birdies?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, I think this is more of a driver's golf course. If you don't put the ball in the fairway here, it's going to be almost impossible to play any type of good golf. It's just that simple. There is plenty of room in the fairways. Plenty of room on the greens. If you're not in the fairway here, it's going to be a miserable week. I like it that way.
Q. The finishing holes here, do they stand out as finishing holes?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, God, yes.
Q. Would you say 15 on gets your attention?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, 15 on, for sure. 16 is great. The prevailing wind is down there so it's going to be play a little shorter, but then you come back into the teeth on 17 and 18. It was 220 into the hole today on 17. I hit a 3-iron on the front of the green. It was 197 on the front. It was coming in there about 15 knots. I hit a good drive, and a 3-iron on the green, straight into the wind about 9 o'clock this morning. 18 green is just nasty.
Q. So would you not be surprised that they would be a factor Sunday afternoon?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I guarantee they will be. There is no question. If you have a one-shot lead with three to play you can lose it. You got a whole bunch of work to do there. Especially 17 and 18. 16 may not be as bad if it's still downwind. You can hit a 3-wood off the tee, and a 7-iron. But when you turn back in, it gets pretty nasty. 17 will receive a 3-wood. 18, it's hard to hit good shots on 18 to that green.
Q. It borders on being too undulated?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, there is just not a lot of pins. It would be fine if it was bigger, whatever. There is not a whole lot of pins on that green. It's been that way since J.C. Penney, it was the same thing. Then I remember hitting a lot of 7 and 8's in there back then for some reason. Actually it was probably downwind that time of year. I know it was downwind a lot when we played. But standing there with a 4- or 5-iron into that green, you better hit a good shot. I like that though. It eliminates the crap; either you do it or you don't. Whoever hits it the best, especially coming into that hole. If you got a one-shot lead playing 18, and you put your ball where you can putt it to the whole, because if you get above the hole, you are pretty much toast there to, and you deserve to win. But I think it will produce what it needs to produce here.
Q. If you had to vote right now for Player of the Year who would you vote for?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I probably would vote for Mike Weir.
Q. How come?
ROCCO MEDIATE: His masters and his finish in the Open and PGA and two other wins. He played the best in the Majors of anyone. I don't know what he did at the other Open though.
Q. 228, ballpark.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think he played the highest finishes of all of them.
Q. The Majors are that much more important and carry that much more?
ROCCO MEDIATE: He played good all year. Tiger comes back into where the events he has played, and every time he has played, his quality of golf has been the best. It's hard to say. I just like The Masters. I think The Masters win and the other major finishes were good, too. It will be a tough call. If I had to vote now it would probably be Mike. It would be Mike or Tiger. Tiger won the American Express stuff and Tiger is Tiger. If you look at his breakdown, he played better. I still like The Open and major things myself.
Q. You join the ranks of the 40 -year-olds; what is your take on all of these guys 40 and over having great years this year, so many guys in the TOUR Championship in that age bracket?
ROCCO MEDIATE: The 40-year-olds know how to play. We have been around. I know I'm a hundred times better than I was 10 years ago. Just by what I know and how I get around the golf course now. I also think that this long ball thing has gone away a little bit. At first everyone is trying to hit it 40 yards further. You can't play it because it goes over there and over there. I think that's going away a little bit which it should. It doesn't matter how you make a score.
Q. Where is an example this year where experience has really paid off?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You know every time I finish well was because I -- you know, I have been in that situation before. Especially -- where was it recently? In Boston. I thought I was going to win the golf tournament, the back nine being four or five shots behind. I knew I was playing good and I know the situation. I'm comfortable. I have been comfortable there for 6 or 7, 8, 9 years. I really am comfortable. I would like to get myself there more often. I tend to like it there. I think that's just why. That's the only reason. Pennsylvania the same thing. I don't know what I finished Pennsylvania, somewhere, Top-10 or something. But just not very nerve-wracking anymore. Before it was do or die. Now it's like I've done this before; I will do it again. Maybe I will be do better. Before when you don't do it, what the hell is going to happen today? Now you know. You have been there so many times. You seem to know what's going to happen most of the time.
Q. Did the media make too much out of this young guns thing and Tiger winning early and this rash of younger players out there and maybe they could win early too? Is it harder than what we made it out to be?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Tiger made it look easier than it is. There lies the -- if you want to call it a problem, a problem. There is nobody on this earth that's going to fill this kids's shoes in the next two years. I don't care what anybody says. They are liars. It's not happening. This just doesn't happen, what this kid has done. The guys coming up now are outstanding players. They are going to win lots of tournaments. But they are not what he was at his age and what he is now. It's just not going to happen.
Q. A Charles Howe or Luke Donald or some of these players who have gotten wins but haven't won a bunch of times like some people thought they would; too high expectations?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes. It's just too hard. Tiger comes out and makes it look like, "I could just do that 38 times now." Maybe it's more now. But he made it look that way but we also forgot that he is him. These guys are not. And they are outstanding players. I think the young kids coming up are going to do a great job the way the TOUR is going now. They are going to win their share of tournaments. There is no way they can do what he did; it's impossible.
Q. What do you think when you hear Ernie or Vijay say they want to be No. 1 in the world rankings?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think they have an opportunity. If they play perfect golf and he does not play perfect golf. This has not been even a year for Tiger and he has won five events. They are still 7 or 8 points behind. That's years. Now if Tiger quits and doesn't play any, yes. If he keeps playing and plays decent, it's going to take a long time to catch him. If one of those guys goes out and wins two or three majors, that is a different story. That's what it takes. Can they do it? We will find out in the next five years. At least it now seems like there is some light there. But Tiger says, "I'm about to put the light out, boys. I'm not putting up with this anymore." It's a fight. I think it's great.
I mean, Ernie and Vijay and Davis, these guys are so good. It just shows you they are so far behind him and they are starting to say maybe I can get closer. Ernie is fighting and Vijay is fighting and it's great for our sport. Can they catch him? Sure. It just depends on what he does. He has it in his hands. If he has a couple of majors, one next year, one the next year, one the year after, they can't catch him. Look at the year Vijay has had. I think he was -- he was 7 or 8 full points behind No. 1. How much is that? That's years.
Q. Well, I think Vijay has had one finish out of Top-10?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, 16 Top-10s.
Q. And so has Tiger?
ROCCO MEDIATE: As long as Tiger keeps his level 75 percent, they can't catch him for a long time. If he goes crazy it's over. He will stay up there for as long as he wants to stay up there.
Q. They are getting older faster than he is.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, sir. These guys are definitely the talent. They are a little too far behind in the points. Those points take a long time to get it seems. The major stuff they pile up. But he is not going to sit down and not do well in the majors. He didn't win any this year but he finished pretty well in most of them, I think. But I don't know Tiger very well but I know he sees all of this. I think he sees everything.
Q. And he denies it.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I mean look at last week. Here he comes, he is like in 7th or 8th or 10th place, "You know, I'm going to try to get as close as I can" and he finishes second. That's what he does. He threw some more points on there. Vijay won for his fourth or fifth time and he made points but he didn't get hardly any closer I don't think. It's a neat thing to see. I enjoy watching it. I think it's good they are trying because they are really good. How much better can you be than Ernie or Davis, or the way Vijay is playing. It's just ridiculous.
Q. What do you like most about Ernie's game?
ROCCO MEDIATE: He has no weakness. None. What he is outstanding in; it's hard to stay. Does he have a weakness? I don't think so. You never say he is not a good driver. He is a great driver, fairway woods; does it all. One of the best short games, one of the best drivers, one of the best putters. That's a nice combination to have. It's nice.
When you are hitting it that far sometimes accuracy isn't that important. It is but if I'm missing the fairway at 280 yards in the rough and I got a 5-iron, he is missing it at 320 and he has a 9-iron, he has got me. He has the average driver I would say. That's the beauty of these guys.
Q. There is two schools of thought on him next year. If he cuts back his globetrotting schedule; one, he will be here more and more capable of winning --
ROCCO MEDIATE: Which would be nice.
Q. -- or B, because he won't be going up against watered-down fields?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It doesn't matter where Ernie plays, he is in the top two or three players, wherever he goes. If Tiger is there --
Q. No matter who is playing?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It doesn't matter. I would love for Ernie to play basically over here because then they would be head-to-head more. I think it would be tremendous. It is starting to shape up, whatever you want to call them, rivalries, but the top players was close with Tiger playing great and Vijay winning. It would be nice to have Ernie here 17 or 20 times a year. It would be amazing what would happen. Then we would find out.
The only way you put yourself up with the best is to play against them all the time. I would rather play in a field than Tiger is in than not. I don't have a lot more measuring to do here. I'm 40. I want to measure as much as I can when he is in the field. That's all I want to do.
Q. Then what, broadcast booth?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know. I got 7 or 10 more years. If I can keep my body staying in one piece, I will be fine. Seeing these guys play how good Jay is playing, how good Peter is playing, I could do the same thing. This is 18, so that would be 28; that's a long time. Hopefully I won't fall off but I'm going to try to play as good as I can. Play the same schedule, 20ish events. It's hard nowadays.
Q. When the time finally arrives do you think the Senior Tour will still be there for you?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I would think so. I would hope so. I wouldn't mind doing that. Who knows? It seems to be going better now, I guess. Hopefully it will keep going better. The way our purses are going up it's amazing. Next year we are bumped, too. How much longer can it go? 10 years ago they said it's not going, this is it. It's like 10 times more than it is 10 times ago. 1986, my first year, 600,000 was a huge year. It's like third place now.
Q. Would it be bother you or the players if they came and said, look, we just got to keep them the same for a couple of years?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It doesn't bother me any. Not at all.
Q. You said when will it end?
ROCCO MEDIATE: There has got to be. I really don't care. Trust me, I'm happy what we are playing for and the TOUR doesn't like when you say I don't go to tournaments for purses. Well, I don't. I go to tournaments because of the people I know, the golf courses. I have been there for all of these years. Yes, it's wonderful to play for this amazing amount of money we are playing for but that's not what drives me to the golf course. It doesn't. So if they say to us that's it, we are piping it for five years, fine. What am I going to say? No, no you can't do that. I don't really care.
Because these people put up -- how much has Chrysler stepped up? Four or five events now. Four events. Ford, everybody is stepping up. Of course, now it's getting better. But, no, I wouldn't have a problem with it. Give me a place to play is all I want.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Rocco, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts.